I Can See Clearly Now
Flannery O’Conner argued that “[Distortion] is the only way to make people see”. This famous statement is initially contradictory and incongruous, but in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 it is easy to see the truth of this paradox. The pages of Catch-22 are lined with distortion and each instance provides for a new kind of clarity. Catch-22 is simply a war story illustrated by ridiculous behavior and illogical arguments and told in a flatly satirical tone. Though the book never states outright that matters are funny, the reader is always aware of how outrageously bizarre the characters and situations are. Heller uses out of sequence narration, a confused distinction between appearance and reality, and the irrationally logical paranoia of characters to create his corrupt military world. Distortion is found first in the very organization of the novel. Many events are out of sequence and Heller discusses events as if readers were already aware of their details, though merely mentioning them for the first time. Often times Heller references events multiple times before one ever reads about it in it’s entirety. For example, the death of Snowden is slowly explained throughout the book. The death is first referred to early on in chapter four when Yossarian asks, “Where are the Snowdens…”(Heller 35) at an educational meeting. This question is asked without context and the reader is unsure of what a Snowden is, let alone how it died. By creating this dialogue without context, Heller leaves readers to question the seemly incoherent question and the idea of Snowdens is planted in their brains. The death is mentioned in chapters five and seventeen and though more information is provided each time, the reader does not fully understand what took place until chapter 30 when the details and context of Snowden’s death are given. At first, this way of structural organization creates some confusion for readers but as they continue on a greater focus and...
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