Literary Critical Essay



3/22/04 A.P. Composition

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-22’ (67)

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 milk.” (15)

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