The Archetypal Themes In Catch-22, By Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 is an analogy of the ancient poem: The Gilgamesh Epic. Heller’s uses a transcendent framework to portray the individuation of a modern hero through his struggles with the mythic and archetypal forces of irrationalism as they are manifested in civilization (Woodson, 2001:3)

In literature, writers occasionally refer to novels and poems of previous writers for inspiration. In the novel Catch 22 written by Joseph Heller, Heller uses the epic of Gilgamesh as a base for his novel. As proof, the similarities and differences in the plot, characters and themes will be discussed. Firstly, the archetypal plot of the two novels will be identified and discussed as well as the effect of using an archetypes in literature. Thereafter the character of Yossarian will be compared to Gilgamesh. Lastly, the reoccurring themes in both novels will be discussed.

The novel Catch 22 represent, to some extent the archetypal plot of The epic of Gilgamesh. An archetype is a reoccurring symbol, motif, theme or plot structure throughout literature that represents universal patterns of human nature (Hung: 2014:1). Heller depicts the journey of Gilgamesh through intertextuality in Catch 22. Yossarian goes on quest for identity (although he himself does not realise it until the end of the novel) and for eternal life, similar to Gilgamesh. The major conflict in both Catch 22 and The epic of Gilgamesh is identical. Yossarians determination to stay alive: “Yossarian has so many ailments to be
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