The awakeningcomedy and tragedy Essay

This essay has a total of 884 words and 4 pages.

the awakeningcomedy and tragedy



Comedy and tragedy have always been separation into separate genres. Certainly most
tragedies had comedic moments, and even the craziest comedies were at times serious.
However, even the development of supposed tragedies left the division intact. That is,
until Catch-22. Joseph Heller does not deal with these issues in the normal fashion
instead he criticizes them and the institutions that help carry these things out. Heller
in fact goes beyond criticizing, he satirizes. Joseph Heller manages to bond humor and
terror, comedy and tragedy, and reveals in the process the mean of the human character and
of society gone mad.

The first, is his presentation of outrageous characters, acting outrageously. From the
first chapter, we are presented with a mass of unbelievable characters whose actions and
beliefs are uproariously funny, and horrifically disturbing. In fact, the manner in which
the reader recognizes the character's dual nature will serve as the first example of
Heller's combination of comedy and tragedy.

Dunbar's theory of life is first received with a burst of laughter from the audience. Life
is short, and Dunbar wishes to extend it as much as possible. If time flies when one is
having fun, then conversely, time must slow when one is bored. Dunbar endeavors to make
his life as boring as possible, thus increasing the length of its passing. Indeed, it is
understandable why such an attitude should elicit a laugh, but the further implications
are horrific. Society's emphasis on life over meaning comes as a shocking revelation to
the audience. Heller further reinforces that idea with characters such as Doc Daneeka, who
values resistance and money over responsibility and friendship, and Milo who values
strength and fortune over the lives of thousands of others. The design that follows gives
us characters that are, above all else, more interested in themselves. Though they are
initially humorous, their nature is ultimately revealed to be false and horrific, arousing
disgust and pity, a brilliant combination of comedy and tragedy.

The parody of society is revealed further in a second major type of character, the
deluded. Though most serve largely as hold back to Yossarian and his viewpoint, much can
still be made of their condition. Clevinger is perhaps the best example of a deluded
character. His debate with Yossarian serves as an insightful evaluation of their psyche.
He argues that, although everyone is trying to kill him, everyone is not trying to kill
him. The humor of the debate cannot be denied, but horror and tragedy are equally present.
The debate leaves the audience struggling to decide who is crazy. Clevinger falls into an
obvious contradiction, but his argument still strikes as common sense. In face of
Yossarian's "What difference does that make?" the audience is left not only with the
realization of its speciousness, but of the realization that they believed it. The terror
evoked by the deluded lies mainly in that the audience is equally deluded.

The genius of Heller's characterization is further enhanced. With this revelation, Heller
Continues for 2 more pages >>