Satire in Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Topics: Satire, Catch-22, Yossarian Pages: 5 (2028 words) Published: April 2, 2005
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, is a fictitious novel that depicts life on an American bomber squadron on Pianosa, an island off the coast of Italy, during the closing years of World War II. A bombardier by the name of Yossarian, the main character in the story, is joined by many others to create a comic drama unlike any other. But aside from the entertainment, Heller uses Catch-22 to satirize many aspects of everyday life that consist of hypocrisy, corruption, and insanity. From the laziness of policeman to the fake happiness brought about by money, the novel is painted with a great number of points targeted against the faults of modern society. However, along with these smaller targets, a majority of the Heller's satire in the novel is aimed specifically at the imperious bureaucracy in the military, the current nature of man, and the corruption of religion; all of which accentuate the senselessness of war itself. Through Yossarian, who is conscience of what is sane, along with characters who are not, Heller emphasizes his ridicule by making what is appropriate seem peculiar and what is ludicrous seem common, ultimately giving the reader a viewpoint that proves astonishingly effective.

One of the few main targets of Heller's satire is the bureaucracy and unfairness of this system within the establishment of the military. Because the book is set in a military base during the war, Heller uses characters and situations to manifest his ridicule upon the higher ranked men who are responsible for this. Colonel Cathcart, the commanding officer in Yossarian's regiment, is obsessed throughout the book with becoming a general and that is what his character desires to achieve throughout the story. He is also joined by his lieutenant colonel, Colonel Korn, who is obsessed with being a full colonel. But in the novel, these obsessions become relentless and higher ranking officers such as Korn and Cathcart yield power to their advantage for their own ambitions, thus stripping away democratic freedoms of the lower ranking officers such as Yossarian and creating a relentless bureaucracy. Instead of flying the extra missions Colonel Cathcart continuously assigns for his country, Yossarian realizes that it really has nothing to do with the war effort and begs the question, "am I supposed to get my ass shot off just because the colonel wants to be a general?" (133). Yossarian is no longer fighting for himself or his patriotism but instead for some dictating men at the top of the ladder who are using the lives of Yossarian and his friends as pawns for their lavishness. When Yossarian rebels against this system of injustice commanding over him, the narrator states that Milo is ashamed of Yossarian who is "jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them" (415). According to Milo, it is not fair to fight for your own justice as an American in the military. This statement is foolish and is exactly what Heller satirizes in the book; the fact that during war, the freedom and individuality of lower ranking officers are stripped away from them to satisfy the needs of higher ranking officers. Yossarian later discovers through Major Danby that Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn "can prepare as many official reports as they want and choose whichever ones they need on any given occasion," which is another example of the bureaucracy allowing men to cease liberties in order to incite more power for personal use (452). When continuing his discussion with Major Danby at the end of the book, Yossarian uses an analogy to indicate to the Major just what it is like being controlled by higher powers. After Danby wishes he was a cucumber or some kind of vegetable so he did not have to make important decisions, Yossarian states that if he was a "good one" then "they'd cut you off in your prime and slice you up for a salad" and if he was a "poor one" then "they'd let you rot and use you for fertilizer to help the good ones...
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