Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Joseph Heller's Catch-22

Essay by Superman_125High School, 11th gradeA+, August 2004

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Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Joseph Heller's Catch-22 use similar motifs to convey their common anti-war message. Although it is truly difficult for any author to communicate the true nature of war in a work of literature, both novels are triumphant in their attempts to convey the devastating experience. The authors' analogous writing styles, themes, and motifs run parallel to one another. Both Slaughterhouse-Five and Catch-22 incorporate irony, exemplify the idiocy and folly of military institutions, and convey a similar theme throughout their story lines.

One common theme is seen in the characters of Hungry Joe in Catch-22 and Edgar Derby in Slaughterhouse-Five. Both of these characters relate to the casualties that were not caused by direct battle wounds. These motifs relay the authors' anti-war message. "The picture of war painted by Heller and Vonnegut is highlighted by their utilization of irony. Their careful strokes of irony on the canvas of their novels help to prove one of their numerous shared themes."

(Meredith 218)

Along with Hungry Joe and Edgar Derby exemplifying the casualties not caused by battle, they also represent the tragedies suffered shortly before the conclusion of the war. After surviving all of the hardships of war, these two men perish only when the end of the war could be seen in the horizon. The irony in the both men's deaths is very clear. Hungry Joe's death, after over 70 combat missions as a pilot, came quietly "in his sleep while having a dream." (Heller 445) As Slaughterhouse-Five's counterpart to Hungry Joe, "the arbitrary death of Edgar Derby" is similarly ironic. (Snodgrass 435) After surviving some devastating ordeals during the war, along with prison camp, "he was arrested for plundering" after stealing a teapot. "He was tried and shot" only months before the end of the war." (Vonnegut 214)...