Books about wars seem to be iconic, perhaps because wars and especially soldiers are supposed to be iconic. War is one of those things that needs to be seen as glorious, because if the public doesn’t see the glory they might start to see the truth.
“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller, questions the decency of war and the decency of those in the war. Soldiers go in looking for glory, but is it glory they find? And is glory ever really worth the travesty of war?
Heller’s soldiers weren’t portrayed as the typical Captain America-esque hero, but rather they were just men, as all soldiers are in the end. They are men torn between wanting to do their duty and desperately wanting to return home.
Essentially, the entire premise of the novel is the main character, Captain John Yossarian of the United States Air Force, attempting to get himself sent home. Initially, Yossarian tries to get sent home the noble way, by flying the required amount of missions, but when the required number keeps becoming higher and higher he has to get creative.
He fakes illnesses and insanity, but none of his schemes earn him an honorable discharge. It is through these attempts that Yossarian first learns of the Catch-22, one specifically being that Yossarian cannot possibly be insane as he claims to be, because anyone who does not want to be in the middle of a war must be sane.
Yossarian was seen as a lunatic for trying so desperately to leave the war zone, but maybe he was merely too sane to be a part of the war.
The character of Yossarian is not necessarily likeable but the reader should be able to understand his motivations. Yossarian is undoubtedly selfish and does not care much for his job or his country, but he does seem to show some care for his fellow soldiers.
The stories of Yossarian’s brothers-in-arms are also highlighted, particularly in the beginning chapters of the novel.
Like, Yossarian, most of them are also trying to get home, however they tend to not be as desperate as him.
The soldiers are all trying to keep their sanity in a time of insanity, and more than that, they are trying to keep their lives. The latter seems to be an unmanageable goal for many in Yossarian’s unit.
Although Yossarian is not overly fond of any of his fellow soldiers, he does have a solid relationship with them, whether that relationship was formed through emotions or merely through his deep-seeded sense of comradery is unclear.
“Catch-22” is definitely an iconic novel and has been since its original publication in 1961; evidence being that the phrase ‘Catch-22’ was coined because of the novel.
What’s interesting about a Catch-22 is that they do not technically exist, except for in the minds of those that it affects. Because of this, there is no way to stop a Catch-22 from occurring.
Paige Jurgensen / Columnist
Paige Jurgensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org