Anti War Themes In Catch -22 Slaughter

House Five And Night Essay, Research Paper People convey their opinions about moral and social dilemmas in different ways. Writers use different literary forms to express their ideas. Autobiographical books are one means authors use to convey their personal history. Another style of literary composition is satire.

House Five And Night Essay, Research Paper

People convey their opinions about moral and social dilemmas in different ways. Writers use different literary forms to express their ideas. Autobiographical books are one means authors use to convey their personal history. Another style of literary composition is satire. Satire is the use of sarcasm and irony to portray human follies or to ridicule human failings (Stein 1270). Science fiction is a literary form of fiction, which has split from the broader form of fantasy; in which the plot, setting and theme are drawn from scientific knowledge (Benets 876). The autobiographical form used by Elie Wiesel in Night and the form of satirical humor used by Joseph Heller in Catch-22 more effectively depict anti-war themes than the science fiction form used by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five.

In the book Night, Elie Wiesel uses an autobiographical approach to convey his anti-war themes. Wiesel hopes, ?the memory of evil will serve as a shield against evil? (Cover Summary). Autobiographies are successful in conveying their themes because the writer uses ?words as windows through which the intended thoughts and feelings?shine through? (Lomask 73-74). This approach makes the brutal events of the Holocaust seem painfully real. The readers are affected because they know the atrocities are documentations of actual events. After reading the novel Night, one is changed. Wiesel?s autobiographical approach in Night is successful because the events are personal; they are colorfully described putting the reader in the midst of the action.

Night is an autobiographical account, ?that attempts to provide a place where one Holocaust survivor can speak for himself? (Brown 96). Elie Wiesel tells his own story of the death and destruction of Jews during WWII. There is an abundance of almost unbearable sections. The stories Moshe the Beadle tells about the troops throwing babies into the air and using them as target practice and the mass grave from which he escaped are dreadful. Wiesel describes the events in such a descriptive manner that it is hard not to be affected. The physical punishment and emotional damage suffered by the Jews affects the reader and leaves a lasting impression.

If we are to learn from Elie Wiesel, we must listen to his stories?they open horizons we had never seen before. They smash barriers we had thought were impregnable. They leave us desolate. They also bind us in new and deeper relationships (Brown 7).

Wiesel?s writing, ??encounters depths of evil we have never imagined, let alone acknowledged. In listening to him we may be shattered? (Brown 6). It is unfathomable to think of what the Jews in the concentration camps had to go through. Wiesels?s personal remembrance of the despair and horror he felt is described as follows:

I pinched my face. Was I still alive? Was I awake? I could not believe it. How could it be possible for them to burn people, children, and for the world to keep silent? No, none of this could be true. It was a nightmare?Soon I should wake with a start, my heart pounding, and find myself in the bedroom of my childhood, among my books? (Wiesel 30).

The descriptions of the Nazis having no qualms slaughtering masses of innocent people strikes a chord deep in the reader?s heart. ?Wiesel hopes that his stories will prompt a reflection that leads to a more humane future? so there will not be a repetition of the events in the future (Napierkowski 230).

Wiesel?s autobiography is successful because he uses colorful language to set the scene and describe the events. He tells his story using ?words as windows through which the intended thoughts and feelings?shine through? which reveal a picture in one?s mind (Lomask 73-74). He eloquently describes events like the first day in the concentration camp:

Not far from us, flames were leaping up from a ditch, gigantic flames. They were burning something. A lorry drew up at the pit and delivered its load—little children. Babies! Yes, I saw it—saw it with my own eyes?those children in the flames (Wiesel 30).

Night is full of detailed descriptions like the one just quoted. Wiesel?s intense and descriptive first person account of his incarceration leaves one stunned. Wiesel sets up a particularly graphic scene describing one of the hangings he witnessed, of a young boy and two adults, ?The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual?all eyes were on the child.? The description goes on:

The three chairs tipped over. Total silence throughout the camp?The two adults were no longer alive, their tongues hung swollen, blue tinged?the child was still alive?For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes (Wiesel 61-62).

One knows an unusually brutal event is to come, since SS officers have mixed feelings about what is to happen to the boy. As predicted, a thorough description of a horrifying event takes place. The accumulation of all these detailed descriptions reinforces the anti-war theme in Elie Wiesel?s Night.

The autobiographical approach used by Wiesel is not the only successful way of depicting an anti-war theme. The black comedy used in Joseph Heller?s Catch-22 successfully portrays his anti-war theme. Black comedy is defined as a kind of drama in which disturbing or sinister subjects like death, disease or warfare are treated with bitter amusement (Baldick 24). Catch-22, ?is a bitter, surrealistic satire on military illogic and personal greed, but it is also grotesquely comic and its title has passed into the language? (Muir 970). Heller uses comedy to tip toe the borderline between horror and hilarity. Heller manages to heighten the macabre obscenity of war more effectively using his gruesome comic aspects than if he had written this novel using realistic descriptions. The comic aspects of the novel bring humor to the absurd and serious parts. People find themselves laughing during the depressing parts of the novel and then feeling guilty for doing so. ?Heller presents a world that seems to lack rationality, justice, and humanity, in which the individual becomes alienated, frustrated, and desperate? (Beetz 193). Heller uses the repetition of absurd events to successfully convey his anti-war theme. ?Repetition may be the single most important mechanism in comedy?; repetition is the mechanism used to reinforce the themes in a comic novel. (Charney 82). In Catch-22, Heller successfully conveys his anti-war theme by creating an environment lacking humanity and rationality.

The authoritative characters in Catch-22 represent the war establishment; they show the army?s lack of humanity and willingness to put their people in jeopardy. This adds to the anti-war theme because the way comedies are successful is by the repetition of absurd events. Heller uses the authoritative characters, Milo and Colonel Cathcart, in his book Catch-22 to be negligent of humanity. Throughout the novel, Colonel Cathcart increases the number of missions the Bombardiers have to fly. Cathcart, ?raises his men?s missions solely to get the attention of his commanding officers; he calls the chaplain into his office to have him lead prayers before missions in order to get into the Saturday Evening Post? (Potts 73). This proves his lack of humanity because many of the missions are pointless; his squadron has already flown more missions than any other has flown and he just wants his name in the paper. ?Milo Minderbinder is one of the most memorable characters in the novel, a consummate entrepreneur who builds an international business empire over the course of the book?s action? (Potts 75). He is a mess officer with too much authority; he gets away with many inhumane acts. Milo always makes up excuses for his actions, so he is left to do what he wants. He is a soldier making money off the war. He lacks common sense and finds himself doing many things, which put his squadron in jeopardy. One is caught off guard when Milo sells all the parachutes, putting the Bombardiers lives in danger for no reason. Milo?s absurdity and negligence actually peaks in chapter twenty-four when he ?landed a contract with the Germans?to bomb his own outfit? (Heller 267). The whole base was destroyed; Milo was forgiven soon after the bombing because he told the soldiers how much money he had made for them. After reading this section one is appalled at the inhumanity exhibited by the characters in the book. The theme of inhumanity is evident throughout the rest of the book; many of the characters display this theme through their inhumane actions.

The anti-war theme in the book Catch-22 is perpetuated by the satiric lack of rationality all the characters, except for Yossarian, have. Yossarian is one of the few sane people in the book. Throughout the book, the repetition of ridiculous events by the characters promotes the anti-war theme by making war seem absurd. The irrational happenings in Catch-22 are obvious, whether it is when Yossarian is offered to go home with a bundle of medals he has not earned, or when Milo trades away all the parachutes in a business deal. Milo trades all the bombardier?s parachutes away for other goods; he justifies his actions by saying, ?not to worry, they?ll be rich by the end of the war? (Napierkowski 96). Milo is an economic mastermind; he uses his position to buy sell and trade goods and services. He turns the army into a corporation, ?M & M Enterprises?right before their eyes he had transformed his syndicate into an international cartel? (Heller 264). The exchange between Yossarian and Doc Daneeka is an example of the humorous repetitive structure used by Heller. ?Yossarian tries to get out of going on any more dangerous bombing missions by getting the doctor to ground him as unfit for flying? (Muir 970). Yossarian?s circular conversation with Doc Daneeka concerning his craziness for flying missions is humorous and absurd. As Yossarian learns by trying to get the airbase doctor to ground him as unfit for flying, there is a catch:

In the Air Force Medical Rule Book, it is called Catch-22?Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. ?That?s some catch, that Catch-22,? he observed. ?It?s the best catch there is,? Doc Daneeka agreed (Muir 970-971).

There is an abundance of the events in Catch-22, which are quite irrational. It is the repetition of these events that helps portray the anti-war theme.

Kurt Vonnegut?s Slaughterhouse-Five does not portray an anti-war theme as well as Night or Catch-22. The latter two books are successful in conveying their anti-war themes. The colorful autobiography of Wiesel and the satirical humor in Catch-22 more effectively portray the obscenities of war than Vonnegut?s Slaughterhouse-Five. Slaughterhouse-Five is fictional and not written with many shocking, colorful descriptions of atrocities, which occurred during WWII as Elie Wiesel?s Night. The science fiction parts of the book are over emphasized. One does not get a truthful account of the happenings of WWII from Slaughterhouse-Five. The Tralfamadorian?s science fiction aspects of the novel dull the anti-war theme. Their beliefs coerce Billy to forget about the war; the Tralfamadorians tell Billy, ?one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones? (Vonnegut 117). They also tell Billy, ?we spend eternity looking at pleasant moments;? they cannot do anything about the awful times, so they ignore them (Vonnegut 117). The climax of the novel is the fire bombing of Dresden; the reader is aware of this from the start, it is stated in the first chapter. The description of the bombing it is short; one could almost miss it. Billy does not travel back to the event nor does he re-live it, like he does many other less important events. The book?s climax is supposed to be the fire bombing of Dresden; all the reader is given is three pages about the whole event, without any description of the bombing itself.

For among its (Slaughterhouse-Five?s) fifty thousand words the reader will not find a single description of the bombing. Throughout the book we know it is coming, for Vonnegut has introduced the topic on the novel?s second page, we know it has happened within the structure of the book, because its final chapter ends with the author and his created characters working in the ruins. But the historical events that transpired on the night of 13-14 February 1945 are nowhere to be found in Slaughterhouse-Five (Klinkowitz 44-45).

One feels let down after reading Slaughterhouse-Five. The back cover of the book says, ?Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the worlds greatest anti-war books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden? giving the reader a false perception of what the book is about (Cover Review). Slaughterhouse-Five has been glorified as an anti-war novel. It does not send as harsh an anti-war message as Elie Wiesel delivers in Night.

Slaughterhouse-Five, the odyssey of Billy Pilgram?s life as he travels backwards and forwards before and after WWII, has a less compelling anti-war theme that that of Catch-22. Scattered throughout the story of Billy Pilgrim?s capture and incarceration, are narrative episodes from his life, both before and after the war. The random unorganized technique Vonnegut uses muffles the anti-war theme. Some scenes become so jumbled that they seem to have no cause or effect. Many of the events and concepts from the book are hard to understand because they are not written in chronological order. The transition from chapter to chapter is hard to follow. Vonnegut even warns us of this on the title page by stating, ?This is a novel somewhat in the?schizophrenic manner of tales?, meaning that it is jumbled and in no particular order. This makes for a tough book to read and understand. One must read all the way through the book, then put the events in a chronological order in order for them to make sense.

In conclusion, the moral and social dilemmas of anti-war are more effectively depicted in the autobiographical form used by Elie Wiesel in Night and the form of satirical humor used by Joseph Heller in Catch-22, than the science fiction form used by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five. Elie Wiesel?s autobiographical account of the Holocaust during WWII depicts an emotional anti-war theme. Wiesel hopes the imagery, the graphic descriptions, and the horror of the Holocaust will serve as a shield against evil. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 shows how war brings out the worst in people. The satirical humor is used to convey the seriousness of the anti-war message. Slaughterhouse-Five is Kurt Vonnegut?s attempt at the examination of WWII. The science fiction form muffled the anti-war message. All three of these books have anti-war themes; some literary forms worked better in conveying their ideas than others.

Baldick, Chris. ?Black Comedy.? The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms.

New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Beetz, Kirk H. ?Catch-22.? Beacham?s Guide to Literature for Young Adults. USA:

Walton Beacham, 1989.

Brown, Robert McAfee. Elie Wiesel Messenger to All Humanity. Indiana: University of

Notre Dame Press, 1981.

Charney, Maurice. Comedy High and Low. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Cover Review. Slaughterhouse-Five. By Kurt Vonnegut. New York: Dell Publishing,


Cover Summary. From the Kingdom of Memory. By Elie Wiesel. New York: Summit

Books, 1990.

Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Klinkowitz, Jerome. Slaughterhouse-Five Reforming the Novel and the World. Boston,

MA: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

Lomask, Milton. The Biographer?s Craft. USA: Harper & Row Publishers Inc., 1986.

Muir, Frank. The Oxford Humorous Prose. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Napierkowski, Marie Rose. ?Elie Wiesel.? Novels For Students. Farming Hills, MI: Gale,


Plotts, Stephen W. Catch-22 Antitheroic Antinovel. Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers,


?science fiction.? Benets Readers Encyclopedia. 3RD ed. 1987.

Stein, Jess. ?Satire.? The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. 1983 ed.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969.

Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Bantam