Essay on Catch-22
There are many relationships present between Catch-22 and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. The feeling of a sort of betrayal by society in Catch-22 is also consistent in Kesey's novel. The fact that a country would send a person away, knowing full well that the chances of them dying is great, continues to play mind games on the people in Catch-22. This separation from the norm of society probably led to Yossarian's satirical and skeptical approach to the traditions of that society which he is no longer apart of. Satire is prevalent throughout the entire novel of Catch-22, which helps add to the novels sense of awareness and humor.
The first instance of this sensational use of satire is present in the situation with the allegedly dead Doc Daneeka. The Doc was “killed” in a plane crash; however, his wife received a letter from overseas that was signed with her husband’s signature. Having thought that she had lost her husband forever, Mrs. Daneeka was overcome with joy and frantically wrote a note back to her faithful husband. The twist in this sub-story is present when the letter is returned unopened to Mrs. Daneeka, with the words “KILLED IN ACTION” stamped on the letter. This situation was reiterated in the television series “M.A.S.H,” where the military thought that the doctor was dead when in reality he was alive. Just in this one incident, there are numerous satirical events. This satire is based towards the military’s ignorance of their own troops. The military has no recollection of whether one of their own doctors is alive or dead. With the Doc being “killed,” this portrays the human instinct to quickly exit from danger. It is human instinct to either stay and fight or to take flight , which is exactly what Doc Daneeka had to resort to. The Doc did not want to suffer any longer, so he found his escape through his alleged dying on an airplane crash.
Another human virtue is the tendency for humans to believe authority over anything else. This attribute is prevalent in the Doc’s wife. Even after receiving a letter signed by her husband, Mrs. Daneeka still believes the authorities over her gut-instinct that her husband is dead. Due to this false information, the military is playing an evil role in this incident. The military is irresponsible for not being able to keep track of their enlisted men and therefore cause great anguish for the wives of the soldiers. Joseph Heller’s purpose for using satire in this section is to emphasis how human virtue can be altered rather easily, and also the satire pokes fun at hw ignorant the military actually is.
In the second incident, the phrase “Catch-22” really becomes apparent. Major Major Major Major declared that in order for him to see any men, then they would have to stop by his office when he was out. This “Catch-22” inhibits the Chaplain from proceeding into Major Major’s office to discuss a very important matter with him.
This is also an indication of satire, because it tends to make fun of the human characteristic of shyness and being alone. Major Major never wants to be bothered, no mater how severe the topic may have been. He wants to be alone and an outcast to the social world. With this “Catch-22;” however, no one hardly ever enters Major Major’s office because he is always there. It is stated that he rarely ever leaves his office, and the last time he left was to attend a funeral for one of his enlisted men. Satire plays an enormous roll in this novel, and without this technique the novel would not convey the same message. Also, Heller is trying to poke fun at the human’s instinct to place oneself over any supreme being. By the fact that Major Major would not even allow the Chaplain to enter his office while he was there, shows the earnest disrespect for spiritual leaders in time of grief. However, in times of grief mot people turn to God and pray to stop the suffering and pain. Therefore, the foe in this little excerpt would be the human instincts. Humans do not intend to mean harm, but sometimes can not avoid acting foolishly in times of severe anxiety.
“They couldn’t dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her behave.” This marvelous satire in this section is phenomenal. Joseph Heller is making fun of how obtuse society really is by allowing the enlisted men in the hospital to believe that Death can be tamed. Death simply can not be taught to behave properly, it is not an object. Death unleashes her mighty fury on whoever she wishes. However, hospital deaths are a tad more orderly then war deaths. This is due to the fact that hospitals can detect when a person is going to die, so they can drift the person off to never-never land rather peacefully. Yossarian is rather blind to the fact that deaths occur just the same in a hospital as they due out in the war, except for the fact that a hospital can only prolong the inevitable long enough for the person to cope with his ailment. Death, in no way, can be controlled. The reason for Heller’s satire on the foolishness of the human race, is to have humans come to realize that even in time of trouble one must always rely on one’s brain. Also, Heller’s personifying death as a woman certainly adds to the affect of this passage. Now instead of looking at death as cruel, death can be looked at having manners and being able to be taught. Death, obviously, is the evil in this excerpt having the ability to strike like a cobra any time it pleases. No matter the harshness of the death, a death is a death and that is what Yossarian can not come to realize. Yossarian measures a death on the harshness of it, instead of realizing that no matter how a person dies it is still very tragic.
Catch-22 is based solely on the rhetorical device of satire. Without satire, this novel would lose all it’s purpose and its direction completely. The satire is used to make fun of the human characteristics that are taking place everyday. Joseph Heller uses his techniques to try and enlighten the audience on how the society is behaving and how they can change the way it acts.
In Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, satire is also present in the form of society betraying one of it’s members. Satire is a vital element, which Joseph Heller did a phenomenal job incorporating into his novel, Catch-22.
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