Catch-22 Theme Essay Essay, Research Paper
Catch-22 Theme Essay
The novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is a very interesting and very funny book. It
is filled with crazy characters and strange events. All of these characters and events help
the author to illustrate one very obvious theme. Theme of Catch-22 is that war and the
military are full of lunacies, catches, and unfairness.
One catch of the military expressed to the reader in Catch-22 is located on pages
46 and 47. A rule of the air force states that any man who is crazy may be grounded. A
conversation between Yossarian and Doc Daneeka goes as follows:
?Is Orr crazy?? asked Yossarian.
?He sure is.? Doc Daneeka said.
?Can you ground him??
?I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That?s part of the rule.?
?Then why doesn?t he ask you to??
?Because he?s crazy,? Doc Daneeka said. ?He has to be crazy to keep flying
combat missions after all the close calls he?s had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has
to ask me too.?
?That?s all he has to do to be grounded??
?That?s all. Let him ask me.?
?And then you can ground him?? Yossarian asked.
?No. Then I can?t ground him.?
?You mean there?s a catch??
?Sure there?s a catch,? Doc Daneeka replied. ?Catch-22. Anyone who wants to
get out of combat duty isn?t really crazy.?
This catch, for which the book is named, was created by the military to allow
anything to happen, or not to happen, as they desired. This incredibly simple clause could
be used at will by the military to take even more power away from the common soldiers.
In this particular case, catch-22 was used to keep crazy men on combat duty.
Another lunacy of war expressed to the reader in Catch-22 is found on
pages 77 through 82. Lieutenant Scheisskopf hates Clevinger. Lieutenant Scheisskopf is
a member of the Action Board which prosecutes, defends, and finds criminal suspects
guilty of crimes. Members of this board have the power to punish anyone for anything.
For example, one day Clevinger stumbled while marching to class; the next day he was
formally charged with ?breaking ranks while in formation, felonious assault, indiscriminate
behavior, mopery, high treason, provoking, being a smart guy, listening to classical music,
and so on.? This was all brought on by Lieutenant Scheisskopf who had a personal
problem with Clevinger. Not only were the charges brought against him ludicrous, but the
trial was also. There were three members of the action board, the bloated colonel with the
big fat mustache, Lieutenant Scheisskopf, and Major Metcalf. Lieutenant Scheisskopf
was one of the judges who would weigh the merits of the case against Clevinger as
presented by the prosecutor. Lieutenant Scheisskopf was also the prosecutor. Clevinger
had an officer defending him. The officer defending him was Lieutenant Scheisskopf. This
is another way that the military can take power away from the lower ranks. People of
higher ranks can do almost anything they want to by abusing their power and controlling
the people of lower ranks.
One more example of lunacy in war and the military comes in the form of greed
and corruption. During the war, Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder started a business called
M & M Enterprises. Most of the money he made came from buying and selling Egyptian
cotton. When the market for his cotton disappeared, he tried desperately to keep his
business going. So Milo started taking contracts from the Germans to bomb his own men.
One example of this takes place on pages 263-266. Milo uses his own men, who he has
hired, to use Twenty-Seventh Air Force planes to bomb a Twenty-Seventh Air Force base.
From this contract, Milo made enough money to reimburse the government for all the
people and property he destroyed, and still have enough money to keep his business
running. But Milo did not reimburse the government, claiming that, in a democracy,
government is the people, and by keeping the money he would just be cutting out the
middleman. This is a fine example of how the goal of a war can be overlooked by some in
order for them to make money. Milo went against his own people for money. This shows
that not everyone cares about war which is another catch of the military. The military
forces people to fight even if they don?t care about the cause for which they are fighting.
Many people do not agree with war, and think that there are better ways of solving
problems. Others think that war is necessary. Whether it is necessary or not, it will
always be true that war and the military are filled with lunacies, catches, and unfairness.
People of higher ranks in the military are given way too much power, especially during
war time. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller does an excellent job of showing this to the reader.