Daneeka and Thoughtful Laughter in Catch-22
George Meredith once reasoned, “The true test of comedy is that it shall awaken thoughtful laughter.” The importance of encouraging thoughtful laughter in comedy lies in its ability to humorously provoke reflection of some greater idea or theme. In the dark comedy Catch-22, Joseph Heller provides witty writing and action alongside meaningful themes, a combination that sparks this kind of “thoughtful laughter”. In particular, the humorous confusion and frustration surrounding the assumed death of Doc Daneeka markedly lends itself to this concept. Although the ludicrousness of the humorous scene may appear trivial in regard to the development of the plot, Heller incites reflection on both the power of official documents and the dehumanization of soldiers by the inhumane officers.
Heller uses the scene as a means to reveal that during a time of war, statements that are written on a form hold a significantly greater importance over the actuality of the situation. In fact, the confusion surrounding the death of Doc Daneeka is derived from Sergeant Towser and the War Department’s unwillingness to accept reality over what is shown on the flight records. “With lips still quivering, Towser rose and trudged outside reluctantly to break...
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