Absurdity in Joseph Heller's 'Catch-22'
Seminar paper from the year 2003 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1,3, University of Freiburg (Englisches Seminar), course: Hauptseminar 'American War Novel', 9 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: The topic of this research paper is the absurd in Joseph Heller's Catch-22. In the course of this paper I will show that Catch-22 belongs to the Literature of the Absurd, that Heller writes in the tradition of the absurd and that he uses absurdist techniques to describe his novel's absurd and disjointed world. Yet the novel's absurd vision differs radically from other literature of the absurd because instead of accepting the universe as absurd, Heller protests against the absurdity he describes. To support my thesis I will examine definitions and features of the Theatre of the Absurd and of the Literature of the Absurd and compare them to Catch-22. I will analyze the novel's absurdist vision by looking at the absurdity of war, the absurdity of bureaucracy, absurdity of capitalism and at the famous catch-22. Further I will examine the failure of communication and the novel's structure. To come to a valid conclusion I will then analyze the significance of absurdity in Catch-22. The Literature of the Absurd has its roots in the Theatre of the Absurd and the absurdist movement that emerged after World War II as a rebellion against traditional values and literature. Before the war it was commonly thought that man was a fairly rational creature who lives in an at least partly intelligible universe. It was believed that man was able to show heroism and dignity even in defeat. After the war then there was the tendency to view man as isolated and the universe as possessing no inherent truth, value or meaning. Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, for example viewed the human being as an isolated existent who is cast into an alien universe, to conceive the universe as possessing no inherent truth, value or meaning, and to represent human life - in its fruitless search for purpose and meaning, as it moves in the nothingness whence it came toward the nothingness where it must end - as an existence which is both anguished and absurd.1 1 M. H. Abrahms. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th Edition, 1999. p. 1
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