Lack of Communication
One of the most frustrating aspects of the novel is the frequent breakdown of communication. This is a widespread epidemic that affects hierarchical explanation, broad decision-making, and even simple conversation between soldiers. It is often comical, sometimes even resembling an Abbott and Costello routine, but this lack of communication ultimately contributes to a general lack of agency. Many of the difficulties in communication in the novel can be traced to bureaucracy. Many characters are forced to communicate through a middleman, and in many cases, the transmissions are dramatically altered or do not reach their recipients at all. Yossarian edits the letters soldiers are sending home while he is in the hospital, and he takes joy in augmenting them. Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen does not even relay messages he considers too "prolix," and overseas communiqués never get through because of his preferences. Messages do not always stay the same from source to destination, and even when they do, they are sometimes misinterpreted. When the men are supposed to bomb Ferrara and Yossarian moves the bomb line so it appears as if the men have already bombed it, the lack of communication leads the men to believe that it actually has been bombed. No one claims full responsibility for the bombing, so no one can disprove its having taken place. Since the men feel very removed from the object of winning the war and accomplishing important goals in that pursuit, they are very happy about this prank. But such an error can lead to other men dying because they do not receive the support they need. Though this reversal of cause and effect seems comical, it has real consequences that are very serious. Though Heller never describes a bloody scene where men are massacred without this support, the reader can imagine the very real effects of communication breakdowns. Other times, lack of communication takes on a more dream-like, nightmarish quality. As Yossarian is...
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