Death And The Absurd Essay

1163 words - 5 pages

Catch-22 does not hide its satirical edge. Joseph Heller chooses to let the reader in on the joke early with absurd names, repetitive dialogue, and a loose sense of authority among American military ranks. In the center of Heller's historical anarchism is Yossarian, the antihero bombadier whose only real mission is to live and return home regardless of morality or emotional attachment to the men who are responsible for the success of his assignment. Yossairan can escape the war, but Heller makes a profound statement on the inescapability of death through a satirical looking-glass.Yossarian longs for freedom, yet will never be free from mortality. It takes a doctor, a man whose profession is protecting life, to remind him, "We're all dying. Where the devil else do you think you're heading?" (187)
Names are meaningless in war, the absurdity distances the reader from the character and it's humanity, allowing death easier access into the narrative until the novel's final segment. Major Major, Milo Minderbiner, and, simply, Mudd, to name a few, are all ridiculous and are names that no reader would be able to relate with a name he or she has encountered in the real world. Heller's
characters are not there to inspire much sympathy from the reader. They are figures who are all entering death in some form or another.
When a character dies in the beginning of the story, it is not a clear-cut narrative. It is more mysterious and the situation is not clear or determined enough to be something tangible for the reader to grab onto in order to lay out a cohesive narrative. War distances humanity from the soldiers, and Heller uses his satire to make his claim that War is the most inhuman act that is repeatedly seen occurring throughout history. Time shifts, and people who are dead in one chapter come back in the future. Death is the lingering threat, more than the Axis powers and more than the weapons the military use.
All this death is in the hand of the bureaucracies that inefficiently run the tide of the war and bring the events towards victory to an unendurable farce of constant missions that cannot be completed even if the soldier, like Yossarian, really wants to go home. In one rememberably humorous account of the rise of Major Major among the ranks, a series of dialouge between him and Lieutenant Scheisskopf proves just how arbitrary authority, the men in charge of death, can be during war:

"Yes, sir. I may outrank you, sir, but you're still my commanding officer." "Yes, sir, that's right," Lieutenant Scheisskopf agreed. "You may outrank me, sir, but I'm still your commanding officer. So you better do what I tell you, sir, or you'll get into trouble." (90)
The good or evil question is never clear and people from both sides of the trenches are
enemies. "The enemy," as Yossarian explains," is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart?" (127). Once again, satire is the savior of...

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