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Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 - U of M favorite book

papasmurf 2 / 4  
Oct 16, 2009   #1
Tell us about a book you read that you found challenging, stimulating, or provacative. Explain why it made an impact on you. (500 words)

Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian's fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them" (415). Captain John Yossarian is the epitome of the modern anti-hero. He's cynical and rebellious. He's Holden Caulfield living in George Orwell's 1984, and his misery is oddly fun to relate to. More importantly though, he's a character from one of my favorite books: Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22. Over the course of a month, I read my way through the intricately woven chapters that provided a satirical illustration of World War II not because it was an assignment, but because I actually wanted to open my mind to what I had heard was a great literary work. As it turned out, I wasn't disappointed.

The novel has a broad spectrum of characters that represent almost every aspect of society in an exaggerated way. From the blind followers that hung at the finger tips of the ruthlessly opportunistic Colonel Cathcart and Milo Minderbinder to the naively optimistic recruits that served as foils for hardened realists like Yossarian, the novel is alive with highlights of humanity's quirks, which made it humorous, somber, and insightful sometimes all on the same page.

What made the novel stimulating and provocative was the fact that I was able to connect with many of the characters' seemingly absurd qualities. I mean honestly, as teenagers we all feel alienated sometimes, and sometimes we just want to be like Major Major and hide away until we become invisible. Other times, we adopt the insecurity of the Chaplain and question our ideas and opinions that we once thought were so clearly defined. While it sounds cliché, I thought that Yossarian's determination to persevere and stay committed to his beliefs when the world around him seemed to be completely against him was an uplifting example of how the motivation of an individual can prevail over what others accept as a no-win situation.

However, one's beliefs are not always clear, and the novel is full of naïve characters that allowed the commanding officers to have almost absolute power over their actions. By using the idea of patriotism to glamorize the soldier's duties as cogs in a war machine, the bureaucracy in the novel was able to make characters like Nately and Clevinger truly believe that giving up their lives and identities for the benefit of the country was the only noble choice when in reality they were treated as expendable resources by colonels who only had their best interests at heart. This idea of an all powerful and self-centered bureaucracy seems very applicable to modern life. In real life, powerful people can best be described as those who have influence over us, and people under the influence of the media or peer pressure often adopt the opinions of others and give up their individuality. People who are unable to form their own opinions seem to be very common nowadays. We all forget to think for ourselves sometimes, and often we just let the expectations of others determine our actions.

The novel made me realize that one doesn't have to conform to the fate or ideas with which he or she is presented; life is about finding one's own path.
worldbound10 4 / 18  
Oct 16, 2009   #2
This is very good...I like how you relate the book to yourself. I'm thinking of using this prompt for my U of M application, but I can't decide on a book! I wish I would have read more classic pieces of literature...it's obviously too late to read a book and write an essay on it in like a week! :/
OP papasmurf 2 / 4  
Oct 16, 2009   #3
Thanks, I was worried that I was being too vague, and it took forever to think of ways to relate the book to real life without sounding cynical. lol
emjay1264jr 3 / 9  
Oct 17, 2009   #4
This is good! I read books but mostly mystery and I don't know how to tie that in with Medicine and with myself. You did a great job!

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