Joseph Heller

’s Works And Life Essay, Research Paper

Versatile Craftsman

It is not every author who is able to mimic human interaction while critiquing society. Shakespeare is one. Joseph Heller is another. Heller’s wit and social commentary in such works as Catch-22, Closing Time, Something Happened, and God Knows sparks interest in the reader and successfully creates a reality which the reader is transported to. Heller’s versatility also astounds, from writing war novels to describing the adverse affects of corporate society. He also satirizes the lunacies and humors of war and the military, concentrating most of his works on the effort of bureaucratic institutions to destroy the human spirit. Heller’s works are characterized by a satirical sense of the absurd, speaking out against the military-industrial complex and those organized institutions which seem to manipulate people’s lives in the name of reason or morality. Heller’s diverse writing style enables him to successfully have works of differing content showing his literary diversity through absurdum, subtle imagery, real life situations, and drawn out interior monologues to stimulate the reader and conveying humor and truth.

Heller’s writings are very diverse, ranging from the “metafiction” of Catche-22, which critic Nelson Algren has labeled as “the best American novel to come out of World War II”, and Richard Locke has called “the great representative document of our era, linking high and low culture” to Good as Gold, the humorous portrayal of Jewish family life and a satire of national politics, including attacks on real people such as Henry Kissinger. Great satirical exchanges occur in Heller’dialogs, where he incorporates quick lines shot back and forth between characters, such as in Catche-22 when Yossarian’s and Doc Daneeka’s repartee

“I can just picture his liver.”

“Picture my liver.”

“There’s nothing wrong with your liver.”

“That shows how much you don’t know.” (p. 40)

making it easy to skip over the humorous irony and allegoric references which are interwoven into these dialogs. This in particular states to how America doesn’t see a problem with it’s military policies, and thinks that it’s organized institution is successful yet still subjugated. Rhetorical questions are also often asked by characters to point out faults in the human predicament and how at times, the characters take a step back and view their present position objectively. This usage of real characters effectively creates a real world for the reader to enter. Heller also uses much humor and irony in his faintly ludicrous names. Some of the humor in the names used is in the phonetics, such as Yossarian having a phonetic suggestibility of sedition and subversion, as noted by one of his paranoid superiors in Catche-22, or Major Major, a man with a need for respect. Heller also uses names such as Milo Minderbender (conjuring up an image of a kind of entrepreneurial mesmerist who also happens to be mentally ill) to describe a character’s mental quirks, or using physical imagery names such as Havermeyer to suggest confusion and dull brute strength.

Another peculiarity of Heller’s writing style is to inject “games” into his…

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