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The Totalitarian Political And Social Institution In Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 And Julian Morrow’s The Checkout

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Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 and Julian Morrow’s The Checkout both criticise oppressive social and political institutions. Whilst Heller highlights the poor bureaucracy of the American Army and condemns the oppressive social construct, Morrow elevates the oppressed, and promotes rebellion against tyrannical corporations and companies. Nonetheless, both texts are testament of scathing social commentary, promoting change and rejection of social constraints.

Thus discrediting and ridicule certain aspects of our society, thus compelling the readers to reflect on the flaws and tendencies of human beings, and the need to challenge immoral organisations.

Exemplifying as a Juvenalian satire, Catch 22 points a targeted attack on the military institutions by exposing the problematic personal integrity of the superiors and their absurd reasoning of a Catch 22. Through the implementation of satirical techniques, namely subversion, irony, burlesque and exaggeration, Heller effectively lampoons the superiors for their ineptitude in managing the army due to the extent they are blinded by greed and hypocrisy, this is exemplified by the repetitive acts of superiors of subverting moral and professional expectations. Through Captain Black’s ‘patriotic’ Loyalty Oath Crusade, which stems from his hatred towards Major Major’s swift promotion in ranks, Heller creates the tension underlying power and personal morality, whilst highlighting the viciousness of infighting that the leaders exert, in the pursuit of fame and profit.Through Colonel Cathcart’s ‘bravery in volunteering’ the men for continuous flight missions while insisting that it is his job to ‘ ‘, Heller exposes the nonchalance leaders hold at the cost of risking other people’s lives. Through Milo’s brazen readiness to cooperate with Germans, Heller exposes Milo’s hypocritic suggestion that it is his ‘contractual obligation’ to protect (the Germans’) rights as shareholders’ and ‘what’s good for the enterprise is good for the army’.

Whilst these immoral acts ultimately result in the suppression of values, the superiors justify their acts as ‘process of a rational mind’ for the concern of one’s own safety, and all for the ultimate goal’. Hence, Heller uses the subversion of heroism to shed light on the distortion of justice; superiors, who behave negligently and harmfully, are encouraged, whilst those who protest against them are labelled ‘unpatriotic’, exposing the audience ….

Consequently, Heller uses this sarcastic revelation to highlight the cynicism that proliferates when individuals display sycophancy and cling to oppressive values. Individuals turn to social conformity to gain identities.

Doc Daneeka, who refuses to ground Yossarian in fear of displeasing Colonel Cathcart and getting transferred to the Pacific Ocean, insists that Yossarian should ‘smile and make the best of it’ and ‘a little grease is what makes the world go round’. Through the characterisation of Doc Daneeka, Heller points out the evasive and cynical mindset that individuals possess after they realise the necessity of conformity.

Gus and Wes’ display of ‘stoic surprise’ in Doc Daneeka’ social death further demonstrates individuals’ tendency in falling in line with the masses and the absurdity of them not speaking up against blatant paradoxes. Hence, Heller paints a bleak picture on the progression of the post-war society, a society where the decay of moral engenders the distortion of justice; a society where people become ‘superficially satisfied’ with the justification of a ‘Catch 22’, conforms, and refuse to confront the absurd and restrictive expectations imposed upon them.

Heller further highlights the results of the superiors’ paradoxical justification through portraying the dehumanisation of soldiers. Heller’s extensive use of strong motifs emphasise the physical and emotional burdens that are placed on soldiers as a result of the oppressive social construct. The novel resonates Yossarian’s ironic experience in trying to find morphine ,which is stolen by Milo, while in a life and death situation. Dunbar receives a threat to be placed on Bologna when he protests that General Peckham’s obsession with bomb pattern reveals the depth of immorality as he is willing to kill many innocent civilians to arrange it. Colonel Cathcart’s greed for fame, and the chaplain’s objection due to the letters being insincere.

Heller uses these key moments to accentuate the helplessness soldiers feel towards social conformity to dictated truths, thus compelling the audience to reflect critically on the paradoxical explanations of the army’s superiors and inducing their role to counteract social confomirty to dictated truths.

In caricaturing the sexual characteristics of women: the ‘nubile breasts’, and the employment of Gallows humour in these women’s cruel treatments and deaths, Heller exposes the misogyny that is prevalent, condemning them for objectifying women as ‘instruments of pleasure’ , with the antithesis emphasising the extent to which they are willinging of blurring the boundary between love and lust and using ‘seeking mental comfort’ as an excuse to get away with their cynical justification.

All of these serve to explicitly satirise the bureaucrat’s oppressive ruling, and the resulting resulting oppresion which inflicts emotional burdens and give them the right to use ‘Catch 22’ to justify their wrongdoings. Thus, Heller calls into question the reliability of the institutions, inducing the readers’ empathetic immersion in the characters’ struggles and their lack of initiative in challenging the oppressive values.

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Strengthens Heller’s stance on defying the oppressive ruling. Heller’s critique of these oppressive values is amplified through the application of a condescending tone. Heller’s abhorrence of social conformity and cynicism is ecnapsulated after the destruction of Rome. Prompts readers to challenge and confront the social construct through using characters’ existentialist change.

The novel has a distinct portrayal of the juxtaposition between philosophical values of cynicism and optimism. Whilst some individuals decide to conform with the absurdity of Catch 22 and ‘make the best of it’, others challenge this idea, acting as a major catalyst in highlighting the importance of standing up against oppressive construct to achieve autonomy and individualism.

Orr, successfully resolves the catch-22 conundrum by frequently practicing crash-landing and oaring and fishing. While Yossarian remains a symbol of impotence in the face of authority and duty,

Thus, Orr is the embodiment of rebelliousness holding many qualities that demonstrate when trying to challenge and evade the ironies and injustices of the authority. Heller could be seen to be expressing his through the construction of this character.

This idea of change is further demonstrated through the chaplain’s progression from struggling to maintain faith in God due to it not been valued on its own terms to rejection of conforming to the absurd reasoning of Catch 22, Heller highlights the Chaplain’s sternness and persistence in believing in religion and its ability to give soldiers spiritual support, reiterating that whilst individuals might suffer, resilience in the face of adversity will toughen them up, thus further amplifying the readers’ connection with the victims suffering from absurd logic and prompting them to challenge against it.

It is through the close examination of these characters that the audience are able to gain insight into the necessity of transcending the stereotypical views of other individuals’ tendency to ‘adapt and conform’. ‘Mas was matter, that was Snowden’s secret’ > inevitability of death.

Heller critiques the inherently flawed through the destruction of Rome and deaths of Yossarian’s friends. Positioning the audience to disagree with this assertion through comic hyperbole, Heller positions the audience while ensuring the responder questions the pragmatism of the justification of oppressive values and the cynicism of social conformity,

By doing so, Heller provides a medium to the audience to question and scrutinise….. whilst providing a critique on individuals’malleability and our inclination to adhere to such regimes, as portrayed through their undivided faith towards social conformity. Yossarian decides to cross stereotypical boundaries and overcome the expectations of the other soldiers even if it means defying authority and risking his own life.

Elucidates the importance of resilience and speaking up despite the catch. The incorporation of strengthen the authors’ perspectives on …, which places a lasting impact on the audience’s (concepts, views, perspectives , etc, thus inducing the readers’ critical reflection on their actions.

In contrast, whist Julian Morrow’s The Checkout distinguishes the cause and effect chain between oppressive social construct and impacts on consumers’ rights, Morrow elevates the oppressed and prompt the audience to challenge unjust acts. Uses situations that audience could connect to (able to relate to and resonate) to engage them and expose them to the absurdity of the unethical practices of large corporations and companies.

Consequences that stems from problematic personal integrity, namely burdens on others, the lasting impact on society if individual’s corruption acts go uncontested, and the need to defy organisations in the face of adversity .

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The Totalitarian Political And Social Institution In Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 And Julian Morrow’s The Checkout. (2021, September 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
“The Totalitarian Political And Social Institution In Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 And Julian Morrow’s The Checkout.” Edubirdie, 21 Sept. 2021,
The Totalitarian Political And Social Institution In Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 And Julian Morrow’s The Checkout. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2022].
The Totalitarian Political And Social Institution In Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 And Julian Morrow’s The Checkout [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 21 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from:
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