Catch-22
Since the dawn of literature and drama, comedy
and tragedy have always been partitioned into separate genres. Certainly most
tragedies had comedic moments, and even the zaniest comedies were at times
serious. However, even the development of said tragicomedies left the division
more or less intact. Integrating a total comedy and a total tragedy into a
holistic union that not only preserved both features, but also blended them into
a new and harmonious entity remained elusive. That is, until Catch-22. Using his
unique style and structure, Joseph Heller masterfully manages to interlay humor
and terror, comedy and tragedy, and reveals in the process the perversions of
the human character and of society gone mad. The first stroke of Heller\'s deft
touch is his presentation of outrageous characters, acting outrageously. From
the first chapter, we are presented with a slew of unbelievable characters whose
actions and ideologies are uproariously funny, and horrifically disturbing. In
fact, the manner in which the reader recognizes the character\'s dual nature will
serve as the first example of Heller\'s amalgamation of comedy and tragedy.

Dunbar\'s theory of life is first received with a burst of laughter from the
audience. Life is short, and Dunbar wishes to extend it as much as possible. If
time flies when one is having fun, then conversely, time must slow when one is
bored. Dunbar endeavors to make his life as boring as possible, thus increasing
the length of its passing. Indeed, it is understandable why such an attitude
should elicit a laugh, but the further implications are horrific. Society\'s
emphasis on life over meaning comes as a shocking revelation to the audience.

Heller further reinforces that idea with characters such as Doc Daneeka, who
values self-preservation and money over responsibility and friendship, and Milo
who values self-improvement and fortune over the lives of thousands of others.

The motif that follows gives us characters that are, above all else, more
interested in self (Cathcart, Mrs. Daneeka, Duckett, the Old Man, Peckem, etc.).

Though they are initially humorous, their nature is ultimately revealed to be
false and horrific, arousing disgust and pity, a brilliant combination of comedy
and tragedy. The perversion of society is revealed further in a second major
type of character, the deluded. Though most serve largely as foils to Yossarian
and his philosophy, much can still be made of their condition. Clevinger is
perhaps the best example of a deluded character. His debate with Yossarian
serves as an insightful evaluation of their psyche. He argues that, although
everyone is trying to kill him, everyone is not trying to kill him. The humor of
the debate cannot be denied, but horror and tragedy are equally present. The
debate leaves the audience struggling to decide who is crazy. Clevinger falls
into an obvious contradiction, but his argument still strikes as common sense.

In face of Yossarian\'s triumphant "What difference does that make?"
the audience is left not only with the realization of its speciousness, but of
the realization that they believed it. The terror evoked by the deluded lies
mainly in that the audience is equally deluded. Perhaps Clevinger, Appleby, and

Havermeyer are fighting for "what they have been told" was their
country-- and perhaps so has the audience. The genius of Heller\'s
characterization is further enhanced as the audience sees itself in the hollow
rationale of the deluded, and is aghast with horror, even in face of such humor.

With this revelation, Heller compels the audience to follow the rebellious path
of Yossarian, or fall victim to the indoctrination of society, and meet the same
fate as the deluded. As the audience is bombarded with insanely comedic ironies
of Catch-22, they are further aware of its horror. A primary example of irony is
found in Milo, when he is praised for bombing his own company when it is learned
that he made a great deal of money. Again, this evokes a staunch laugh, and then
leaves the audience aghast with horror. Exaggeration makes this funny-- an event
such as this occurring, and then inciting such a reaction by those affected is
almost unfathomable-- but the ultimate truth provides the terror. Society truly
does reward persons for profit, even if it results, as it often does, in
terrible distress. The further instances of ridiculously backward behavior--

Hungry Joe\'s screaming, Havermeyer\'s disregard for life, McWatt\'s destructive
flying, Cathcart\'s "list", etc.-- further provide the audience with
humorous instances of exaggeration, whose ultimate truth proves to be
horrifying. Heller\'s blend of hyperbole and truth create a horrifying, though
comedic, charge for his irony. Perhaps the most memorable attribute of Catch-22
is its mind-boggling paradoxes, or, as they