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The Effects Of Catch 22 Essay, Research Paper

.Justin Suissa November 05,1996

The Effects of Catch 22

In literature sometimes a character can be helped or hindered by the economic, social, or political conditions of the day. In the novel Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, the character Doc Daneeka illustrates this idea perfectly because the conditions surrounding him greatly hindered him. Catch 22 takes place during WWII on an island named Pianosa that is close to Italy. Doc Daneeka is adversely affected by the war in the end because when it began he was making a profit from it as other doctors had been drafted, but then his day came too. Doc Daneeka was also hindered by the war because of what he had to endure throughout it. He hated his two medical assistants and his bunkmate. Doc Daneeka had to fly frequently on airplanes which he detested. Doc Daneeka’s two assistants failed ever to find anything wrong with him, which deeply perturbed him. The war also caused Doc Daneeka to lose his wife after his “death.” The war that was imposed on Doc Daneeka ravaged his life and terminated all of his chances to become a normal, practicing doctor.

Before the war arrives on Doc Daneeka’s doorstep, it appears to have benefitted him. Doc Daneeka was making a nice sum of money from various illegal means. He received kickbacks from drug stores in the area that ran an illegal operation. He also utilized beauty parlors to perform two or three abortions a week to bring in more revenue. When the war begins, Doc Daneeka’s practice starts to pick up because of the lack of other doctors. Originally, he thought of the war as a “godsend”; however what he did not realize was that, the war would catch up with him soon enough. One day someone from the draft board came to check on Doctor Daneeka, who was in perfect health, to make sure that his story about having an amputated leg and being bedridden with arthritis was true. The doctor explains to Yossarian, a major character in the novel, that he was outraged that the government would not take a doctor’s word, especially a doctor that was in good standing with the Better Business Bureau. After they uncovered the doctor’s lie, they sent him to Pianosa to act as a flight surgeon.

The doctor hated flying on airplanes. In his own words he said, “I don’t have to go looking for trouble in an airplane.”. Doc Daneeka felt that trouble comes after him so there is no reason to take any actions that might get him involved in more trouble. This statement reflects one of Doc Daneeka’s major characteristics, cowardice. It is ironic that Doc Daneeka was drafted as a flight surgeon since he hated flying. To alleviate this problem Doc Daneeka asks Yossarian to list his name on the flight logs even if he doesn’t actually go on the flights. Doc Daneeka never returns the favor because he would not declare Yossarian insane so he doesn’t have to fly any more missions and he can go home. However, he knows that Yossarian cannot ask to be declared insane because concern for your own safety is a trait of a sane person. This “favor” that Yossarian does later causes the doctor problems. When a plane crashes, the army lists him as being dead because he was on the flight log. This shows how flying is just another way that the war adversely affected the doctor.

One of the many horrible conditions the doctor was subjected to during the war was his bunkmate and his two medical assistants. Chief White Halfoat lived with Doc Daneeka, and the doctor hated every second of it. He believed the Chief was a moron because he felt that if he kept on digging he would hit oil. The doctor was also preoccupied, for no apparent reason, with thoughts of what the Chief’s liver would look like. Besides the Chief and probably even worse than him were the doctor’s two assistants, Gus and Wes. They were worthless medical assistants who were horrible diagnosticians. All the doctor ever wanted from them was to find something, anything wrong with him that would make him eligible to be sent home. They were complete idiots because they could never really assist the doctor with anything important, and they interpreted all of his orders too literally. The doctor was reported as killed in action because he was listed on the flight log of a crashed plane. When he went to talk to his assistants to see if there was anything wrong with him, they noted only a low temperature. They then went on to inform him that since he was dead, he was rather lucky that nothing else was wrong with him.

One tragic thing that resulted from the circumstances that Doc Daneeka was subjected to was the fact that he lost his wife due to the war. After the doctor is listed as being on the destroyed plane, his wife received a letter from her husband, and at the same time she received information that he was dead. Mrs.Daneeka, begins to grieve for her husband, but she does not know what to make of this puzzle. When she writes back to her husband, her letter is returned stamped that Doc Daneeka was killed in action. Again, the doctor sends her a quickly scribbled letter. Again, she receives official notice of his death. Mrs Daneeka decides to believe that her husband is dead in part because she can only receive benefits and pension money if he is dead.

If there was ever a character that was adversely affected by the conditions of his time it was defiantly Doc Daneeka. Throughout the novel the doctor lists all of his grievances about his conditions with his catch phrase, “If you think you’ve got problems . . . “. The doctor lost everything he had and all of his potential because of the war, and he is left at the end of the novel as a dead man that is really alive, which is just another example of Catch 22.


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