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In the very opening pages of the novel Catch- 22 by Joseph Heller, we come upon a number of Air Force officers malingering in a hospital on an Italian island during World War II. One is censoring all the letters of enlisted men and forging the censor s name. Washington Irving x just for fun. Another is having tedious conversations with a boring Texan in order to increase his life span by making time flow slowly, when another man is storing horse chestnuts in his cheeks so that he could obtain a look of innocence. Judging from their absurd behavior, it seems clear that inordinate number of the characters appearing in this book is mad. And as we read through the novel, we find out that most of these characters, soldiers and officers fighting in the war, seem indifferent to their own survival.
However, we also encounter an American bombardier named Yossarian who is differentiated from his insane fellow officers since he is solely determined to stay alive. As the novel states. That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance x, the book focuses on Yossarian s tremendous efforts to avoid being victimized by circumstance, a force represented as catch- 22. According to Webster s college Dictionary, catch- 22 means a frustrating situation in which one is trapped by contradictory regulations or conditions. In the novel Catch- 22, Doc. Daneeka explains the word to Yossarian for the first time.
He says, . Catch- 22 says you ve always got to do what your commanding officer tells you to x (p. 67) when Yossarian complains about having too many number of missions. Yossarian protests that Twenty-Seventh Air Force Headquarters states that he can go home after forty missions, but Doc. Daneeka refutes, . But they don t say you have to obey every order. That s the catch.
x (p. 67) At another point, Yossarian urges Doc. Daneeka to fill out a form, which testifies his unfitness so that he would be removed from his combat duty. However, catch- 22 again renders this action worthless since the Group must approve this form and Doc. Daneeka knows very well that. Group isn t going to. x (p. 184) From these examples, it is possible to conclude catch- 22 as an unwritten loophole, or a blind spot in the law, that allows authorities to revoke your rights to suit their wills whenever needed.
Yossarian is stripped of all his rights because of catch- 22. He is forced to fly double the number of missions he is required to. And finally, he simply refuses to fly any more missions as he experiences the deaths of his innocent comrades driven by catch- 22. In short, catch- 22 is a cruel rule that controls this incompetent world, mocks justice and victimizes the innocents. As I have mentioned before, most characters form the book Catch- 22 are apparently crazy. They neglect the importance of their own lives under the title.
for the country x whereas Yossarian struggles strenuously for sheer survival. He feels intense hatred for his own, insane countrymen who exercise an arbitrary power over his life and well-being as well as loathing this terrible wartime situation. Although the actual setting of this novel is Pianosa Island during WWII, I believe that this craziness reflects our own society of modern times as well. If we look carefully around ourselves, we could surely discover how the strong exerts arbitrary power over the innocent for its own goods, or examples of how people are being so self-indulgent. As the government and authority of many under-developed countries are notorious for bribery and corruption when there are so many who are starving on the other side, it is distinctly shown that we lie, neglect and use others as stepping stone to fulfill our own desire. This condition is seen from Colonel Cathcart since he wishes to impress his superior officers in hope of getting promoted by applying his combat squad to dangerous flight missions and increasing the number of missions accomplished.
The author, Joseph Heller, is using this method of craziness and is making Pianosa a copy of our own to confront the humbug, hypocrisy, cruelty and stupidity of our mass society. Heller has distorted the wartime circumstance for more accuracy, so that the readers could see how absurd and cruel is our own mechanical and malevolent world ruled by catch- 22. At the end of the book, Yossarian is finally permitted to go home only if he agrees to Colonels Cathcart and Korn s deal. He wanders between two choices without any more alternatives; going home to make the generals famous or court martial. However, he decides to follow his own unique logic and concludes that desertion is the best choice he s got. So he takes off for neutral Sweden, although there is no guarantee that he would break through a severe siege and make it to Sweden.
The whole thing might seem quite selfish and cowardly. But it is the result of Yossarian s effort to get away from a crazy world governed and wrenched by the rule. catch- 22 x. He is telling us to stand against injustice and unreasonableness but not just suffer through what we are given. Maybe it is our turn to reflect upon ourselves and see if we are the ones who exert unjust power over the weak and powerless around us.
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