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.Order now
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?”. As hysterical of a joke as this may be, an important city that was taken by the enemy had to be bombed, and now everybody thinks that it was captured already. This “joke” could have and may have lead to the deaths of innocent people, which is yet not only absurd but is also catastrophic.
Two character that, for me, expressed the highest, but the most true absurdity in life are Huple and Nately’s whore’s kid sister. These two characters have one thing in common. They both want to be adults too fast. Huple is only fifteen, and lied about his age to get into the army.
The kid sister is twelve years old, but wants to be just like her older sister and seduce men. However the absurdity of this is not at all that they want to become older, because everyone at that age does.
The absurdity is that the things they want to do as adults are the things that most adults resent most about being adults. The last thing most men want to do is to be drafted, and the last thing that most women want to do is to become a prostitute in order to support themselves.
It is clear that Joseph Heller does not write in a certain pattern visible in the works of other writers. he has his own unique way of expressing the absurdity of the universe in a comic way. This style, in my mind, is very commendable because he makes us laugh, yet understand the meaning and maybe even seriousness of the idea he is trying to get across. The alternative would be to write a tragic novel about men at war which really would not grab the reader’s attention as comedies do and as this book did.