Catch 22 and Good as Gold – Satire Joseph Heller who is perhaps one of the most famous writers of the 20th century writes on some emotional issues such as war. He does not deal with these issues in the normal fashion instead he criticizes them and the institutions that help carry these things out. Heller in fact goes beyond criticizing he satirizes. Throughout his two major novels Catch-22 and Good as Gold he satirizes almost all of Americas respectful institutions. To truly understand these novels you must recognize that they are satires and why they are. Catch-22 is a satire on World War II.
This novel takes place on the small island of Pianosa in the Mediterranean sea late in the war when Germany is no longer a threat. It is the struggle of one man, Yossarian, to survive the war. Throughout this novel Yossarian is trying to escape the war, and in order to do so he does many improper things. Good as Gold is about a Jewish man named Gold. It is about Golds experiences with the government while being employed in the White House.
It also deals in detail with Golds family problems and Golds struggle to write a book on the contemporary Jewish society. Throughout these two novels, Catch-22 and Good as Gold, Heller criticizes many institutions. In Good as Gold it is the White House and government as a whole, and in Catch-22 it is the military and medical institutions. In Catch-22 the military is heavily satirized. Heller does this by criticizing it.
Karl agrees with this statement by offering an example of the satire of both the military and civilian institutions in Catch-22: The influence of mail clerk Wintergreen, the computer foul-up that promotes Major Major, and the petty rivalries among officers satirizes the communication failures and the cut-throat competition Heller saw within both the civilian and military bureaucracies of the 1950s. Even the Civil Rights movement, not yet widespread in the 1950s, is satirized in Colonel Cathcart attitudes toward enlisted men. (23) Karl summarizes the satirazation of the military with this: The enemy in Hellers book is not simply the chaos of war, but also the deadly inhuman bureaucracy of the military-economic establishment which clams to be a stay against chaos while it threatens human life more insidiously then battle itself. Heller also questions the need for the death and carnage throughout the novel asking if it is really necessary. Many other institutions are also satirized in Catch-22.
Bryant points out the extreme variety of institutions that Heller satirizes with this “His satire is directed toward the institutions that make up society, business, psychiatry, medicine, law, the military. . .” (Bryant 228). Medicine is one of the institutions that is heavily satirized. He does this by portraying medicine as a science that is almost barbaric and not exact.
He writes of how the men of the squadron used the hospital as a way out of battle. Catch-22 it self begins in the hospital where Yossarian is faking Jaundice of the liver in order to avoid battle. Many characters also take this up as a form of staying out of battle. Heller addresses the barbarism of medicine with Dr. Daneekas aides. He writes of them painting peoples gums and feet violet in order to ward of certain illnesses.
In Catch-22 Heller also satirize religion. This occurs in Chapter Nineteen when Colonel Cathcart is aspiring to become a general. In this chapter religion is satirized in a number of ways. The first is when Colonel Cathcart uses it for a social icon to improve his chance of becoming general. Dr. Peek agrees with this by saying “.
. . we see a satire on religion used as a matter of social status” (25). In Catch-22 there is also one more major satiriazation it is that of industry and finance. The reason this is true is because of certain things Milo says such as “Whats good for the syndicate is good for the country” (Karl 34).
Good as Gold is manly a satire on the White House and government. Heller portrays the White House as being, “disgraceful,” according to Merrill. Merrill believes that this work criticizes politics almost from page one and that it does an excellent job of it in fact he writes “A number of reviewers found that the Washington satire brilliant and incisive. . .
(103). The other device that Heller uses is humor. Catch-22 is so satirical in places that it is hilarious. Mr. Hellers talent and use of comedy is so prevalent in these novels that it caused The Atlantic to write “Mr. Hellers talents for comedy are so considerable that one gets irritated when he keeps pressing” (Phoenix 31).
Other critics such as Brustein also wrote that Hellers works are extremely hilarious (228). Although the novel is funny is uses humor in order to further satirize. Dr. Peek agrees with this statement by saying that “Its [Catch-22] not a flag-waving war adventure, but a novel using humor to discredit or ridicule aspects of out society” (24). Dr. Peek also goes on to comment on the amount of comical dialogue in the novel.
He says that it contains a significant amount of this dialogue and that it further adds to the humor (11). Heller even takes his humor as far as naming his characters comically. Dr. Karl points out the comical naming of Major Major which turns into Major Major Major Major with his accidental promotion (11). The attaching of the prefix “Hungry” to Joes name in the novel is also comical, but Heller does not stop at that he goes as far as naming a character Scheisskopf, the parade crazed lieutenant, which actually means “shithead.” (Peek 10).
Not only does Heller name characters comically he makes them act comically. The Loyalty Oath Crusade is an excellent example of this. This crusade is so completely absurd that it is humorous. Another example of the humor in this novel is the parades that Scheisskopf orders. It is not that he orders these parades that is comical it is his how serious he takes them. He comments to himself throughout the novel on how he will improve his parades. These ideas include nailing his marchers arms in the proper place. Perhaps one of the best examples of a comical character and who acts satirically is Milo Minderbinder.
Milo runs a black-market syndicate in which he claims everyone gets the profits. Milos company acts as everything from a food supplier to a mercenary. The Germans hire Milo to do a number of missions. The one that Heller writes about in particular detail is the mission where Milo bombs his own squadron killing countless lives. Heller writes that Milo claimed responsibility for the act. As one would expect Milo would be arrested, but Heller carries the satire further by having Milo go scott free after he says “it made a huge net profit” (Peek 27). Another of Hellers comical characters is the character of Peckem.
In the novel Peckem along with Colonel Korn plot to take over General Dreedles command. They do this by placing priority on such things as a perfect bomb pattern which endangers many mens lifes. Hellers description of Peckem is in itself comical he describes him as having the “ability to get men to agree” (Peek 20). Still one further element of Hellers humor is his comical language. The dialogue is extremely comical at times.
An example of this is the hearing where Clevinger is being tried. Throughout this entire scene the characters often retort with just one word and even contradict something they said a moment ago. Dr.Peek believes that the squadron sometimes overcomes the officers command of the them by comical language (36). Heller uses ir …