The way in which he rebels against the system reflects both his own

The way in which he rebels against the system

This preview shows page 15 - 16 out of 28 pages.

machine—and he eventually turns on these forces by forging false names on official documents. The way in which he rebels against the system reflects both his own dissatisfaction with his ludicrous name, which bureaucracy has generated, and the reliance upon names, cataloging, and indexing perpetuated by the bureaucracy. Major —— de Coverley is another ridiculous and paradoxical figure, a revered old man with no important duties who plays horseshoes all day and is utterly irrelevant to the war. Actions, too, can be irrelevant and nonsensical: ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen’s punishment for going AWOL is to dig holes and then fill them back up again. Wintergreen says that he doesn’t mind doing it, so long as it is “part of the war effort.” Obviously, his task is not helping the Allies win the war; its uselessness suggests that so many other actions that the army seems to believe are necessary are actually a waste of time. A similar sense of futility occurs with Major Major’s realization that the documents he signs keep coming back to him for more signatures. His life is consumed with paperwork that repeats itself in an endless cycle in which nothing gets accomplished. Catch-22’ s mosaic of anecdotes, whose chronological placement remains largely beyond the reader’s grasp, undermines the conventional model of various events building tension toward a climax. It also conveys the impression that, just as Yossarian is afraid to confront a life that ends in death, the novel itself is nervous about the passing of time, which leads inevitably toward death. Breaking up the flow of time is, in a sense, a narrative attempt to defy mortality. In these early chapters, Dunbar presents an important alternative to this approach: he knows he is trapped in linear time, but he hopes to live in it as long as possible by making time move more slowly in his perception. He thus seeks boredom and discomfort because time seems to pass more slowly when he is bored or uncomfortable. This separation of the actual passage of time from the experience of time is an attempt to regain control of a life constantly threatened by the violence of war. The novel’s exploration of this quirky passing of time demonstrates how the novel’s satirical and serious tones complement each other. Dunbar’s argument about doing unpleasant things because they make time pass more slowly, a statement that seems entirely illogical and even comical the first time we read it, begins to make sense as the novel progresses. The only way in which these soldiers are able to approach the ludicrous situation in which they have been placed is to indulge their own ludicrous logic. Dr. Stubbs’s frustrated reflection in Chapter 10 that the arbitrary nature of death makes it absurd to try to live makes Dunbar’s ideas about making time last longer seem somewhat logical: a response to the possibility of imminent death that espouses self-preservation is no longer comical but rather completely rational.
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