Fragmentation in Catch-22

An analysis of the different aspects of fragmentation in language, structure and plot within Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

This paper examines how fragmentation permeates every aspect of Joseph Heller’s novel “Catch-22”. linguistically, thematically and structurally, allowing him to create a wide-ranging satire that never loses sight of its central existentialist focus, Yossarian’s powerful desire to survive at all costs. It looks at how Heller employs a variety of techniques to achieve the apparent incoherence of the narrative, fulfilling his satirical and comic aims and how these include a multitude of characters, the distorted and looping sense of time and the curiously disjoined language. It demonstrates how the multiple plot strands allow Heller to attack a variety of institutions from different angles, how the satire is polyform and how these aspects together create a sense of insanity, reflective of the madness on Pianosa and the horrific madness of the war itself.
Yossarian’s desire to live provides the central thrust, but there are themes other than death which intertwine and recur throughout the book; primarily Milo’s enterprise and the continual raising of the number of required missions. These themselves are unrelated, adding to the sense of a disjointed whole. This use of fragmentation gives Heller a means to attack two of his main targets; Milo’s ridiculous commerce satirises the western capitalist belief structure, and the missions issue satirises the blind obedience the soldiers, for the most part, show to the military hierarchy.