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Essay on Lack of Meaning in Catch 22

Lack of Meaning in Catch 22

Most of what we say has no meaning. This idea is supported on every page of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. Almost every scene in the novel contains dialogue where the people speak aimlessly and have no explanation for why they are talking.

Colonel Cargill addresses his men by saying, “You’re American officers. The officers of no other army in the world can make that statement. Think about it.” Even though the remark is true, it has no meaning. These type of random statements and dialogues occur throughout the whole book. Another situation when two people speak without making any sense is when Clevinger is being questioned. “I didn’t say you couldn’t punish me,” said Clevinger. “When?” asked the colonel. “When what, sir?” “Now you’re asking me questions again.” “I am sorry, sir. I’m afraid I don’t understand your question.” Later in the interrogation, the colonel is so twisted in his conversation that he no longer wants to know when Clevinger said that he could not be punished. He now wants to know when Clevinger did not say that he could not be punished. Clevinger quickly rebuts and states, “I always didn’t say you couldn’t punish me, sir.” Finally, the colonel is satisfied with that answer even though Clevinger’s statement did not answer the question and has no meaning.

Major Major often spoke with a lack of meaning. He simply did not make sense. For instance, he told Sergeant Towser, his assistant, “From now on, I don’t want anyone to come in to see me while I’m here.” According to this statement, when would anyone be able to see him if they could only go to his office when Major Major was out? When Appleby once went to see Major Major, he started to talk to Sergeant Tows…

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…ent wave lengths. This is seen when Clevinger is being questioned. The colonel and Clevinger are thinking so differently at the time, that there is no way they would be able to understand one another. This book definitely makes one realize how difficult it is to communicate, the problems people have trying to understand one another, and realizing that sometimes what we say has no meaning.

Works Cited:

Frank, Mike. “Enos and Thanatos in Catch-22.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz. Vol.11. (77-87)

Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. Detroit: Gale, 1990.

Kennard, Jean E. “Joseph Heller: At War with Absurdity.” Contemporary Literary Criticism.(75-87) Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit:L Gale 1990.

Pearson, Carol. “Catch-22

Free Catch-22 Essays: A War Comedy

Catch-22 – A Comedy

The novel, Catch-22, is a comedy about soldiers during World War II. However, this comic scenes and phrases are quite tragic when they are thought about, as most things related to war are, which makes this comedy completely absurd. The best way to represent this idea is through the characters in the book, specifically, Yossarian, Huple, and Nately’s whore’s kid sister and the events that occur with their thoughts and their actions. Clearly, the main character and one whose life is chiefly described, is Yossarian. Yossarian has a slightly sick sense of humor and way of looking at things. In the first chapter, Heller tells us that letters sent by the soldiers had to be reviewed in order to prevent any secret information going out to the public, or, even worse, to the enemy. Yossarian, from lack of anything better to do, censors all the letters. Sometimes he crosses out everything but a, an and the, sometimes adjectives, whatever he feels like that day. For his final gag he signs these letters as Washington Irving to totally confuse the readers of these letters. This is funny, however it is ultimately tragic. These are the letters that every wife, mother and daughter runs to the mailbox for in order to see that their husbands, fathers and sons are all right. This is a letter that could say: “Honey, I’m coming home”, or “I love you. When I come home I want to marry you.” These letters could change the whole lifestyle of so many people and Yossarian alone is tampering with them. The absurdity of that is immense. A gag of slightly higher consequence occurred in Chapter 12, when Yossarian decided to move the bomb line over Bologna. What I believe is the most ridiculous in the whole process was his reason for doing it. Everyone did not want to go on this mission to capture Bologna. They prayed the rain would never go away, or that the bomb line would mysteriously move, anything just mot to go on this mission. Clevinger, in disbelief at the stupidity of these men, tells Yossarian: “They really believe that we wouldn’t have to fly that mission tomorrow if someone would only tiptoe up to the map in the middle of the night and move the bomb line over Bologna. Can you imagine?” So Yossarian figures “Why not?

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