Heroism In Joseph Heller's Catch 22

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In Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, the protagonist, Yossarian, exemplifies a modern American antihero. From the first few pages, Heller presents Yossarian as a flawed man who is only interested in preserving his own life. Unlike the typical, altruistic, and courageous hero placed in so many war novels, Yossarian is instead bizarre, self-involved, and sometimes unethical. Heller purposely chooses to make Yossarian an antihero to imply there are only antiheros when it comes to war. As other novels dishonestly romanticize and glorify war, Heller does the opposite. A main theme Heller tries to convey throughout the novel is that the reality of war is absurd and corrupt, as well as the people involved in war. Although Yossarian is selfish and untrustworthy, Heller slowly shows the reader that these seemingly dislikable characteristics of Yossarian show a type of heroism. As Yossarian evolves, the reader comes to realize that Yossarian’s obsession with preserving his life doesn’t necessarily emphasize his selfishness, but rather the value he puts on life. Throughout most of the novel, the reader follows Yossarian’s quest to escape the war,…show more content…
Yossarian learns Snowden’s secret, “man [is] matter.” “The spirit gone, man is garbage” (440). Snowden, along with the soldier in white, symbolizes the many faceless soldiers who perish in war. Snowden does not feel glory or pride that he’s dying for his country, he only feels cold and scared in his last hours. And soon, he is only a bunch of matter, holding no identity or spirit. As Snowden dies, Yossarian privately decides that he does not want to simply be matter. Yossarian is haunted by Snowden’s secret, but it gives him a reason to try to live. Although at this moment Yossarian’s reason to preserve life is mostly out of a heightened fear of death, it’s a start that encourages him to at least to try to find the true reason to
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