Aika Danayeva Essay
Literary Critical Essay
Joseph Heller is a laudatory writer of a book Catch-22, whose
intentions are to show his readers that it isn’t satisfactory to be crazy
in the society and it is crazy not to be insane by using literary elements
such as satire. This book is set in during WWII. The main character is
Yossarian, just your average soldier who, at first, seems insane. Everyone
around him considers him insane as well. However, because he is insane,
he’s not crazy. Also because he loses his marbles, he lives longer than any
of his friends do.
Yossarian is just one of the millions of soldiers that were flown overseas
during WWII to fight for their country. Usually, most of the soldiers who
first arrive are full of patriotism, but as the war goes on they realize
that it’s every soldier for himself. Yossarian and the rest of the soldiers
are assigned to fly 40 missions. Yossarian has already flown 40 missions
that were assigned. However, every time a soldier dies, the colonels raise
the number of missions. Since Yossarian wants to save his life, he refuses
to fly those missions.
‘Forty.’ ‘Daneeka was telling the truth,’ ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen admitted.
‘Forty missions is all you have to fly as far as Twenty-seventh Air Force
Headquarters is concerned.’ Yossarian was jubilant. ‘Then I can go home,
right? I’ve got forty-eight.’ ‘No you can’t go home,’ ex- P.F.C.
Wintergreen corrected him. ‘Are you crazy or something?’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Catch-
He is a very egoistic and self-centered person, who cares for himself more
than anyone does. He gets by simple things, because of his craziness. He
has a liver condition as well. However, he doesn’t do anything about
“fixing” it because he wants to have a reason to go back to the hospital,
again, to save his life. “Yossarian had everything he wanted in the
hospital. The food wasn’t too bad, and his meals were brought to him in
bed. There were extra rations of fresh meat, and during the hot part of the
afternoon he and the other were served chilled fruit or chilled chocolate
Yossarian is a very paranoid man along with his egoistic personality.
He thinks that everyone around him wants to kill or to harm him. It is
logical that some one wants to hurt him because the situation is occurring
during war time and the enemy desires to hurt some one. However, Yossarian
tries to be very careful because he wants to live.
‘They’re trying to kill me,’ Yossarian told him calmly. ‘No one’s trying to
kill you,’ Clevinger cried. ‘Then why are they shooting at me?’ Yossarian
asked. ‘They’re shooting at everyone,’ Clevinger answered. ‘They’re trying
to kill everyone.’ ‘What difference does it make?'(25)
Heller’s saying that Yossarian loves himself, and everyone thinks that he’s
insane, which he is. However, possibly because he is insane, he is
surviving this war. Heller’s use of satire in the quote makes his readers
laugh at first, then go back and actually analyze the text. Thus, that
technique gives a much deeper understanding of the book.
Yossarian’s “paranoia” saves his life later on. He closes a deal with the
colonels and they tell him that will send him home if he respects them, and
he agrees. All of Yossarian’s friends die in the previous chapters of the
book, thus he doesn’t feel obligated to them. “‘There is no reason I have
to risk my life for them is there?’ ‘Of course.’ Yossarian arrived at his
decision with a swift grin. ‘It’s a deal!’ he announced jubilantly.” (438)
However, after he leaves the office, Nately’s girlfriend (Nately is a
friend of Yossarian) stabs Yossarian. When he is in the hospital, he tells
Major Danby that he wants to close the deal with the colonels because he
doesn’t want to smear the memory of his dead friends, but Major discourages
him by telling that there is no hope. “‘Then there is no hope for us, is
there?’ ‘No hope’ ‘No hope at all, is there?’ ‘No, no hope at all,’ Major
Danby conceded. He looked up after a while with a half-formed notion.
‘Wouldn’t it be nice if they could disappear us the way they disappeared
the others and relieve us of us all these crushing burdens?” (458) However,
when the chaplain runs in and tells them that Orr is found in Sweden,
Yossarian realizes that there is still some hope. Orr, one of the
characters, is quite insane as well, because he always carries horse
chestnuts or crab apples in his mouth. The reason Orr survives is because
he is as insane as Yossarian. Yossarian follows Orr’s plan to escape to
Sweden, thus saving his life. “‘I’ll jump.’ ‘Jump!’ Major Danby cried.
Yossarian jumped. Nately’s whore was hiding just outside the door. The
knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off.” (463) Even though
it seems like Yossarian has changed towards the end of the book, he is
still an egoistic person, he runs away. So, in some ways, he ruins the
memory of his dead friends.
In Catch-22 Heller is critiquing people’s nature. It is true that every
person is for themselves, even though most of the time people have their
friends and relatives with them. Possibly Heller himself isn’t a very
trusting person and he was betrayed couple of times. However, he also
raises a good point about being there for you and not relying for aid. Thus
in the end you have to rely on yourself to get through troubles.
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