By H. Bloom (ed.)
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Extra resources for Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations)
Here, Yossarian—the ancient Assyrian, the modern Armenian, but really a wandering New York Jew—can give vent to his disgust and revulsion, and through laughter show us that our better selves may still turn up in Sweden. 1 As a result, he sees Yossarian refusing the “traditional journey of learning in manhood,”2 and the ending of the novel becomes Yossarian’s escape from reality to Sweden, a kind of never-never land. Although Yossarian may be innocent, as Mr. Pinsker claims, at the beginning of the novel, and his belief that he can work within the establishment using their rules for his own ends is incredibly naive, he does, I believe, learn better, and after his symbolic journey to the underworld, represented by his trip through the dark streets of Rome, he comes to a new recognition of the meaning of his experience and reaches a new knowledge in the hospital after his near death, achieving what one could perhaps call an informed innocence.
Never a revolutionary, rarely a rebel, unintentionally a hero, only occasionally a young Turk, Yossarian is more often a rank conformist. The only sanity he desires is his own, not the world’s; the only joys he seeks are those he can himself generate; the only rewards he covets are the compensations, not of glory, but of full lips, breasts, and thighs. He is more Sancho than Don. The comedy of Yossarian is the comedy of a romantic, Rousseauistic natural man forced to do the dirty work of the world.
When Yossarian strikes for freedom at the end of the novel (the fact that it is Sweden demonstrates Heller’s concern with the good society made by good men), his act symbolizes more than deﬁance, certainly not cowardice. He has done his duty—Heller is careful to keep before us Yossarian’s many missions (the word itself indicates a high calling). He has shown his responsibility to society at large, and has given his physical energy and his nervous sweat. Now he must seek a meaningful life, try to make order out of chaos.