Notes From Lessons on Catch 22

As ‘Catch 22’ is a satirical novel, when watching the film adaptation in class, the characteristics of satire such as grotesque images, irony and exaggeration were identifiable.

One example for irony we picked out when watching the film was the part when Milo, the mess officer is telling the colonel about his idea on how to make a profit from selling eggs. It is ironic because although they are in the war and fighting the opposing side, they are exploiting people on their own side by co-operating with foreigners. Whilst the men are talking, sharing ideas on the subject, a plane on fire crashes behind them and they are completely oblivious to it.

One scene which detracts from the humour is Snowdon’s death. The scene is gut wrenching and the poignancy is heightened because of the contrast with the humour beforehand. Only Satire would do this.

Another example of irony would be with the play on the language in the section with Major Major. When he is telling a his assistant that he does not want to see anyone and to tell them that to keep them waiting until he has left then tell them he has gone. This is the difference between satire and comedy. This scene exposes his bad behaviour and attitude toward his job.

When Yossarian arrives naked to receive his medal so they have nothing to pin it to because he does not want it. The soldier describes the whole situation as ‘a lot of crap’. There is a play on words with the idea of pinning a medal onto a soldier. One way to think of it is labelling the soldier. Yossarian was a hero before he was awarded his medal but not recognized. There is also a play on wearing the uniform. There is a question of ‘what is actually a soldier?’ a soldier is a civilian in a uniform. Satire makes you question things especially in this novel.

He then uses this medal to attract a woman in Rome in which he tells her he was awarded it for killing fish. He does not take the full title seriously and believes that he did not truly deserve a medal.

During the section when Nately is speaking to an old man in Rome, an iconic phrase is said: “…. it’s better to die on one’s feet than live on one’s knee,” but the old man inverts it to ” It is better to live on one’s feet than die on one’s knees.” By inverting Nately’s phrase the old man is rearranging the meaning to valuing survival rather than courage and freedom. Nately believed that America is the greatest equipped and has the best resources however this is ironic as he is telling an Italian this whose acestors were the most powerful invaders in history, the Romans who invaded on a bigger scale and whose beliefs, language and so on are still used today.

Satire in ‘A Modest Proposal…..’ and ‘Catch 22’

Satire:

“The use of humour, irony; exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.”

 

Characteristics of Satire:

  • It has to be humerus.
  • Needs to contain comic and grotesque images.
  •  Needs to be exaggerated to inflict irony.
  • Needs to include caricatures. 

The Use of Sattire in ‘A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Coutnry” – Jonathan Swift and ‘Catch 22’ – Joseph Heller

   

‘A Modest Proposal…’ is a piece by Jonathan Swift expressing the writers thoughts on the way in which the British dealt with their Irish subjects. ‘Catch 22’ is a war novel based on World War 2 by Joseph Heller. The novel expresses the authors negative thoughts upon war.

The first paragraph of the piece addresses the reality “It is an unpleasant sight to see people travelling in this country to see crowds of female beggars, followed by three, four or six children clad in rags,” which Heller also does in ‘Catch 22’. He beings the first chapter describing the situation of the main protagonist, Yossarian “Yossarian was in the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice….”.

The writer fills the article with grotesque and comic images. For example, Swift describes the best way in which to cook a young child “a young healthy child at a year old is a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled;” The writer then goes onto ways of serving the child. The suggested methods make it clear that this article is aimed toward the upper class therefore the better educated who may seem to interpret the message. The grotesque images are also raised when talking about what to do with the leftovers, “and the carcass seasoned with a little pepper and salt will be very good boiled later for a stew or soup.” Thinking about a child in this way was seen as controversial however what the general public back then failed to realise is that the writer was basically trying to put across a message in a way which will attract the readers.

In ‘Catch 22’, Heller describes the soldier in whites death so bluntly and straight to the point that it gives off this comical edge as his death is so sudden and unexpected “she had completed her first circuit of the ward and came a second time to the soldier in white, she read his thermometer and discovered that he was dead.” There is many examples of exaggeration in both texts. For example, in ‘A Modest Proposal….’ Swift writes “Slaughterhouses could be set up in the most convenient places in our major cities and I have been assured that there are plenty of butchers seeking work” It seems that the writer is taking the matter seriously and has started to put the plan in action.

There are many examples of irony in ‘A Modest Proposal …’ For example, “It is a melancholy object…” The understatement is more tragic than melancholy. Further on in the document Swift writes “….leave their dear native country….” Describing the people’s relationship with their country as ‘dear’ is not entirely true. They seemed to think a lot differently.

In ‘Catch 22’, Heller exaggerates Yossarian’s situation in which he is hiding out in the hospital to escape returning to battle. The idea in itself does seem rather unusual however the soldier’s excuse that he told his family he was to go on a rather dangerous mission and would write again once he had returned but never did, is rather extreme.

In conclusion, both ‘Catch 22’ and ‘A Modest Proposal…’both include satirical characteristics and therefore gives both pieces a dark humour

An Introduction to William Blake

William_Blake_watercolor_portrait

William Blake, born on the 28th of November 1757 and died on the 12th of August 1827 was a poet, painter and printmaker who lived in London. He grew up in a working class background and had no formal early education. He was rather unappreciated during his lifetime. It is only after he died that his work was recognised and appreciated. He is now considered to have played an significant role in the creation and development of the Romantic Age.
During his earlier life he briefly attended the Royal Academy due to his rebellious nature and disagreements. Years later he obtained an apprenticeship with a famous engraver where he became a professional engraver. There had been some records of arguments Blake had had with his boss, James Basire however none of any significance. He worked there for seven years.
In 1782, Blake married Catherine Boucher. He had met her during the healing process of his previous relationship where her was declined when proposing. He taught her to read and write and also to engrave.
Blake’s earliest collection of poems was called ‘Poetical Sketches’ which was printed in 1783. Later on, Blake and his friend and former fellow apprentice, James Parker opened a a print shop in 1784. Blake also illustrated ‘Original Stories from Real Life’ by Mary Wollstonecraft. Throughout his life, his main source of income was from his print shop as his poems were not as successful as they are today.
Blake was also seen as a visionary and rather eccentric as through his poems he describes the visions he clamied to receive. He pointed out what he thought was wrong with the world and how he saw it. His later poetry contains his own creation of mythology. He has even rewritten his own version of the story of creation from the book of Genesis and even the entire history of humanity.
The poet was put on trial for treason for swearing at a soldier who had strayed into his garden. The trail proved to be unsuccessful.
On the day of Blake’s death, it was said that he was working on his Dante series. He then stopped and asked to draw a portrait of his wife who was present and thanked her “for you have ever been an angel to me.”. He then lay on his bed and started to sing hymns. At six o clock that night Blake died at the age of 69.

‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ was his most famous collection of poems. The collection was released in 1789 as a duo because they were previously released as separate versions.

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The Front Cover of ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ Illustrated by Blake

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‘Jacobs Ladder’ By Blake.


‘Jerusalem’ – A famous hymn by Blake.