Military Injustice In Joseph Heller's Catch-22

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Catch-22, a satirical, historical fiction novel focused on an unjust military bureaucracy, follows a young Air Force Captain and his friends who deal with this bureaucracy and injustice firsthand. Yossarian is the protagonist of the novel which is set during the end of World War II, around 1944, on the small island of Pianosa, just off the coast of Italy. Joseph Heller’s main focus in the writing of this book was to antagonize the military and highlight its often unreasonable actions. A central theme of Catch-22 is the absolute power of the military and the lack of logic it displays in dispensing justice. Evidence of this theme can be seen in Clevenger’s trial and in the interrogation of Chaplain Tappman. Catch-22 is full of ironies and paradoxes…show more content…
After Yossarian arrives back from a mission in which Nately is killed, the chaplain is taken by two unknown military officials to be asked about a letter that Yossarian had doctored to be signed by the chaplain. Throughout the interrogation, the chaplain’s rights are ignored and any possibility of justice abandoned. The first evidence of injustice in this scene is when the chaplain asks what he is guilty of and the unknown colonel replies, “We don’t know yet, but we’re going to find out. And we sure know it’s serious” (380). The fact that the chaplain is forcibly taken to be interrogated without any proof or reason of wrong doing is an infringement of basic rights. The chaplain is literally kidnapped by the government to be asked questions. More evidence of the abuse of governmental power can be seen when the chaplain is told to write his own name in his own handwriting. After writing his name down in front of the two men, they accuse him of not writing his name in his own handwriting because a letter, which could have been written by anyone, that has his name signed on it has different handwriting. Even though the two men have proof that the chaplain didn’t write the letter, due to the chaplain having different handwriting than the handwriting in the letter, they choose not to believe it because they have already made up their minds. This handwriting scene highlights the bias that Heller believes is inherent in military court proceedings. After being wrongly found guilty for writing the letter, the two military officials go on to accuse the chaplain of stealing a plum tomato. This comic hyperbole of a “hot” tomato is illustrated when one of the officers says, “…I have a notarized affidavit from Sergeant Whitecomb in which he states that he knew the tomato was hot just from the way you tried to unload it on him” (384). Heller

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