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Introduction The Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary defines war as «a situation in which two or more countries or groups of people fight against each other over a period of time.» According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy «war should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities. Thus, fisticuffs between individual persons do not count as a war, nor does a gang fight. War is a phenomenon which occurs only between political communities, defined as those entities which either are states or intend to become states (in order to allow for civil war).» But do these few lines constitute a satisfactory explanation for such a complex phenomenon as that of war? Needles to say, the answer is no. Being one of the most controversial and difficult to approach issues of modern life, war and its mechanics are not an easy subject to explore. That is exactly why Heller's Catch-22 turns out to be so appealing: throughout its pages readers will be confronted with an articulate and all-comprehensive representation of how the logic (or should one say illogicalness?) of armed conflicts works. Published in 1961, this masterly written novel avails itself of both tragedy and comedy in order to bring to light the insanity of war. It was precisely the clarity with which it portrays the cruel nature of war, enhanced by its bizarre and memorable characters and its black humor, which have triggered the drawing up of this work, which aims to analyze how the madness of war is exposed in this twentieth century masterpiece. Before proceeding to describe a number of its characters and to comment on some passages of the book, a brief biography of the author, a concise depiction of life in the United States after the Second World War, and an account of how this work relates to the antiwar movement will be included, as it is believed this will be of great help to get a better understanding of the whole novel and a complete panorama of its precipitating factors and its later impact. Finally, a conclusion will be added, where the final implications of the analysis will be stated.
s) as well as one year of unemployment compensation. 58 Stat.com/notes/c22/BIO. Soldiers began to come home and find peacetime jobs. bill1 made it possible for Heller to attend the University of Southern California where he pursued his dream of becoming a writer. «World War Two ended finally in the summer of nineteen forty-five. and waited eagerly to be transported back to the United States. Life in the United States began to return to normal. with Catch-22 and Something Happened among his most famous compositions. Heller was passionate about writing all of his life.2. In 1944.I." Heller would use this fanciful imagination in numerous short stories. and plays.1. Life in the United States after World War II As it was narrated in the radio program The Making of a Nation broadcasted by The Voice of America on 28th December 2006.» 1 The G. He fathered two children.I. Heller enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1942 at the age of nineteen. Bill (officially titled Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944.. Biography of the author «Joseph Heller was born on May 1. The American economy was stronger than ever. Heller completed his tour of duty. As critic Louis Hasley wrote in his 1974 review. 78-346. suffering a heart attack at the age of seventy-six. The huge and enduring success of Catch-22 established Joseph Heller as a major author in contemporary American literature. he grew up with his Russian-immigrant mother and two older half-siblings. The laughter repeatedly breaks through the tight net of frustration in which the characters struggle only to sink back as the net repairs itself and holds the reader prisoner in its outrageous bonds. He died in New York in 1999.L. then defined at sixty missions.bookrags. "Dramatic Tension in 'Catch-22'": "[The] alternating play of humor and horror [in Catch-22] creates a dramatic tension throughout that allows the book to be labeled as a classic both of humor and of war."»(http://www. he married Shirley Held in 1945 and moved to California. His experiences as a B-25 wing bombardier during World War II could have provided the inspiration for Catch-22. An occasional prankster. young Joseph's mother often griped that he had a "twisted brain. It also provided many different types of loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses. Fatherless. Back in the United States. P. Though dabbling in advertising and teaching. novels.I. Industry stopped producing war equipment and began to produce goods that made peacetime life pleasant. 284m) was an bill that provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G. The G. and married a second woman named Valerie Humphries. Historical context 3. divorced. 1923 amidst the seashore attractions and famous hot-dog stands of New York's Coney Island.html) 3. 2 ..
and cultural spheres. Attracting members from college campuses. «The average person experienced the triumphs of science most dramatically in medicine and public health. Nothing in previous medical discovery could equal the positive contributions of sulfa drugs.html) along with the Civil Rights campaigns of the 1960s. and they were successful in attaining many improvements: most of them were earning enough money to make some progress in their living conditions. and space technology also opened.2.It is widely known that the World Wars. united only in opposition to the Vietnam War. citizens in an industrial society benefited from modern technology in ways too familiar to need recounting. giant airships could traverse huge distances in a few hours. especially World War II. and remained powerful throughout the duration of the conflict. A History of Modern World. The antiwar movement actually consisted of a number of independent interests.illinois. when the U. labor unions. and government institutions. among others. television.english. rocketry. peaked in 1968.» (Palmer & Colton. After 1947 airplanes could fly faster than the speed of sound. cortisone. That catalyst appeared early in February. all of them enjoined an increase in life expectancy. 3.html) states that in such a full of promise postwar world. A new world of computers. this is one of the most divisive forces in twentieth-century U. thanks to the improvement in medical care. after the Second World War. it also did so in the fields of medicine. the movement gained national prominence in 1965. began bombing North Vietnam. millions moved out of the cities and bought houses on the suburbs and. Encompassing political. For entertainment.edu/maps/vietnam/antiwar. the antiwar movement base.academicamerican. history. and the world seemed on the threshold of a new industrial age based on the nuclear power. penicillin. and entertainment. transportation. The pace of protest immediately quickened. Apart from the advances in medical science. but that is only one part of the story. accelerated the pace of technological developments in the field of weaponry.S.com/postww2/index. and antibiotics. formed by students organizations such as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Free Speech Movement (FSM). had coalesced on campuses and lacked only a catalyst to bring wider public acceptance to its position. its scope 3 . the antiwar movement exposed a deep schism within 1960s American society. racial.S. 1983) Jud Sage (online in http://www. The Antiwar Movement in the United States As Mark Barringer explains (http://www. the American people were looking forward for better ways of life. tourist travel to distant parts of the earth became commonplace. middle-class suburbs. By the beginning of 1965. radio and the motion picture were available and.
Buoyed by the attendance at the Washington march.broadened. Most Americans pragmatically opposed escalating the U. promiscuity. Ohio National Guardsmen fired on a group of student protesters at Kent State University.000 people gathered at the capital. The movement regained solidarity following several disturbing incidents. In April 1970 President Nixon. involvement. Within minutes of the televised statement. still mainly students. the antiwar cause had become institutionalized. casual drug use. most disapproved of the counterculture that had arisen alongside the antiwar movement. were being subordinated as movement leaders. galvanized by their opposition to the Vietnam War and the increasing 4 .3. Stories of drug trafficking. Dissent dominated America. forces had entered Cambodia. Dissent escalated to violence. previously tainted with an air of anti-Americanism. protesters took to the streets with renewed focus. role in Vietnam. at the same time. a turnout that surprised even the organizers. subverting and resisting systems of authority responsible for the perpetuation of war. This novel served to inspire the antiwar movement. well-dressed SDS members. Then. At the same time. 3. The antiwar movement and Cath-22 «Although initially unpopular and receiving mixed reviews. when Nixon announced the effective end of U. who had previously committed to a planned withdrawal. became instead a normal reaction against zealous excess. When the New York Times published the first installment of the Pentagon Papers on 13 June 1971. he did so in response to a mandate unequaled in modern times. announced that U. In March. between 15. on 4 May. Americans became aware of the true nature of the war. and indiscriminate bombings led many to believe that military and intelligence services had lost all accountability. police used force to evict them. Their replacements gained less public respect. The antiwar movement became both more powerful and. On 17 April 1965. The brutal clashes between police and peace activists at the August Democratic National Convention in Chicago typified the divided nature of American society and foreshadowed a continuing rise in domestic conflict.S." and faced much mainstream opposition from middle-class Americans uncomfortable with the youth culture of the period-long hair. expanded their methods and gained new allies over the next two years. less cohesive between 1969 and 1973. calling for a march on Washington to protest the bombing. Catch-22 quickly became a symbol of the 1960’s counter-culture. movement leaders. were tagged with the label "hippie. Antiwar sentiment.S.S. By January 1973.000 and 25. SDS escalated the scale of dissent to a truly national level. The clean-cut. In April 1968 protesters occupied the administration building at Columbia University. political assassinations. killing four and wounding sixteen.
Heller also manages to depict the ridiculous bureaucracy that rules the military system and forces soldiers into battle under any circumstance. 5 . a few passages of the novel will be quoted and commented upon. and by feigning a liver condition to pass the time safely in the hospital.htm#catch22) Moreover. Characters Description «Yossarian: The main character of the novel. antiheroic protagonist. Heller’s dark satire. Heller denounces the horrors and the insanity of war.edu. as it was previously stated. 4.spread and lethality of nuclear weapons. it is not only the exposure of the stupidity of war which relates this novel to the antiwar movement. After that. 4. He asks to be grounded on the basis of insanity and rebelliously refuses to fly more missions. by poisoning the squadron's potatoes. and it is exactly the destructive power of such a mechanized society what triggers the reactionary answer of the antiwar movement. Analysis of the Literary Work Having finished with the description of the ideological and historical context which lies behind the production and the later public acceptance of Catch-22. the Colonels in charge offer him a deal: if Yossarian will praise his commanding officers. One of his friend's gory death traumatizes Yossarian and he refuses to wear his uniform. by dismantling his intercom and ordering his plane to turn back. Yossarian eventually rejects the detestable bargain and runs away. Stickers declaring "Yossarian Lives" appeared among other slogans which supported this cause. bitterly dividing the United States and resulting in tragedies such as the massacre of innocent students. Yossarian. he will be sent home. Because his disobedience harms army morale. cruel logic and sinister economic motives of the American military machine as the real enemy. Neither sane nor mad men can escape the horrors of such a violent and impersonal society as the one magnifically portrayed in Cath-22.» (http://hsc. Protestors challenged the remorseless. He avoids flying combat missions by all means possible: by moving the bomb line on the map of Italy preceding the Bologna mission.1. brilliantly exposes the institutionalized madness of war.csu. In these excerpts. with its enigmatic. preferring instead to go naked. He is a paranoid bombardier who thinks everyone is trying to kill him.au/english/extension1/texts/elect1/4072/afterthebomb. this work will continue by providing some brief descriptions of some characters of the novel (only those necessary to understand the book excerpts will be included).
which finally never occurs. all of a sudden they had to leave for the field where a group of planes was about to land. the blaze was out. and the firemen had to roll up their hoses and speed back to the field in case one of the planes crashed and caught fire. He is picked on in cadet training by Lieutenant Scheisskopf.» 6 . When they got there. the firemen wheeled their trucks around and raced back up the hill to resume their fight with the fire at the hospital.Colonel Cathcart : A conceited and dejected colonel who constantly tries to garner attention and desperately wants to be a general. Cathcart is the main antagonist of the novel because he volunteers his men for dangerous assignments and constantly raises the number of missions in a tour of duty to break records. Suddenly there was the monotonous old drone of bombers returning from a mission. The planes landed safely.2. expired completely without even an ember to be watered down. He is obsessed with getting his picture in The Saturday Evening Post. Daneeka is afraid to fly.html) 4. For a frantic half hour it was touch and go.» (online in http://www. Clevinger is presumed dead when his plane disappears. Then the firemen began to get the upper hand. In this case the absurdity lies in the fact of leaving aside a real dangerous situation so as to pay attention to a potential one. Doc Daneeka: The bitter flight surgeon who resentfully avoids his duties in the medical tent. nobody heeds his claim that he is still alive and his wife is sent a generic death notice. It had died of its own accord. who brings him up on contrived charges before the Action Board. and there was nothing for the disappointed firemen to do but drink tepid coffee and hang around trying to screw the nurses. Doc Daneeka explains that it is impossible and is the first to introduce Yossarian to Catch-22. Relevant Passages of the Novel Passage 1: In Chapter 1: The Texan. Yossarian asks the doctor to ground him on the basis of insanity. Clevinger: An ingenious Harvard graduate who is the first to call Yossarian crazy. As soon as the last one was down.com/notes/c22/CHR. He is presumed dead when McWatt crashes. He asks McWatt (a pilot) to record his name on the pilot's flight log so he can draw flight pay without actually going up in a plane. He is bitter that the war took him away from a newly lucrative medical practice back in the states. Irrationally. a stove exploded in the hospital. «In about fifteen minutes the crash trucks from the airfield arrived to fight the fire. causing a fire but even though the firemen started to fight it.bookrags.
Wintergreen retorted. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. but the conversation turns out to end in this way: «'What would they do to me. many excerpts revealing the corruption of the system can be found in the interrogatory which he underwent. 'What do you mean. and Yossarian learns that he has no refuge from the illogicalness power of the rule: «There was only one catch and that was Catch-22. but this is when the doctor introduces him to the raving "Catch-22". whose side do you expect me to be on?' ex-P. 'if I refused to fly them [more missions]?' 'We'd probably shoot you. which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. and as soon as he did. we? Since when are you on their side?' 'If you're going to be shot.' ex-P.C.Passage 2 In Chapter 5: Chief White Halfoat. which shows it did not matter at all whether Clevinger was guilty or not. given that all the other men think he is nuts. but if he was sane he had to fly them. Wintergreen replied.F.' he asked in confidential tones. and having forty-eight. no matters how many lives or horrors it costs. All he had to do was ask. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. Yossarian asks Doc. That's why he approaches Wintergreen. he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. whom he thought would be concerned about him and provide him with some kind of solution. The following are just a few of them. The only thing missing was something to charge him with»: 2 Private First Class (PFC) is a military rank held by junior enlisted persons.F. given that «The case against Clevinger was open and shut. Daneeka to ground him on the basis of insanity. but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Passage 4: In Chapter 8: Lieutenant Scheisskopf. he is hopeful of discharge. 7 . the Action Board presents charges on Clevinger after he stumbled while marching to class. 'We?' Yossarian cried in surprise. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't.C2.» This last line illustrates the terrific logic which rules military life: you have to stay always at the side of those in power.» Passage 3: In Chapter 6: Hungry Joe Yossarian learns that the Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters defines a complete tour as forty missions.
' 'When?' asked the colonel. sir. calm and cagey suddenly. sir. it consists on bombarding a tiny. But that's the way things go when you elevate mediocre people to positions of authority. but the colonels threaten them with another dangerous mission to Bologna. I never said you couldn't punish me.«The colonel sat down and settled back. But I don't know how to answer it.' 'Now you're telling us when you did say it. Colonel Catchcart states that the mission «is entirely unnecessary. the latest mission is presented to the soldiers. sir. 8 .' 'But how can I answer it?' 'That's another question you're asking me.' 'Yes.'» Passage 5: In Chapter 29: Peckem. sir?' 'I'm asking the questions.'» 'I didn't say you couldn't punish me. I -' 'Did you think we brought you here to ask questions and for me to answer them?' 'No.' 'I'm sorry.' 'I'm sorry.' 'When didn't you say we couldn't punish you? Don't you understand my question?' 'No. As one can note in this extract. logic is astonishingly missing within the military system. I -' 'What did we bring you here for?' 'To answer questions. Now suppose you answer my question. I'm asking you to tell us when you didn't say it. sir?' 'Now you're asking me questions again. 'What did you mean. and ingratiatingly polite. allowing countless individual's lives to be crushed by the most selfish and unscrupulous interests.» The soldiers reject the mission as they are told that the people in the village hadn't even been warned. 'when you said we couldn't punish you?' 'When. sir. You're answering them. I'm afraid I don't understand your question. undefended village.' 'You've just told us that. 'When what. sir. Its only purpose is to delay German reinforcements at a time when we aren't even planning an offensive. sir. I don't understand.' he inquired slowly.
it also makes use of the element of surprise all along its lines: none of the outrageous events told throughout its pages can pass unnoticed. and fighters feel their superiors hate them even more than the enemy.net/texts/thought_and_writing/book_notes/Catch-22) 9 .» (online at http://preterhuman. The great achievement of the novel is its magnificent depiction of the illogical nature of war in all its horror: doctors save lives in order to put them in danger again. is the one provided by the author himself: «He [Yossarian] woke up blinking with a slight pain in his head and opened his eyes upon a world boiling in chaos in which everything was in proper order.5. the phenomenon of armed conflicts. The core of the issue lies in the fact that it is not Yossarian's insanity what Heller illustrates in his novel but rather the world's madness. Astoundingly original and unavoidably tough. and its brilliant interchange of comedy and tragedy capture one's attentions just from the first chapter. As Rose Sallberg Kam points out «Catch-22 does not come full circle but rises to another plane. we are wiser about our zany and tragic world. and certainly sorrier. Conclusion After finishing the reading of Catch-22 and the drawing up of this brief monographic analysis based on it. that which dominates warfare. The best image of this absurd world in which military life develops. its unique characters are absolutely memorable. colonels orchestrate unnecessary missions with the only objective of getting good pictures of them and. And undoubtedly. appearing in the newspapers. it has the power of getting him to question the principles which are at the helm of the military system and to rebel against their madness. one can state that Heller's witty novel manages to bring home to the reader the intricacy that lies behind one of the most difficult to grasp phenomenons of the modern world. it is the thread of such a gloomy and insane reality what becomes the main worry. in that way. as one discovers that the protagonist is perfectly sane. Catch-22 has an incredible impact on the reader.» Like all great literary works. more specifically.
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