Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Essay by jen5273University, Bachelor's April 2004

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Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" is a novel that satirizes the war, while at the same time, uses the war to satirize society as a whole. One running theme throughout the book is the soldier's loss of individualism. This loss of individualism is not due to the horrors of the battlefield, such as in "The Eye in the Door," but caused instead by the mentality and egotism of the army's top brass. Lt. Scheisskopf and his obsession with parades portray one example of this egotism. Lt. Scheisskopf does not see the soldiers as individual men, but instead as puppets that he can manipulate and control. At one point, he even expresses his desire to "wire the men together so that their movements will be precisely in sync, just as if they really were mindless puppets." This theme also appears through Colonel Cathcart and his ever-increasing demand on the number of missions his squadron must fly.

Colonel Cathcart does not continually raise the number for any military or strategic reasons. Instead, he is simply raising the number and thereby repeatedly risking the lives of his men solely to enhance his prestige and military ranking. One last example is Yossarian himself who, when wounded in the leg, is told to take better care of himself because his leg is the property of the government. Soldiers, therefore, are not seen as individual men, but instead as governmental property that can be inventoried and even expelled.

Through his book, Heller uses both satire and absurd humor to portray the ridiculousness of war and the continuous circle that many find themselves in when dealing with bureaucracy. According to Heller, Catch-22 is "the law that says what is commanded is right simply because it is commanded, and the illogical must be done because the command says it...