.. ony throughout both novels in titles and characters in order to satirize.
Throughout Catch-22 Heller discusses the theme of reality and appearance. He also discusses the difference between what is said and what is real. This leads to Hellers irony. The best example of this theme of reality is when Colonel Catchart is discussing whether to punish Yossarian or give him a medal (Peek 21). Dr. Peek also believes that the novel juxtaposes scenes in order to great a “ironic perspective” (Peek 10).
In both Good as Gold and Catch-22 Heller names the books ironically. The title of Catch-22 is very ironic because the definition of Catch-22 is that in order to be removed from duty you must be insane. The catch to it is that if you go to a doctor because you believe that you are insane and you want to be removed from combat duty you cannot. The reason for this is that if you believe you are insane and want to be removed from duty you must be sane because you dont want to fight, hence risking death, any more.
Olderman wrote about the catch saying this ” Catch-22 is the principle that informs the military-economic machine, giving it power and making war possible in the first place . . . the illogical must be done because the high command [Catch-22] says it is logical” (229). The title of Good as Gold is also ironic.
It is because Good as Gold is the name of the contemporary Jewish novel that Professor Gold writes in Hellers work. The irony of the title means to say that the novel he writes is only as true and good as Gold is himself. Heller also makes his characters act ironically in both novels. In Catch-22 “Heller treats the senior officers in his book with criticism and scorn. General Dreedles want to shoot Danby for moaning is an excellent example of his portrayal of senior officers as incompetent, ridiculous characters” (Merrill 16). The pinnacle of Hellers irony and therefore satire is in the characters and situations surrounding the characters of Dr.
Daneeka and Mudd. The satire in both these incidents is directed toward record keeping. In Dr. Daneekas case he is believed dead because the plane he was supposed to be on crashed, yet he is really alive. The opposite is true in the Mudd situation. In this situation Mudd is killed before he signs onto the combat roster so therefore he is treated as being alive while really dead as being alive.
This treatment is such as his bags will not be removed from his former tent, and also all of the enlisted men speak of him throughout the book. Dr. Peek also points out one further ironic highlight in the novel, McWatts death. He believes that McWatts death is ironic because McWatt had no malice yet he was violently killed (Peek 24). Good as Gold also has a certain element of irony although it is less apparent. The characters of the White House seem to take their job lightly and do the improper things.
The offering of a White House job as high-level as the Secretary of State to Professor Gold by Ralph Newsome, the presidential aide, simply because the president liked Golds book on him is ironic and a excellent example of satire. In Catch-22 Heller also portrays characters that hold high level positions in the military as being incompetent and irresponsible. Merrill believes that almost all of the characters in the novel are portrayed incompetent which is according to satiric fashions. He sites the numerous doctors that Yossarian fooled by faking a liver condition. He also cites Gus and Wes, Doctor Daneekas assistants, as being incompetent for their rushing of people to the hospital for a fever and their painting to ill peoples toes and gums violet (Merrill 18). It is also obvious in the novel that the military decisions are made in a absurd way and are highly illogical.
The prime example of this is in the character Wintergreen who intercepts mail between the generals and doctors thereby allowing him to change orders to his liking. On this subject Burgess commented in his work on contemporary fiction by saying “His approach [Hellers] is not merely satirical it is surrealistic, absurd, even lunatic, though the aim is serious enough to show . . . the monstrous egotism of the top brass” (Burgess 140). This example of Wintergreen and the Burgess quote further show the irresponsibility and incompetence of high ranking officers.
Heller portrays the military in Catch-22 as being exploitative of its soldiers and society. This is true in certain circumstances such as the tight bomb pattern that Colonel Cathcart deems imperative in order for him to be raised in command level. The military seems to act irresponsibly almost all the time. At one point in the novel the military ordered a whole civilian town destroyed in order to obtain a picture of a tight bomb pattern.
This portraysion goes farther then a tight bomb pattern it extends to the point of total control of the soldiers in the military. Dr. Peek comments on this saying that “. . .
satire against dominating bureaucracy in general as the squadron begins to realize that administrators whose job is to serve them have taken control of their lives instead” (20). The last device that Heller uses to create satire is in Good as Gold. In this novel he uses extreme amounts of caricature. This occurs especially in the White House characters. Merrill also points out Hellers caricature of Jewish people as whole by saying that their are no Jews in Good as Gold only “caricatures conceived on a level somewhat between sitcom and slapstick” (100).
Hellers two novels, Catch-22 and Good as Gold, in short contain much satire. Catch-22 contains satire which is deeply integrated into its architecture, while Good as Gold is more superficial but still substantial. While Catch-22 satirizes primarily the military, Good as Gold satirizes the White House and government. These two novels contain many devices such as humor, irony, and caricature in order to achieve the desired effect of satire. As Karl points out Catch-22 had a profound effect on peoples views on war and also a impact on war novels of the 1960s and 1970s. If these novels are read as anything but satires they will not be appreciated nor understood totally.
Works Cited Brustein, Robert. “The Logic of Survival in a Lunatic World.” The Critic as Artist: Essay on Books 1920-1970 1972:47-54. Rpt. in “Heller, Joseph.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Eds. Carolyn Riley.
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Bryant, Jerry H. The Open Decision: The Contemporary American Novel and Its Intellectual Background. 1970:156-159. Rpt. in. “Heller, Joseph.” Contemporary Literary Criticism.
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Detroit: Gale, 1975. 229. Burgess, Anthony. The Novel: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction. 1967:53.
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Karl, Frederick R. Barrons Book Notes Joseph Hellers Catch-22 (1983). American Online. Merrill, Robert.
Joseph Heller. Ed. Warren French. Twaynes United States Authors Series. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Olderman, Raymond M.
“The Grail Knight Departs.” Beyond the Waste Lands: A Study of the American Novel in the Nineteen-Sixties. Rpt. in “Heller, Joseph.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Carolyn Riley. Vol.
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Cliffs Notes on Hellers Catch-22. Ed. Gary Carey. Cliff Notes. Lincoln: Cliff, 1993.
Phoenix, James. “Joseph Heller: The Comedian.” Atlantic Sept 1987: 47-52.