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The novel, Catch-22, is a comedy about soldiers during World War II. However,
this comic scenes and phrases are quite tragic when they are thought about, as
most things related to war are, which makes this comedy completely absurd. The
best way to represent this idea is through the characters in the book,
specifically, Yossarian, Huple, and Nately’s whore’s kid sister and the
events that occur with their thoughts and their actions. Clearly, the main
character and one whose life is chiefly described, is Yossarian. Yossarian has a
slightly sick sense of humor and way of looking at things. In the first chapter,
Heller tells us that letters sent by the soldiers had to be reviewed in order to
prevent any secret information going out to the public, or, even worse, to the
enemy. Yossarian, from lack of anything better to do, censors all the letters.
Sometimes he crosses out everything but a, an and the, sometimes adjectives,
whatever he feels like that day. For his final gag he signs these letters as
Washington Irving to totally confuse the readers of these letters. This is
funny, however it is ultimately tragic. These are the letters that every wife,
mother and daughter runs to the mailbox for in order to see that their husbands,
fathers and sons are all right. This is a letter that could say: "Honey, I’m
coming home", or "I love you. When I come home I want to marry you." These
letters could change the whole lifestyle of so many people and Yossarian alone
is tampering with them. The absurdity of that is immense. A gag of slightly
higher consequence occurred in Chapter 12, when Yossarian decided to move the
bomb line over Bologna. What I believe is the most ridiculous in the whole
process was his reason for doing it. Everyone did not want to go on this mission
to capture Bologna. They prayed the rain would never go away, or that the bomb
line would mysteriously move, anything just mot to go on this mission. Clevinger,
in disbelief at the stupidity of these men, tells Yossarian: "They really
believe that we wouldn’t have to fly that mission tomorrow if someone would
only tiptoe up to the map in the middle of the night and move the bomb line over
Bologna. Can you imagine?" So Yossarian figures "Why not?". As hysterical
of a joke as this may be, an important city that was taken by the enemy had to
be bombed, and now everybody thinks that it was captured already. This"joke" could have and may have lead to the deaths of innocent people, which
is yet not only absurd but is also catastrophic. Two character that, for me,
expressed the highest, but the most true absurdity in life are Huple and
Nately’s whore’s kid sister. These two characters have one thing in common.
They both want to be adults too fast. Huple is only fifteen, and lied about his
age to get into the army. The kid sister is twelve years old, but wants to be
just like her older sister and seduce men. However the absurdity of this is not
at all that they want to become older, because everyone at that age does. The
absurdity is that the things they want to do as adults are the things that most
adults resent most about being adults. The last thing most men want to do is to
be drafted, and the last thing that most women want to do is to become a
prostitute in order to support themselves. It is clear that Joseph Heller does
not write in a certain pattern visible in the works of other writers. he has his
own unique way of expressing the absurdity of the universe in a comic way. This
style, in my mind, is very commendable because he makes us laugh, yet understand
the meaning and maybe even seriousness of the idea he is trying to get across.
The alternative would be to write a tragic novel about men at war which really
would not grab the reader’s attention as comedies do and as this book did.
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Yossarian, Military humor, Orr, Nately, Catch-22, Absurdity, Absurdism, Captain Aardvark, Doc Daneeka
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