Catch 22 is a novel by Joseph Heller that attempts to bring out the ordinariness surrounding wars and battlefields contrary to the most widely assumed notion of heroic acts. The novel attempts to bring out the apparently uneventful aspects of wars and sometimes even negative aspects in a rather humorous and satirical way. The book is divided into forty two chapters that describe different characters and events. The catch 22 situation is presented satirically throughout the novel outlining the difficult situation experienced by solders in battle fields. The novel provides various scenarios that the characters find themselves that depict the catch 22 situation. However, the main character called Yossarian manages to bring out most of the catch 22 situation. Despite the satirical way that the author manages to depict the circumstances during the war and the battle field, it also manages to address some of the challenges faced by solders during wars. The time setting of the novel is during the Second World War and the place setting is the Island of Pianosa in the Mediterranean Sea.
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A Solders View Point
The Second World War took place between 1945 and most of the historical records of the war only address such issues as military strategies, arms race and how nations won battles against other nations. However, very little literature addresses the predicament of solders who had to endure the dangers of the battle field with most of them scantily understanding the reason for the bloodshed. The war was particularly fuelled by a battle of supremacy in ideologies and the ambition of certain political leaders to impose their ideologies on certain nations. The situation that had emanated to a full blown world war had begun much earlier characterized by mutual suspicion, regional alliances, conspiracy and espionage. Heller attempts to bring out the sufferings that the soldiers who were forced to shoot each other just because politicians had passed legislations requiring them to do so. In Chapter One of the novel Yossarian outlines how he was forced to love the hospital because it gave him momentary peace away from the harsh conditions of the battle field. The author writes that "Yossarian has everything he wanted in the hospital."(Heller, 2004). The author also manages to bring out the desperate condition that the war left civilians in with some soldiers taking advanatge of young girls by having sex with them. Although the Island depicted in the novel is fictitious, it represents small countries such as Austraia and Poland that were forced into war by larger countries such as Germany and the USSR (MacDonald, 2009).
Realities of War
To the other citizens understanding the details of war sometimes leaves them disgusted and even hateful towards soldiers especially the enemy soldiers. The conditions in the battle field causes so much desperation that soldiers are mostly forced to think of only their interests. With no logical reason of fighting and being forced in a hostile environment can only drive sane human beings to act insanely. The catch 22 situations brought out by the author are intended to bring out the desperate circumstances the solders find themselves in. For instance, the author narrates that Yossarian is forced to shoot at enemies because he is the best shooter but at the same time he does not like shooting at people. The situation is much like the situation that the American who threw the atomic bombs in the twin cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki found himself in before and after the act. The circumstance demonstrates the condition politicians condemn soldiers to without any consideration of the subtle inhumane situations involved. The concentration camps in across Europe even managed to subject civilians to inconceivable circumstances just because perverse ideologies (Dwork, 2003). The author manages to bring out the real victims of wars; civilians and soldiers. According to Dwork over 65 million lives were lost the war and the amount of property destroyed is inconceivable. Though in a satirical way, the author manages to outline such important aspects that are usually ignored by most writers.
The author manages to bring out the harsh realities of battle fields as evidenced by the first person narratives used by the author far from the war heroic war strategies and of most authors. As one reads the novel one does not fail to detect the humor once in a while, but the reality of the circumstances still stand out. Most novelist write war stories far away from battles usually depending on second hand evidence. The only way that a person can clearly understand the situation in the battle fields is by listening at the story from a solders point of view as depicted by the author. The Second World War was so devastating that it left countries such as Japan, Germany and Poland so devastated. The irony is that the soldiers who were forced to commit the acts had little understanding of the reason for the war. The author must have been influenced by the voiceless soldiers during the war who were forced to endure danger, guilt and hostility for a cause that they barely understood. However, in a bid to avoid opening healing wounds or bringing to life horrific memories the author decides to use a satirical approach in a fictional way to exactly bring out some important issues during the Second World War. The book does not give an account of any actual historical events but brings out some subtle aspects mostly ignored by most authors.
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