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A Study of Postmodern Characteristics in Catch 22

Author ZhangQiaoZuo
Tutor WangMinQin
School Hunan University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Joseph Heller Catch 22 postmodernism contradictions historical characteristics political characteristics
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Joseph Heller(1923-1999)is one of the greatest novelists after World War II in America. His first novel Catch 22 is regarded as the representative work of black humor and the pioneering novel of postmodernism. This thesis tries to apply Canadian theorist Linda Hutcheon’s postmodern theory to analyze the postmodern characteristics of Catch 22, mainly discussing about contradiction, historical characteristics and political characteristics.Catch 22 is filled with paradoxical language and anti-logical dialogues. The disordering of structure forms a contradiction with the sequence of the events in some sense. The character relations reflecting in the family relationship, friendship and love are permeated with conflicts with the erosion of the war. The ostensibly harmonious relation forms another deeper contradiction with conflict and betrayal in reality.Joseph Heller’s war experiences construct the setting of Catch 22, which records the history of World War II. The Glorious Loyal Oath Crusade in the novel reflects“Loyal Security-Program”in McCarthyism Period. During that time people were asked to sign to show their loyalty when engaging in some activities. Chaplain’s Tomato event alludes to Alger Hiss Charges in 1940s and 1950s when Hiss was accused of a spy for Soviet Union communists. At the same time, Heller questioned the chaotic American social reality after World War II, especially in McCarthyism Period.The political characteristics of Catch 22 are embodied in hierarchy, sex and race. With the power endowed by the military, the officers force the common soldiers to fly unnecessary missions at the risk of death. The soldiers treat the women including prostitutes and nurses as plaything and objects to manipulate. The white officers and soldiers consider the Indian soldier White Halfoat as“different species”. They oppress him and make a convenience of him. The political characteristics presented in the novel reflect Heller’s ambivalent political attitude.Through perusing the novel, this thesis tries to apply Linda Hutcheon’s postmodern theory to discuss the postmodern characteristics expressed in the novel and illuminate the literary value of Catch 22, thus helping a better understanding of the common characteristics of postmodern literature.

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