Theme Of Insanity In Joseph Heller's Catch-22

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“What does a sane man do in an insane society?” (qtd. Heller). Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 attempts to answer this question, which in turn begs the questions what is insanity and what is sanity? Heller creates many situation which present the insane society. He defines an insane society in many ways including being blindly loyal, using backwards or circular reasoning to justify mangled logic, and paradoxical situations. Yossarian struggles against this insane society yet is constantly trapped, as there is no way to argue against a society not using logic. After fighting in World War II and seeing the rise of fear in America as a result of growing communism, Heller sees elements of this insane society both in the war and in civilian life. Although…show more content…
Heller creates an illogical and impractical situation for all the soldiers through Captain Black’s “Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade” (122) in order to draw attention to the paradox soldiers are frequently caught up in: to be blindly loyal to a country which was founded upon individualism. Captain Black cannot see the irrationality of his crusade, claiming “people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to” (113). Heller parallels Black’s crusade to McCarthyism and the loyalty to America that McCarthy demanded; however, Heller pulls the example to the extreme. (The name “Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade” itself hints at its ridiculousness.) He drives the crusade deeper into an impossible dilemma by forcing the soldiers to sign one oath, then two “then three, then four” (113). Captain Black argues the men do not truly have to sign the oaths, but Milo has “to starve them to death if they don’t”…show more content…
The actual Catch-22 is as follows: if a soldier were crazy, he would not have to fly missions, but if he asked not to, he would be deemed sane and has to. The concept of Catch-22 itself epitomizes the concept of a sane man living in an insane society. Each of the catches Heller presents have the primary goal of providing a false hope for these soldiers. With each catch, the soldiers are meant to feel as though there is a future where they will not have to be trapped, but there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The hopelessness and anguish demonstrated through the soldiers’ experiences are applicable to life in general, not just in war. Heller’s expression of the feeling of being stuck in an endless cycle through catch-22 was so successful it migrated into the vernacular. Its concept masterfully captures a universal part of life and
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