Compare and Contrast How Heller and Owen Present War
Both Heller and Owen write of wars won but in many ways a loss. Their presentation of war has both similarities and differences. They both convey their truth behind war, that behind the glorification it is nothing but destruction and senseless killings. In ways their technique in which they present war often differs, one being an influential novel based on black comedy whereas the other powerful poetry sourced from the darkest times. They share many themes based around the darkness of mankind. One of these themes being dehumanisation emerges through their literature. Men are broken down and dehumanised in the military machine. In Catch-22 after the death of Snowden, Yossarian refuses to wear his uniform, an example of him stepping out of the military machine and refusing to reform. In this sense war is presented as a weapon and the soldiers are simply the bullets; propelled out to kill whomever they may hit and disposable and replaceable. Although the image of Yossarian shows the humanity of him, without the uniform and his flesh exposed he is a man again, a reminder that the soldiers are men. Something many people forget when the facts and figures for dead/wounded/missing in action come in. Yossarian refusing to wear clothes and baring his humanity also portrays his vulnerability and mortality. Like Snowden’s secret said, ‘man was matter…drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he will burn. Bury him and he’ll rot like other kinds of garbage. The spirit is gone man is garbage.’ ‘Apologia Pro Poemate Meo’ by Owen also depicts dehumanisation in war. They have been stripped of the humanity and any resemblance that their hearts once contained emotions. They know death only and are practically inhuman, but they have been trained that way, they are our own creation. In order for them to fight our war they have to have dropped all human emotion including fear. They ‘have dropped off fear’ and to Owen this is a relief, he feels elated and euphoric by the freedom, ‘my spirit surging.’ However the fact that men are dehumanised is our fault. They are our creation and for that they owe us nothing and we owe them everything. The title for this poem means ‘Explanation for my poetry’ so this poem could be a way of Owen reminding himself that he is still human and he still feels, also the fact that he feels he should explain his poetry to the reader is ironic as he says in the poem he owes them nothing. In Catch-22, on the other hand, when men are dehumanised and lose their fear they are driven mad. The only men who continue to fly are those with no fear and those with no fear are the crazy ones, who are the ones able to be grounded. Orr for example has no fear, he crashes planes repeatedly and yet contuse to fly more and more missions, all men believe him to be crazy but Orr is the one who manages to escape the war. Orr is seen as crazy and therefore does not have to fly more missions but he continues to fly them. However he is not in fact crazy and the reason he flies more and continues to crash is all part of him plan. Therefore Orr could be seen as one of the sanest men. The brutality of Aarfy also shows how men are dehumanised and turned into immoral, corrupt and wicked men. In Rome Aarfy rapes and murders the maid and throws her out on the street like garbage. In ‘Apologia Pro Poemate Meo’ men have been made into murderers that feel nothing, taught ‘not to feel sickness or remorse for murder.’ Therefore Heller and Owen show war as a place in which the soldiers are simply tools for the destruction of mankind. Heller and Owen struggle to find something to believe in whether it be a country, a god or a reason. Lack of faith is a prominent part to both Heller and Owen’s work. The protagonist of Catch 22, Yossarian, is desperately trying to get out of war for he has no cause to stay and give his life. Yossarian questions everything around him, the system, the...
Bibliography: 1. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller published by Vintage 1994
2. Wilfred Owen http://www.geocities.com/~bblair/owen1.htm#P1
3. John W. Aldridge http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/02/15/home/heller-loony.html
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