Catch-22 Theme of Insanity

Topics: Catch-22, Novel, Yossarian Pages: 7 (2799 words) Published: August 30, 2006
During the early nineteen forties, war was raging throughout the world. Countries sought to obliterate each other and eradicate all forms of existence outside of their own perimeter. While bombs were being dropped by the hundreds and bullets being fired by the thousands, families back home yearned for the safe return of their newly drafted instruments of war: their husbands and sons. The soldiers of the Fighting 256 Squadron fight their desperate battles against the odds, against the battles of fatigue and torture, against the deadening will to survive. Joseph Heller's masterpiece Catch-22 has enlightened generations of readers to the insanity caused by corrupt bureaucracy and the pseudo-law of Catch-22. Heller's creation of the pseudo law of Catch-22 shows the insanity caused by the corrupt powers of bureaucracy that overwhelm the military base and all of its contained soldiers. Catch-22 is a law of circular reasoning's. It is introduced to them and the soldiers must live their lives according to what the "non-existent" law states. One version of the Catch-22 keeps the soldiers continuously flying combat missions. A soldier's goal is to meet the required number of flying missions; then you are discharged and can go back home. Two obstacles lie in the way for a soldier to be honorably discharged: one is that Colonel Cathcart continuously raises the number of flying missions, and the second is the Catch-22 law that explains you can be grounded, from flying anymore missions, for insanity. The Doc Daneeka can only ground a pilot if they are to be declared insane. But to be grounded on insanity, you cannot state that you are insane because in doing so you are clearly sane because you can evidently think for yourself and use common sense. One critic explains, "Catch-22 itself, the Section 8 of military regulations, acknowledges the right of man to protect his own life and the sanity so desiring, but is so formulated that the sole proof of insanity is to get oneself killed. It is a stipulation absurdly reasonable, self-enclosingly perfect for a world directed to its own destruction" (Monk 213). Monk explains how Catch-22 recognizes the fact that a soldier has the right to do what he wants with his life, but when under the pressure of the Catch-22, it is designed to turn his sanity to insanity and then to death. Catch-22 shows us a world heading toward absolute annihilation in a hand-basket. The only reward for sanity is death. "But the false notes, the sticky sentiment of A Farewell to Arms, the rhetoric of Faulkner's A Fable, are superfluous in this indictment where the "system" makes motivation – love or hate, courage or cowardice, loyalty or sycophancy – in the end meaningless" (Monk 218). The Catch-22 destroys all incentives to soldiers and leaves them with nothing left to desire but death, although it does not refute the American Dream. "And the Dream, pursued by one man, himself a fugitive, is so much more acceptable" (Monk 218). In the end, Yossarian, the protagonist Air Force captain who hates the war, departs into the direction of the American Dream: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Catch-22 is also depicted as a law. "It is just a name made up for an illogical argument that justifies what is really going on. Behind Catch-22 stands an unswerving principle: might -makes right" (Sparknotes 1). Catch-22 is unlawful and unfair to the soldiers. It is made even clearer when near the end of the book, the Old Italian woman describes Catch-22's law and the restraints it holds on society to Yossarian when soldiers dragged out some young girls: "What right did they have?"

"What? What did you say?"
"Catch-22. Catch-22 says they have the right to do anything we can't stop them from doing." "Who told you it was Catch-22?"
"The soldiers with the hard white hats and clubs…All they kept saying [for a reason] was ‘Catch-22, Catch-22.' What does it mean?" "Didn't they show it to...
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