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Using the subtheme of military incompetence in Catch-22, what is Heller's view on war?

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krr11006 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 9, 2011 at 5:59 AM via web

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Using the subtheme of military incompetence in Catch-22, what is Heller's view on war?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 26, 2013 at 6:59 PM (Answer #1)

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It is clear that Joseph Heller believes war is often handled incompetently by those in charge, and he demonstrates that in Catch-22 by using satire to showcase the incompetence. 

Heller often uses the names of characters to reveal their particular ineptitudes. For example, General Scheisskopf cares for nothing more than parades and exhibitions of intricate (and useless) marching. Obviously, this is not something which is useful during a war, and it is no accident that his name means "sh**head" in German. General Peckem spends all his time worrying about what he must to do to please his superiors in order to get ahead, often at the expense of the men over whom he has command. His name implies his obsession with the pecking order (and hints at a part of the male anatomy). Colonel Korn is both a farmer and rather ridiculous and overly emotional--an apt definition of "corny."  Finally, Milo Minderbinder is a mess hall officer who is determined not to let a mere war keep him from his capitalistic pursuits (making money), even at the expense of his fellow soldiers. None of them are particularly concerned about the soldiers or about the war except for how each can be used to their own benefit.

Clearly, Heller finds those who conduct war to be self-centered and incompetent; what is even more telling about his view of war is the supposed law known as Catch-22 which ensures that everyone loses because winning is not the goal. 

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