Fear Of Mortality In Joseph Heller's Catch-22

1838 Words 8 Pages
In the depths of World War II on a tiny Italian island called Pianosa, a squadron of United States air force bombers struggles to survive the war long enough to go home. Despite the differences in the colorful characters represented in the novel, there is a series of common desires among them, the most pertinent of which being the desire to stay alive, even if they die trying. Everyone in Catch-22 wants to make something of themselves, whether it is to seem intelligent, to become famous, or simply to return home alive. The black comedy and absurd happenings described in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 demonstrate perfectly the ironic and dire fear of mortality found in the hearts of all mankind. In the early pages of Catch-22, the reader witnesses one cynical, irreverent soldier, Captain Yossarian, turn the common idea of war casualties being “impersonal deaths” (Henricksen 247) on its head. In a heated debate with his acquaintance, Clevenger, he argues:
“They 're trying to kill me,” Yossarian told him calmly.
“No one 's trying to kill you,” Clevinger cried.
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Further in the book, Catch 22 states that officers are allowed to do anything the people cannot stop them from doing, and that there is a law which states that officers will never have to present proof of Catch 22 to anyone. Which law is this? Catch 22, of course. In many ways, Catch 22 embodies both the essence of absurdity and the abstract nature of death. Catch 22 is the very definition of nonsense, as its subjects are forced to run in circles attempting to achieve for Catch 22 what the same Catch says is impossible. Catch 22 may even be compared to death itself, as there is no escape. There is only a means to an end, albeit an unattainable one. For many soldiers, it is better to live life imagining Catch 22 does not exist, as it is better for some to imagine that death or God does not exist (Heller

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