Elements Of Humor In Joseph Heller's Catch-22

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There is usually a fine line between humor and seriousness in most literature that Joseph Heller breaks in his novel Catch-22. Heller blends together comedy with frightening truths and criticisms about the military during World War II. Although there are many elements that contribute to the overall quality of the satire, the characters are the main focus and represent different elements of the military process. In particular, the absurdly named Major Major Major Major, who will be referred to as just Major Major, is one of the most in depth of these allegorical characters. The character of Major Major in Catch-22 is humorous take on the absurdity and incompetence of the military.
The military in Catch-22 is depicted as being far from a serious
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The unearned promotion of Major Major is equal parts humorous and saddening that puts him in a undesirable position in the military. There is unique level of misfortune that has come upon Major Major, “Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men had mediocrity thrust upon them, with Major Major it had been all three” (Heller 86). With Major Major’s lack of skill to do anything, he is terribly unfit to have any place in the military let alone a high leadership rank. This causes Major Major to have an unwanted social withdraw from his fellow soldiers who should be his peers would it have not been for the mixup. This misplacement exemplifies Major Major’s unfortunate condition of having his life decided for him, “By the whim of an IBM machine he is vaulted from private to major. . . whereupon [he] is dogged by ineptitude, loneliness, and ostracism” (Hasley par. 22). The military could have been Major Major’s escape from his past but it ended up being his worst nightmare, an ironic twist considering that he joined the military. Not only does the military not notice this when they first promoted him, they fail to help him out a while after the initial mixup. This shows how incompetent the military is in regards to taking care of it soldiers and being an effective unit in general. Major Major’s struggles make the military out to be a …show more content…
In fact, he is only one small piece of the larger puzzle that explains every little shortcoming of the military and war. Yet these characters are painted in a semi-lighthearted way, “The author uses many devices to introduce his ideas and theme concerning the absurdities of war” (Gillespie and Corinne par. 3). The shining example of these absurdity of war ideas are the characters whose individual situations show different faults of the military. It almost seems as if the military does everything in its power to make each person’s life worse. The character of Hungry Joe has problems that are just as bad as Major Major’s. Cursed to forever be stuck trying to reach a mission goal that keeps getting raised, Hungry Joe has constant nightmares about the horrors of war (Heller 57). The fact that the military is actively making Joe’s situation worse shows the miniscule amount respect that they have for their soldiers. Joe and Major Major are not alone as every character gets this same type of unfair treatment that makes everyone miserable regardless of their specific situation. The military can’t seem to do anything right which is exactly the message that Heller tries to convey throughout the novel. With all of the elements lining up, Heller crafts a stellar fictional critique that feels as if it is

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