Catch 22


Although many authors have written comedies and tragedies, fewer authors ventured into combining comedy and tragedy to create a masterpiece – a classic work. Using their unique style and structure, Jonathan Swift and Joseph Heller managed to interlay comedy and tragedy. Although their works were published years apart, they have one similarity – they depict the insanity of the people. “A Modest Proposal” is a satirical essay written by Jonathan Swift depicting the horrific conditions of Ireland and the lives of the Irish people in 1729. Swift proposes that since there are too many babies, the babies should be eaten. Catch 22 is about a US bombardier, Yossarian, who sees himself as a powerless man in an overpoweringly insane situation. In “The Crucible”, Miller uses puritans as paragons for hypocrisy, as they live by a set of ethics that many do not follow. “The Crucible” portrays similar ideas as Catch 22, but they differ in styles of writing. Both “A Modest Proposal” and Catch 22 are works are satires, which expose injustice or societal flaws in a comical way. Similarly, by combining comedy, tragedy, and terror, Joseph Heller portrays the murderous insanity of war and a society gone mad.


Heller’s novel, Catch 22, is a satire on the murderous insanity of war, and the reality of war, while “A Modest Proposal” is a satirical essay on the insanity of religions and the Irish nation. Heller’s characters are not fighting the enemy, they are fighting among themselves. The term “Catch 22” shows the insanity of war. Catch-22 is a logical infallibility that makes one follow in endless circles of nonsense. Sane becomes arguable and life becomes meaningless when regarded through a catch-22. This bureaucratic trap is accepted by naïve soldiers. This is why the military is able to make the soldiers do whatever them want to do. The characters are persuaded to believe in the system rather than to oppose it. Yossarian seems to be the only one who sees through the insanity of this situation. Yossarian is determined to stay alive. All around him he sees people are trying to kill him. Yossarian informs, “They’re after everybody"(Heller 90). To Yossarian, the objective in war is the death of innocent people. Not only does he have to battle with the fear of death, but he also has to fight the inner trauma, caused by the insanity of war, which is killing him inside. The book, Catch 22 makes a mockery of war, and it shows that the men are not fighting for the country, but for their lives. Heller tries to show that no matter how it is looked at, war is murder. In “A Modest Proposal”, Ireland is portrayed as a place where children too often became beggars or thieves to sustain themselves or their families, and where women had abortions because they could not afford to raise children. He made war against the injustices imposed upon the aristocratic English in Ireland (Hunting 89)


“Infant’s flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after, for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more children born in Roman Catholic countries nine months after Lent than any other reason; therefore reckoning a year after Lent, the market will be more glutted than usual, because the number of Popish infants is at least three to one in this kingdom, and therefore it will have one other collateral advantage by lessening the number of Papists among us.” (Swift, 441)


This quote is a stab at the Roman Catholic Church and their practices. Swift infuses parts of the essay with disdain toward Catholics, and their actions. In “A Modest Proposal” cannibalism is the most practicable solution to get rid of the babies. He is implying that cannibalism cannot possibly be more barbaric and unethical than what the Irish are already doing themselves. Swift is reproaching the Irish for their indolence and pride. The people of Ireland are being reviled and scorned for their lack of action in order to mitigate the current circumstances (Hunting 89). Catch 22 and “A Modest Proposal” portray the insanity of the society’s actions.


Joseph Heller does not only show