Catch 22 Essay, Research Paper
Often cited as an example of satirical literature, Joseph Heller s novel, Catch-22 is seen by many literary critics to be a classic anti-war epic. Even though the novel centers around the Second World War the author uses minimal scenes of violence in order to express his distaste for war. Heller s description of the gruesome and tragic death of Snowden manifests his personal contempt for war. Heller continues his crusade to expose the absurdity of war in his description of Kid Sampson s death, as the propeller on McWatt s plane rips through his torso, leaving McWatt with so much guilt as to kamikaze himself into a nearby mountainside. The violent imagery in Heller s Catch-22 allows the reader to escape the satire of the novel and confront the harsh realities of war.
McWatt s suicide results from when he kills his own comrade, Kid Sampson. McWatt was always told by Yossarian not to buzz the beach when he returned from the missions and not to fly to close from the ground. However, on this one day after returning from a mission, he flew too close to the beach catching Kid Sampson with the propeller of his plane ripping his torso of the bottom half of his body. Suffering from the guilt that he had just killed one of his own comrades McWatt honorably decides to kamikaze his plane into the side of a nearby mountain. Camaraderie between soldiers was an important aspect of the war. To many, maintaining friendships was more important than winning the war. As McWatt ended the life of one of his comrades he was disgusted only to drown his own mind in guilt, thus taking his own life. Heller attempts to display the air force as a brotherhood of individuals and lost souls. Kid Sampson s death was an act that displayed the tragic aspect of war, death. Upon killing his own friend McWatt realized that he could not live himself, thus he crashed his own plane onto the side of a mountain. The battlegrounds of war are the battlegrounds where friendships are made but easily lost; as one loses the life of their companion they also lose their own life. Heller attempts to show McWatt s death as a noble act, a test of the value of one s life.
Heller s Yossarian is often compared to Homer s Odysseus; although both are powerful men they are continually confronted with daunting tasks and uneasy situations. The parody of Yossarian is that he often is the cause of other people s problem. To many he is a troublemaker, a cause of all problems in Pianosa. This seemingly unaffected character was psychologically distraught by one event, which was the death of his friend Snowden. Heller s violent description of Snowden s death was marked by the scene when Yossarian notices the wound did not originate from his leg but rather from his abdomen. The most descriptive aspect of the scene was when Yossarian opened Snowden s coat only to encounter his innards spilling on the floor. This gruesome scene greatly affected Yossarian as he often could not stop thinking about the last words muttered by Snowden, I m cold I m cold. The reader observes that the majority of the novel s content is satirical. This scene allows one to see the rational side of the novel, it is as if the novel is transported into a real life situation and Yossarian understands death and the impact war has on it. The impact of Snowden s death on Yossarian displays the impact of a violent scene on the human psyche. After Snowden s death Yossarian ceases to function properly. Characterized as a crazy individual Yossarian is unmotivated, desires not to wear clothes, and continually signs the name Washington Irving to many official documents. Snowden s death shows the impact that death has on an individual. Many soldiers were continually exposed to death during the war and were psychologically scared as their comrades. Heller s description of death in the novel once again displays an author s ability to switch roles. In the case of Catch-22 the author shifts from a satirical attitude towards a much more serious attitude. The aspect of death in the novel truly displays the deathly truth about war.
The psychological effect that violent imagery has on characters is that it brings the rational mind of the characters, especially Yossarian, into perspective. The vivid descriptions that Heller brought to life allowed the reader to observe the truths of war. The truth of war is that it is based on death and destruction. With the livid descriptions of Snowden s death Heller brought out the truth that war was not only absurd but also tragic. From Heller s description of the innards spilling out onto the floor to the quiet last words of Snowden Heller transformed his writing style. Thus the reader had the ability to distinguish the reality of war from its absurdities. Heller s writing shifts from satirical to rational; Snowden s death displays the rationality of death and the tragic aspect of war while Milo s mockery of business and capitalism displays satire.
Violent imagery has always evoked certain emotions in many readers. Heller uses violent imagery in order to focus on the certain aspect of the literature, such as to distinguish the reality of war from the fiction. Heller delves further in that he desires for one to observe the irrational versus the rational.