Catch 22 Ambiguity

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A dissonance between expectations and reality creates a sense of humor, which, when utilized in literature, acts to amplify criticism. Building on this, exaggerating flaws and unusual situations connects the novel to the reader, establishing a successful comedy. In his novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller explores this concept by developing Yossarian, the protagonist, as a character marked by ambiguity. While many details of the setting remain unclear, Heller mentions that the novel occurs during World War II primarily on an island called Pianosa, the Twenty-seventh Army Air Force Headquarters. Throughout each aspect of his life, Yossarian occupies a gray area. He stays in the hospital over a liver condition that fails to be jaundice, but his fever…show more content…
He first displays dishonesty while staying in the hospital. Along with the other hospitalized officers, Yossarian must censor letters written by enlisted men. Describing Yossarian’s efforts at this job, Heller writes, “To break the monotony he invented games. Death to all modifiers, he declared one day” (Heller 8). Not only by being insubordinate but by sending lies back home, his actions provide an initial impression of immorality. Beyond this literal interpretation, Heller goes out of his way to ensure that the word “Death” is capitalized and stands out as a command. While Yossarian’s enthusiasm towards this dark word taints his jovial view of the situation, the emphasis on such a word juxtaposed next to the word “game” creates an ominous yet comedic tone. Heller creates a parallel between Yossarian and war. He sounds ridiculous; war sounds ridiculous. War exists merely as a series of “invented games” played by people of power to “break the monotony” of existence. Viewing the letters’ censorship in such a way creates a sense of humor through a contrast of the reader’s light-hearted expectations with the meaningless of war. Bolstering this parallel between war and the protagonist, Yossarian sustains an eccentric stance against “modifiers.” This is oddly reminiscent of WWII, or any war, in which a group of people who differ from the majority become the targets of mass discrimination. Relating a grammatical structure to an oppressed race stands cold, yet sadistically comedic. Through his literal acts, Heller’s juxtaposition, and parallelism, Yossarian’s immorality reveals the humor of
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