|A typical Tralfamdorian|
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
One of my favorite moments in the books is when Yossarian is asked by a doctor to pretend he is a dying soldier for a family that has come to visit their son, Giuseppe. The son has already died, but the doctor does not want to disappoint them. He therefore tells Yossarian to fill in. Yossarian insists on being called by his name and not Giuseppe. Despite this, the family treats him like their son and brother. The critical question is: does it really matter who they see? After all, "he's dying" just like everyone else. Their son is already dead - would they rather see his remains? Giuseppe's mother eventually says "What difference does it make?"
The events in the novel Catch-22 occur during WW2, near the Italian Front, and involve units in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Like many authors Heller wrote from experience. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corp in WW2 as a B-25 bombardier on the Italian Front, flying over 60 missions just like the main character in the book, John Yossarian.
Catch-22 could be characterized as an anti-war novel since it presents the meaninglessness of war for the average Joe, the capricious and illogical reason of generals and commanders and the tortuous bureaurocratic ineptitude of the entire war-making machinery. The characters in this novel are particularly interesting and I imagine they are drawn from Heller's own experience. However, Heller has stretched the attributes and idiosyncrasies of these individuals to the point of absurdity, but that works great in a novel like Catch-22 where the central theme is absurdity.