Comparison of Catch-22 and Dr. Strangelove

As Daniel R. White writes in Nietzsche at the Altar: Situating the Devotee, “To laugh at the literal behavior of other characters in the social drama, is to change the truth value of what those characters do so as to undermine its seriousness, its claim to veracity, to authority, and so to call it into question.” According to White, once we are able to laugh at something, we disarm it and become free to question its authority and reject it. The effect of laughter White describes is the effect Joseph Heller and Stanley Kubrick intend to evoke in their respective satires, Catch-22 and Dr. Strangelove. The context of war in each of these works has caused many critics to classify it in the war genre. This classification, however, is mistaken because the worlds Heller and Kubrick depict are not horrific on account of war, but rather because individuals are subjected to the arbitrary authority of an impersonal and omnipotent bureaucracy that neither understands nor cares about them. In Catch-22, Heller portrays the bureaucracy through the eyes of his protagonist, Yossarian, who realizes that the control the bureaucracy, represented by his ambitious and impersonal superior officers, exercises over his life is arbitrary. In Dr....

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