Catch-22 by Joseph Heller Term Paper

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Catch-22 by Joseph Heller with the Mike Nichols film of the same name. Specifically it will compare the strengths and weaknesses of the film with the novel in a historical analysis. Heller's satirical novel captures the hopelessness of war, specifically with a bombardier in World War II who faces the bureaucracy and senseless tactics of the military during the war. The term "Catch-22" has made it into the American language meaning a situation that has no sensible end or solution, and the film makes that term come true.

The premise of both the film and the book is that war is insane, the military is insane, and there is no way out of insane situations such as war. Heller writes,

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. 'Orr' was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions (Heller 52).

The premise is hilarious dark humor, but the realities of war, shown sometimes graphically in the film; where not hilarious at all, just as the situations facing our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly show today. In fact, the book was inspired, at least in part, by Heller's own experiences in the war. A critic notes, "Catch-22 was inspired by Heller's own World War II experience as a youthful bombardier in the European theater. As he has often pointed out, though, the novel was filled with cold war and Korean War anachronisms" (Hoberman). It is also filled with absurd situations that somehow Heller makes plausible, and the film continues this theme.
The film and the book both make it clear that the conditions facing bombardiers in World War II were brutal. The planes, which were historical World War II bombers in the film, seem tiny by today's standards, and they were elementary at best. The crew faced atrocious conditions including enduring flak attacks, aerial attacks, and traveling with live ammunition, and then they had to try to find their targets through bombsights that were not steady, often in bad weather, while they attempted to hit their targets with little damage to civilians around the targets. In the film, they also have to deal with crazed military leaders who keep changing the requirements for duty so no one ever is sent back to the states, and they have to deal with increasingly dangerous missions. A critic says of the film, "Directed by Mike Nichols, filled with forced parallels to the war in Vietnam, and deploying as props the world's 12th-largest bomber force, the movie finally appeared in 1970" (Hoberman). The film, while absurd and sometimes hard to understand, does seem to accurately portray at least some of what it was like to serve as a bombardier in World War II, which makes Yossarian's claims of insanity seem all the more sane in comparison.

Of course, history is certainly not the focus of the novel or the film. The insanity of war is one focus, but the circular theme of the novel's title is another focus. In the novel, there are many circular subplots that revolve around the main plot, and the novel uses several viewpoints to look at certain situations,….....

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