Although Catch-22 is a novel that entirely takes place at war, the book uses comedy to emphasize the physical and emotional pain of war. The novel shows us how people are changed by war and how their focuses are changed through different experiences. Many of the people in the book are disgusted by their commanding officers and the conditions around them. Joseph Heller served in the war and witnessed crazy occurrences and met strange people like those in the book. By reading the novel, we can see that he strongly disliked war. There are many themes in the novel, two of the main themes are the greed for power and money.
Power greed is a major theme in Catch-22. There are many characters who put others aside for their own gain of power. Perhaps the most notorious power greedy character in the book is Colonel Cathcart. Colonel Cathcart desperately wants to be a major. If he is promoted, he will have much more power, and the power is what he wants. Cathcart is constantly raising the number of missions the pilots and bombardiers must complete to be discharged. Cathcart raises the missions to appeal the commanding officers. The men vehemently hate Cathcart for doing this because it changes their lives. Every time they think they are near being freed from the war, he raises the missions and ruins their plans. The problem with Cathcart is that he is competitive, and only thinks of how he is doing in comparison to how others are doing. He knew that most all men his age were not majors, so his only purpose was to become a major at his young age of 36. He would do anything to those below him to achieve major status.
Essay on Satire, Sarcasm, and Irony in Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Satire, Sarcasm, and Irony in Catch-22
Joseph Heller’s narration, dialogue, and characterization in Catch-22 all create a unique perspective of war and our society’s bureaucracy. The satire, sarcasm, irony, and general absurdity of the novel provide a view of the irrationality of man’s behavior. The horror that is portrayed in Catch-22 is intensified by the humorous way in which it is portrayed. Distortion and exaggeration highlight the characters and scenario while magnifying the confusion. Parallel structure and repetition serve to reinforce the novel’s themes.
The most important and prevalent aspects of Heller’s style are satire, sarcasm, and irony. Heller pokes fun at the faults of society. At the same time, this humor emphasizes Heller’s social commentary much more effectively than he could by simply coming out and stating his opinion.
Satire is particularly important in Catch-22. It is often used to highlight the idiocy of the military hierarchy. It also conveys a sense of humor that opposes and intensifies the dark seriousness of the book.
Language is also satirized when Heller makes fun of the “official” jargon used by military personnel. Sarcasm could be considered a counterpart of satire. The characters portrayed in the novel use sarcasm profusely. The author’s view is made clear with the blatant sarcasm used by both Yossarian and the narrator: “…how much reverence can you have for a supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation?”( 98)
Irony is another important aspect of the novel. Irony is an integral part of the “Catch-22” philosophy. The irony of the “catch” is that it perpetuates itsel…
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… in the novel. For example:
“I’m cold,” Snowden said softly. “I’m cold” “You’re going to be all right, kid,” Yossarian reassured him with a grin. “You’re going to be all right.” “I’m cold,” Snowden said again in a frail, childlike voice. “I’m cold.” “There, there,” Yossarian said, because he did not know what else to say. “There, there.” “I’m cold,” Snowden whispered. “I’m cold.” “There, there. There, there.”
All of these aspects of style come together very well. They play off of each other and are combined easily and appropriately. It is this culmination of styles that makes Catch-22 so effective.
Works Cited and Consulted
Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. New York. Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
Kennard, Jean E. “Joseph Heller: At War with Absurdity.” Contemporary Literary Criticism.(75-87) Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit:L Gale 1990.