The Reader's Response
By: John O'dea
I have chosen a reader response criticism for Catch-22, because I believe it gives me the freedom to interpret, and explore the book on the freest and most personal grounds. It gives me the opportunity to look inward and contemplate the thought provoking scenes occurrences in Catch-22 on my own terms, and then allows me to relate these findings to fellow peers and readers.
A reader response criticism complies with my beliefs of Literature, in that everyone who reads a book comes from a figuratively different place than any other reader. Since everyone is a unique individual, the impressions, and meanings of passages are to be interpreted by these readers in their own unique and individual way.
Therefore, it is a reader response critic's belief that works of Literature do not have one specific meaning, as they are all interpreted by different people. Two people may believe that texts have different meanings, or believe different things about them.
For example, The Catcher in the Rye can lead people down two entirely different paths. For some this work represents a young mans loss of innocence, and subsequent downward spiral toward delusionistic insanity. Others however, find themselves relating to Holden Caulfield, and perhaps at that time in their life are lead to look inward and derive a new understanding of their self, which leads to a subsequent realization of many things before not understood about them. Both interpretations, based on reader response are correct, yet those of the first order are lead to believe Holden is an unreliable narrator, whilst the latter see a truth in his words that resounds within themselves. All because these two people have had different life experiences and are two different unique people.
Reader response criticism is applicable to all works of Literature. Catch-22 uses various different symbols and allusions to form its central theme that can all be interpreted in different ways. Although my response to the work has stimulated the usually accepted theme of this work that war is chaos, I will strive to illustrate and prove the reasons, which have led me to believe this. What I will cite, and my interpretations of it will be unique to who I am, and my thoughts gathered from past experiences and beliefs, though they may be a common derivation of that text because of the common experiences which man shares through cultural, religious, or social values.
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, is one of the great anti-war novels of our time. Also earning the distinction of being one of the first, this book was there for the tumultuous decades of the sixties, to influence people from all over America, and the world. Joseph Heller uses the Characters: and their insanity, deaths, and in places stagnation in life, as well as Plots, similar to the characters because they are the instruments which create the plot, such as Catch-22 and that circular thinking, the insensible ventures of Milo Minderbender and the syndicate, and the state of Rome in the end, to instill in readers the themes of war is chaotic inexplicable hell.
A contributing factor to the theme of war is chaos, is the insanity of the characters. Joseph Heller wrote almost every character to be nearly certifiably insane. To show the horrors of war, Joseph Heller strives to display the way in which these characters have been twisted and changed by the war into deranged men, who's different realities are incomprehensible to anyone sane around them, including the reader. They were flying through heavy flak; it was Yossarian's job to guide the pilot safely through it. Aarfy keeps crowding near Yossarian in the nose. Yossarian resorts to beating Aarfy, who doesn't grasp that they are under fire, and their lives are in danger. "Yossarian gaped at his navigator
and it occurred to him that one of them was mad. Jesus Christ, get the hell out of the nose (Heller p.147)."...
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