Anti Heroism in American Literature
In America today, soldiers are portrayed as vigorously heroic men who are passionate about defending their country. Joseph Heller’s wartime novel Catch-22, however, depicts soldiers as men that oppose the typical definition of “hero.” These men value their own prosperity over their countries’ welfare and also the other men in their squadron. The main character, Yossarian, fears the inevitable force of death that he faces everyday, and because of this, he does not fit the standard image of an American soldier. Hypocrisy is also extremely prevalent in Catch-22, and this common theme conflicts with the gallantry that is expected of all soldiers. The lack of freedom that the soldiers on the Island of Pianosa experience prevents them from pursuing happiness and learning integrity, which are extremely important characteristics in the typical protagonist. From this lack of freedom, catch-22 is created—an idea that describes a problematic situation where resolutions are unattainable. These forces of opposition coerce the men to be seen as antiheroes. However, despite the fact that they don’t agree with all of common traits of a hero, they can still be seen as compassionate men, who are willing to fight for what they think is just.
Heller's main character, Yossarian, represents America's idea of an anti-hero. He does not conform, for he does not believe in what we think is rational and he does not accept the ideas of Modernism (Telgen). Yossarian’s anxiety often takes over his decision-making and this prevents him from going on missions to defend his country in the war. His fear of death began when he experienced his combat partner, Snowden, dying in combat: Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter that was...
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