This paper gets based on the analysis of the character traits in CATCH-22. CATCH-22 is an American literature novel published in 1961 by John Heller. The novel puts together various characters that depicted various characteristics during that time. The story line takes a background of the Word War II, following the life of Captain John Yossarian. It is a fictional story created on the island of Pianosa in the Mediterranean Sea eight miles south of Elba. The fictional nature of the novel plays no role in the realistic depiction of characters. The character traits depicted by the author reflected the state of the society by that time. As explained in the synopsis, the novel outlines unsolved logic, wherein normal case men who got termed as mentally unfit did not have to fly. However, the dilemma gets shown in cases where those who applied to be excused from flying, were perceived to have more concern for their safety and were hence viewed as sane, hence having to fly.
The paper explains the various character traits of the fictitious characters in the novel. In particular, the study takes a major concern on the element of leadership. The paper takes a step to step analysis of a particular character trait depicted, for example, generosity. It also gives an analysis of the trait and the specific character exhibited by such a character. These character traits get linked to leadership and their similar impact to the society by then. Both the bad and good leaders’ characteristics are discussed in the paper, citing the incidences where such traits were evident, and the way they impacted on the society.
An evaluation of leadership
Leadership comprises of both good and evil characters. The character traits of a particular person can get established from what they do and what they say about themselves. Also it could get evaluated from what other people say about them. Among the leadership, traits are the unwillingness to take the risk for other people. As a leader, one should be ready to take the risk to save others. However, John Yossarian, one of the major characters in Catch-22 has the character of selfishness and unwilling to take the risk. All through the novel, John Yossarian plays the role of avoiding risking his life whenever possible. As a leader, John Yossarian cannot get termed as a typical hero. Although Yossarian believes that life is worthless living without the moral concern of others, he still holds that the aspect of moral concern on others endangers one’s life.
John Yossarian is shocked by the death of Snowden, who is a member of his troop. The death of Snowden reflects John Yossarian how destructible his body is, just like that of Snowden. The illustration adds more fear to him and makes John Yossarian more concerned about his safety more than that of the entire squadron. He follows his principle of self-preservation by walking away from the war. The avoidance technique reveals another character in him: timidity. He comes out as a leader who avoids taking the risk on behalf of others. Being the captain, he is not ready to risk his life for his troop. His unwillingness to take the risk and lose his life for meaningless reasons can get best explained as timidity and cowardice. Although he is a captain, John does not exhibit characteristics of a leader.
Most of the leaders lack the will of the people at heart. They are just in leadership for their selfish gains. A proper term to define such leaders is selfishness. Such leaders can do anything that can profit them, without having the welfare of their subordinates. A good example of a character in this novel that depicts the character trait of selfish gains is Milo Minderbinder. Milo Minderbinder is the mess officer of the US army. He operates as a free capitalist enterprise which sells food to the US soldiers. However, Milo Minderbinder does not intend in any way to help the US Army. Instead, he gets purposed to making profits. Milo Minderbinder stands out to be very much opportunistic. He ventures into a business of selling black-market eggs to the US Army, making a profit at the ridiculous bureaucracy that perpetuates the war.
Decisiveness is also depicted in the novel by the same character – Milo Minderbinder. Is business operates in Black-market, where he makes many profits? Milo Minderbinder uses the slogan “Everyone has a share,” to win the support of all the troops. Everyone perceives Milo Minderbinder as harmless and of great support to the US Army. The troops liked him so much and are even willing to take him to other parts such as Egypt and Malta, where he sells and buys goods. Although he seems to be helping the soldiers by supplying them with food at the battlefields, his slogan of “Everyone has a share” is just to blind them not to see the huge profits he is making out of the illegal business, and more so to win their support. Infarct, he has no alliance with any side or country, unless it yields him a profit.
Betrayal has been evident in many societies. The element of betrayal is brought about by two character traits, decisiveness, and selfishness. When the selfish gains so much obsess a leader, they end up selling the secrets of their groups to the opponent party. This character trait is so much evident in the Catch – 22. Milo Minderbinder turns out to be a betrayer. He does not have the welfare of the soldiers at heart and will stop at anything that will earn him profits. Milo Minderbinder sides with the Germany troops and sells the secrets of his soldiers – the US Army. Milo Minderbinder accepts the Germany’s payments and allows his camp to get bombed, an incidence that leaves many US soldiers death and others wounded. He sides with both sides; the friends and the enemies just for profit making, his willingness to allow his camp to get bombed shows complete disgrace.
Other leaders are obsessed with power. Such characters are ready to do anything to get promoted to a higher rank in their professions. A good example of a leader who depicts hunger for power is Colonel Carthcart. As a colonel, Chuck Carthcart is a full commander of the US troops based in Pianosa. However, his mission and goals are not towards the fight, but to please his supervisors and get some promotion. He conducts operations to be noticed by the supervisors. Consequently, Colonel Carthcart keeps on raising the number of the missions and sends the troops to dangerous extremes. He keeps on raising the number of missions every time he comes close to target some missions to get sent home. He is seeking recognition and promotion by his supervisors and believes that sending more targets will depict excellent performance that will earn him the promotion to a higher rank. He does not consider the well been of the troops, and hence sends them on dangerous missions just to gain popularity.
A leader requires being charismatic, organized and professional. The traits will enable the leader to lead the assigned group effectively. A charismatic leader will exhibit teamwork, unity among the group and his professionalism will help him accomplish his missions. A good example of such a character trait in the Catch – 22 is Lieutenant Scheisskopf. He is the training unit commander for Yossarian and Clevinger. Scheisskopf has high skills of professionalism. He is a principled leader who is far-reaching with parades, willing to work with others to offer better training and parades. Scheisskopf is a smart trainer and his leadership skills which get based on professionalism help the squadron win multiple parades. He is also considered as a “wise guy” because of his professionalism. His excellent performance enabled him to win multiple promotions, serving as a colonel and later general.
The pretense is also evident among the characters in the novel. Some leaders just pretend but in reality; they do not reflect who they are. A leader should be a role model, and a good example to the subordinated. They should not be in any way misuse power to oppress their subordinates. Captain Aardvark portrays a character trait of pretense. He is incompetent and repeatedly gets lost in various missions. Although he stands out to protect well-connected women from sexual mistreatments by other officers, Captain Aardvark ends up raping and murdering Michael, who is an innocent maid.
Another theme which gets well portrayed in the novel, Catch-22 is personal integrity. It runs throughout the novel and makes us understand better who Yossarian is. The novel has presented a struggle which gets seen in between the institution and individual. Yossarian is seen to influence the authority of the military a lot. The other people such as chaplain Tappman who was so admirable he becomes a real fighter under the influence of Yossarian. He completely changes his timid soul. In the base hospital, there is a soldier who gets dressed in white, and there is nobody who can identify his gender or race.
This soldier is representing the loss of identity in the novel. To regain one’s identity, each character is supposed to seek their personal integrity. Though Yossarian seems to be the most unbelievable about integrity he takes a stand at the end of the novel. He did not accept the deal he was offered by Colonel Korns although it was giving him an automatic trip to his homeland. It was a superficial respect and honor which was going to grant him peace at last. Even if this offer was the best for the authorities and him, Yossarian did not accept the Korns deal because it meant that he was going to betray his squadron and by doing so he was only losing himself to the system. What he was supposed to do was just to announce peace then flee. Yossarian being a leader he had integrity and thus why he followed his decision.
The theme of greed has been represented by Milo Minderbinder though he was not alone. Leaders in the novel lack the sense of the humanity, and they are too selfish. Excessive ambition is also a type of greed which gets mainly personified by the General Peckem and Colonel Cathcart among others. Milo is a brilliant entrepreneur who is so corrupt, and as a leader, he has manipulated his position. Being an officer in the Mess, he manages the black market and what he only wants is that all the gain to be his. After Milos’s greed is too much and gets out of hand, he finds himself desperate for funds after his cash flow gets strapped because he had purchased the whole of the Egyptian cotton crop. Due to the desperation and greed, he plans and contracts the Germans so that they could bomb his base.
In the novel, Heller has detailed the bombing and strafing. According to Milo, a contract was a contract; he said everything which was good for his enterprise was also good for the country. Only a few people who enjoyed the profit from the syndicate although each person had a share. Milo was so greedy for the material possession while Peckem and Cathcart were greedy for power. The greediness came with position and rank in the base. Cathcart being the highest ranked colonel who was in charge of the operations of the military he kept on raising the number of required missions which an airman was supposed to fulfill during his tour of duty. He was doing all these so that he could call attention to himself and that he could get more from the people. He thought that this greed should lead to his promotion and become a general.
Due to greed both Cartcart and Peckem became so corrupt, and as leaders, they could not lead people in the right way. Cathcart was the one who was responsible for all the deaths of people who had committed themselves to serving their country, and they were ready to go home after all the period they had taken in the serving while they were far away from home. In the end, Yossarian who was one of the survivors brought humiliation to Cathcart. At long last Peckham was appointed as military operations and he served under Lieutenant General Scheisskopf whom Peckem did not look at him before. In this case, his greed had led to poetic justice. Many people who were in the squadron of Yossarian had no freedom of deciding what they wanted to do and if they wanted to die or not. The leaders are so cruel and gluttonous for the material possession as well as for power.
The inevitability of death was another theme which gets portrayed in the novel. One goal of Yossarian was either to live or to die while trying. He based his assumptions that he had to fail. He also believed that the death of one of the soldiers, Snowden’s Gory had revealed a secret which was that a man was only garbage. The spirit of death was always haunting Yossarian throughout which was in the form of Snowden and the dead man who was in his tent. Additionally, there are times when he would visualize about his death, and he would be flabbergasted by the million ways in which a person can die. His awareness of that death was inevitable is not completely negative. As a leader, he got a sense of how life was so precious and vowed that he would live as long as possible. He falls in love many times, and passionately he lamented each single minute which he was not able to spend enjoying all the good things which got found in the world.
One of the aspects of the novel which is too frustrating is the breakdown in communication. There was a widespread contagion that affected the hierarchical explanation, simple conversation as well as decision making among the soldiers. The lack of communication led to a lack of agency. A lot of the difficulties which gets associated with communication it can be traced back to the Bureaucracy. Most of the characters in the novel are forced to communicate by use of a middleman, and in most of the cases the transmissions are altered, and there are other cases when it does not reach the receipt at all. For instances, the Yossarian edits the letter for soldiers which they were sending to their homes, and his joy was when he was augmenting them. Messages did not be the same from the source to its destination and if they did they got misinterpreted. The leaders have been misleading by the people due to poor communication. Lack of communication takes a more nightmarish and dreamlike quality.
Violence and brutality are evident in the novel. Brutality and violence are too disturbing to the humans, and this is because it is not easy to imagine how harming a fellow man can be the best choice for anyone. So that such choices are comprehended in societies, what they do is that they try to dehumanize all the people who commit extreme violence to the others. Heller did not rationalize the war violence in his novel, Catch-22 by showing soldiers that they are supposed to get savage. What he did is that he only showed them that death and violence are meant to get considered as part and parcel of daily life. He, however, did not fill the characters with the lust of blood. Mainly the choices of being violent were made by initially by the leaders.
The most gruesome violence which gets depicted in the novel is that of the kid who was cut in half by the propeller of the plane while the men were busy on the beach and they were watching him. The description shows a lack of respect for the sanctity of human life. The kid was so innocent, and there were supposed to be at least one person who had a human heart and save the life of the toddler.
Most of the leaders in the catch 22 they were working for self-interest, and they did not care about how their actions were going to affect the others. The chaplain who was a morally upright person and a religious man he flirts with immorality and he pretended that he had a disease and wanted all the time to be in the hospital.
Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. 50th ed. London: Vintage Classics, 2011. Print.