How Catch-22 Works as a War Novel Compared to Other War Novels

The inevitability of war means in the world means that war will always be an interesting topic for writers to write about. Writers turn battlegrounds into violent and horrific narratives that aim to bring the best out of the war. Catch 22 by Heller Joseph is one of the best novels describing real events during the World War II. The novel does focus on the experience of Yossarian and other airmen who aim at redeeming their selves from the irrationality and injustices war. Compared to other novels on war, Catch 22 is one of the most remarkable novels due to its unique setting, style, and manner in which events are presented.

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According to Thomas Hartshorne, the comparison between Slaughterhouse V and Catch-22 provides a detailed insight into the change in attitudes, the political culture as well as the entire cultural atmosphere. Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse V are suitable for comparison since they have various similarities. Both tackle the Second World War, take an anti-war position, are alluded to as black humor, and present the victim as an individual protagonist (Hartshorne 443). On the contrary, Catch 22 stands out unique to various factors. It does provide a moral that is completely subjective to the morally involved and reformist-orientated activists of the mid-20th century. The book depicts the system as brutal, irrational, and unfair, but also acknowledges its vulnerability. Heller holds the perception that since the system is run by human beings, it possible to have an effective resistance (Hartshorne 445). However, he creates awareness on the method of resistance used to fight the irrational and unjust system. He advocates for resistance methods that individuals in the system cannot think of, including individual resistance that could mobilize the entire community to resist. However, in case it fails, it should redeem single person at least (Milne 173). On the other hand, Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse V provides a clear moral that people are vulnerable to forces they have no control over, and all they can do is to have hope, faith, and love, and to be kind. In his book, Billy is confined by his fate. Despite his ability to travel, he still does not achieve his freedom and happiness. He has no power to escape from the absurdity, brutality, and injustices of the world. Vonnegut’s major idea is that individuals should seek ways to accept the current situation rather than make efforts to resist injustices and absurdities.

The manner in which Heller represent his ideas in Catch-22 makes the book more unique and interesting compared to another war book as well as Avignon, his previous work. David Craig explains that Heller understood how to represent death as inevitable, violent, and certain, and still fumes against its sway (Craig 294). In Catch-22, Heller finds a way to express his anger with the novel’s humor expatiating its expression. He interestingly integrates tragic and comic perspectives: his appeal to special language, the use of verbal pyrotechnics, and presentation of vital information in a manner that does resist understanding (Hicks 174). In spite of Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse V being described as black humor, the former does provoke more laughter compared to Slaughterhouse V. Notably, the dominant mood in Slaughterhouse V is compassion and sadness. Additionally, in contrast to Slaughterhouse V, which is characterized by violence and horrifying events, Catch 22 includes more humor.

Heller’s Catch 22 is also unique due to the manner in which it was created and developed. The novel’s manuscript is made up of numerous literal materials, scene drafts, chapter outlines, early sketches as well as a detailed list of each character appearance, thematic progression outlines, and chronologies in which the novel’s events are compared with real-time ones (Merrill 200). Literal Analysts and critics describe the book’s creative record as unmatched and remarkable compared to any other significant American model (Nagel 299). Heller’s creative record enhances the development of a novel that is has a climatic intensity and action since he manages to chronologically arrange his ideas, which are contrary to Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse V. According to Thomas, Vonnegut uses a monotone in his writing, flattening dramatic falls and rises with an objective of creating an impression that events were sequential. However, most of the events in Vonnegut’s novel move in cycles, creating the lack in progress of the events in the novel.

On the contrary, there are various weaknesses in Heller’s novel Catch 22. According to Merril Robert, the anomalous nature of the flashbacks in the novel is quite misleading. Robert argues that Heller does present relevant information in oblique references, passing remarks and truncated scenes in dialogue (Shastri 299). Illustratively, Snowden’s death is exhibited in the following ways: as a casual comment, as a brief occasion and as the book’s most strongly dramatized episode. The early references are confusing since they allude to scene that is not fully exhibited, hence making it hard to establish chronological relationships among different characters.

In conclusion, it is evident that the book’s strengths outdo the weaknesses, making it one of the best war novels in literature. Heller manages to integrate different writing techniques to create the ugly experience and face of the Second World War. His novel provides a vivid picture of the war. The author makes it interesting to read through the integration of comic despite the fact he is describing an ugly and deadly war.


Works Cited

Craig, David M. “From Avignon to Catch-22.” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, edited by LindaPavlovski, vol. 151, Gale, 2004. 20th Century Literature Criticism Online.

Hartshorne, Thomas L. “From Catch-22 to Slaughterhouse V: The Decline of the Political Mode.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Sharon R. Gunton and Jean C. Stine, vol. 22, Gale,1982.

Hicks, Granville. “Medals for Madness.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Roger Matuz andCathy Falk, vol. 63, Gale, 1991. Contemporary Literary Criticism Online

Merrill, Robert. “The Structure and Meaning of Catch-22.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited byRoger Matuz and Cathy Falk, vol. 63, Gale, 1991. Contemporary Literary Criticism Online.

Milne, Victor J. “Heller’s Bologniad: A Theological Perspective on Catch-22.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Roger Matuz and Cathy Falk, vol. 63, Gale, 1991. Contemporary LiteraryCriticism Online.

Nagel, James. “The Early Composition History of Catch-22.” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism,edited by Linda Pavlovski, vol. 151, Gale, 2004. 20th Century Literature Criticism Online.

Shastri, Sudha. “Circularity, Inversion, and Catch-22: Establishing Value Within an Iterative NarrativeMode.” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, edited by Kathy D. Darrow, vol.278, Gale, 2013.20th Century Literature Criticism Online

Woodward, Joe. “The Literature of War.” The Literature of War | Poets & Writers, Jan. 2005, Accessed 17 Sept. 2017.