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AP Literature October 3rd, 2013 The War on War: Catch22s Lasting Impact Throughout the history of the world,

war has been portrayed as a glorious and noble thing. Catch22, a novel by Joseph Heller, intended to provide an alternate perspective on the phenomenon. Hellers protagonist, Yossarian, is an American captain stuck on the island of Pianosa off the coast of Italy, because his commanding officer keeps raising the number of missions he needed to fly before he may return home to the U.S. During that time, World War II, it was seen as incredibly cowardly for anyone, military or civilian, to run away from a danger to their person. Yossarian lashes out, hides in the hospital, and eventually attempts to escape his duty due to his wish to remain alive. Many critics have stated that the novel is unAmerican and shameful, because it depicts the truth about war. The truth that war is not a glorious thing to be honored and venerated, but a horrific and vicious act that need not be committed in the first place. The American views on heroism are central to the countrys identity and culture, creating a society that the rest of the world fears for its ready supply of willing military volunteers. The novel is also criticized for Yossarians atypical views on heroism. The antiwar sentiment was not seen as appropriate for a massproduced novel. Heller is able to rebut these criticisms through his use of language, the characters he creates, and the mood he sets for the novel. Catch22 displays an antiwar message that successfully rebukes the attacks on the novels superficially antiheroic nature. Hellers main character, Yossarian, is often seen as an insane man trapped in a sane, [American values oriented world]. Using language that evokes sympathy for his protagonist, Heller forces the audience to rethink its definition of heroism and leave behind the American ideal of martyrdom. His language sets the stage for the novel by introducing a sanity vs insanity conflict while describing the namesake Catch22 itself. Heller states:
There was only one catch and that was Catch22, which specified that concern for ones own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr [a secondary character] was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didnt, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didnt have to; but if he didnt want to he was sane and had to. (33)

The contradictory nature, the specific language Heller uses that evokes a sense of chaos and confusion in the description of the rule, set up the ongoing conflict of insanity vs sanity in the novel. Insanity has historically been seen as a condition that afflicts the weak, not the mighty war heroes revered by American society. By using this chaotic and confusing language while explaining an arguably insane concept devised by higher ranking officers, the ones who should be the stereotypical war heroes, Heller forces the reader to rethink their evaluation of the war hero. The higher ranking officers are often thought of as more valiant or heroic or brave, but using the insane language and concepts he does in relation to these high ranking officers, Heller makes the audience think about how valiant officers that produce insane rules like the Catch22 really are. Not only does Heller create an insanity vs sanity conflict with his language, his use of sarcasm shows the reader a different perspective on the horrors of war and elicits sympathy for Yossarian from the readers. When addressing one of the instances at

sympathy for Yossarian from the readers. When addressing one of the instances at the Pianosa camp from the perspective of one of the colonels, Heller describes:
Milo [mess hall officer with an international business syndicate], of course, had been the big feather in his cap, although having his groups bombed by Milos planes had probably been a terrible black eye for him, even though Milo had ultimately stilled all protest by disclosing the huge net profit the syndicate had realized on the deal with the enemy and convincing everyone that bombing his own planes had therefore really been a commendable and very lucrative blow on the side of private enterprise. (163)

Heller often uses sarcastic or humorous language to describe horrific or unethical situations Yossarian experiences while in Pianosa. Here, he is describing Milo, the extremely efficient mess hall officer and head of an international business and trade syndicate, bombing his own troops for money. Once Milo explains just how much money he earned from the endeavor, everyone was suddenly okay with it. Heller is criticizing the conditions of the army with his use of sarcastic language. He is making a mockery of the American ideas on war and the conditions men in the military faced in order to prove his point that war is not heroic and should not be idolized. He is making the audience think about whether or not they should revere a situation or institution in which everyone involved is okay with one of them betraying them for money, and this antiwar message is highlighted with his use of sarcastic and humorous language the audience can relate to. By using this humorous language that puts the reader at ease, the ridiculous and awful things Yossarian must live through stand out in stark relief against the background of sarcasm and witty language, allowing Heller to make his point even more effective. The characters Heller creates in his novel exemplify the superficiality of titles in war and the true motivation for many higher ranking officers. His satirization of the military hierarchy provides a direct opposition to the American idolization of war heroes. One such character is General Peckem, who wishes only to be in charge of as many other generals as possible. Peckem speaks after receiving a medal, Flying combat missions for General Dreedle was not exactly what I had in mind, [...] I was thinking more in terms of replacing General Dreedle, or perhaps something above General Dreedle where I could exercise my supervision over a great many generals (Heller 9192). Peckem is only concerned with moving up in the ranks and being in charge of as many men as he can, not caring what military operations he should be overseeing in this process. Another officer who is not motivated by bravery or a desire to participate in the war at all is General Scheisskopf. Soon after he becomes a general, Colonel Cathcart complains about him to another colonel, Yeah, march. Thats the only way to please him. March. March, Colonel Cathcart grimaced sullenly. Some generals! Theyre a disgrace to their uniforms. If people like those two can make general, I dont see how I can miss (Heller 327). General, former Lieutenant, Scheisskopf is known for parading his men around a field, rain or shine, every weekend. Once promoted to general, he does not have any wish to take part in military operations; he just wants to march his men on a larger scale. Yet again, Heller is creating a picture of socalled war heroes that disagrees with the popular opinion. By making fun of these figures of authority in a supposedly courageous and heroic atmosphere, he punctuates his antiwar message and forces it upon the audience. Heller contrasts humorous and sarcastic elements with horrific and terrifying scenes to set a mood of extreme realism, allowing the audience to feel as though they are

part of the novel. The mood Heller sets makes the audience rethink their definition of heroism and their insights into themselves. At one point in the novel, a soldier in the squadron, Kid Sampson is cut in half by the whirring blades of a plane flown by McWatt, another pilot in Yossarians squadron. Heller describes the scene afterward:
Everyone in the squadron knew that Kid Sampsons skinny legs had washed up on the wet sand to lie there and rot like a purple twisted wishbone. No one would go retrieve them, not Gus or Wes or even the men in the mortuary at the hospital [other men in Yossarians squadron]; everyone made believe Kid Sampsons legs were not there, that they had bobbed away south forever on the tide like all of Clevinger and Orr. (266)

During this scene, a mans lower half are standing by itself on a board for a period of time, and then topples into the water to bob around aimlessly until someone retrieved it or it completely decayed. However, while describing an extremely horrific and gruesome sight, much of the language depicts an almost comical scene. Legs bobbing in the water, without context and out of the blue, would be a fairly odd and funny sight. In his description of the event, Heller contrasts a terrifying event with a slightly humorous tone to make his point more apparent. The humor makes the novel more relatable for the audience, and it provides a direct opposition to the horrifying experiences soldiers live through. The humorous tone established throughout most of the novel also highlight the horrifying events Heller wants to make known with his novel. He wishes to send an antiwar message to the readers, and to expose them to the truth about war and the ugliness of it. It does not deserve to be admired the way it is, and the tone of the novel, contrasting humor with horror, allow the reader to feel more relaxed and part of the story, so the awful portions of the plot stand out even more. Heller intends for the novel to send a message about the unnecessary nature of war, and uses his artistic style to accomplish this. The intent of the novel aids in Hellers successful rebuke of the criticism of the novel. Heller was accused of writing a shameful piece of literature that encouraged cowardice and selfpreservation rather than sacrifice for the country the soldiers are fighting for, America. American culture and society so highly value the historically typical qualities of a hero, including bravery, honor, and the willingness to sacrifice oneself in the face of imminent or certain death. Heller on the other hand, allows readers to revise their definition of the term war hero in response to such criticisms. With a different definition of a hero, with the different understanding of what truly occurs during war Heller provides for the audience, it is easy to prove the attacks incorrect. Does serving under arguably insane rules a taking orders from higher ranking officers with no investment in the outcome of the war seem cowardly? Yossarian lives through the dangers of flying missions from Pianosa until his sense of self preservation forces him to realize he cannot continue to put himself into such situations after nearly every man in his squadron has been killed. Heroes are meant to inspire others and stand up for their beliefs, no matter the opposition. In this respect, Yossarian does fit the mold of the typical hero, finally taking a stand and escaping Pianosa, because it is what he believes is right. He even manages to inspire Major Danby and the Chaplain to make their own marks once he has gone. Yossarian faces the legal ramifications of deserting the army, and it requires courage for him to leave the way he does. The antiwar message provided by Heller through his use of language, his characters, and the mood he sets throughout the novel in itself disputes the criticisms of the novel. As it is his intent to make a statement against

war, it is not necessary for Heller to glorify the experience in his work. The criticism of the novel Catch22 by Joseph Heller works against itself to perpetuate the novels true purpose: that war is not heroic and should not be revered by American society. Works Cited Heller, Joseph. Catch22. New York; Simon and Schuster, 1961. Print.