by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 Absurdity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
For a few precarious seconds, the chaplain tingled with a weird, occult sensation of having experienced the identical situation before in some prior time or existence. He endeavored to trap and nourish the impression in order to predict, and perhaps even control, what incident would occur next, but the afflatus melted away unproductively, as he had known beforehand it would. Déjà vu. The subtle recurring confusion between illusion and reality that was characteristic of paramnesia fascinated the chaplain, and he knew a number of things about it. He knew, for example, that it was called paramnesia and he was interested as well in such corollary optical phenomena as jamais vu, never seen, and presque vu, almost seen. There were terrifying, sudden moments when objects, concepts and even people that the chaplain had lived with almost all his life inexplicably took on an unfamiliar and irregular aspect that he had never seen before and which made them seem totally strange: jamais vu. And there were other moments when he almost saw absolute truth in brilliant flashes of clarity that almost came to him: presque vu. The episode of the naked man in the tree at Snowden's funeral mystified him thoroughly. It was not déjà vu, for at the time he had experienced no sensation of ever having seen a naked man in a tree at Snowden's funeral before. It was not jamais vu, since the apparition was not of someone, or something, familiar appearing to him in an unfamiliar guise. And it was certainly not presque vu, for the chaplain did see him…
Had the naked man in the tree at Snowden's funeral been merely a hallucination? Or had it been a true revelation? (20.52-53)
The chaplain has a surreal experience – that of seeing a naked man in a tree at Snowden's funeral. What's funny is that he tries to explain it using scientific terms.
Milo was not only the Vice-Shah or Oran, as it turned out, but also the Caliph of Baghdad, the Imam of Damascus, and the Sheik of Araby. Milo was the corn god, the rain god and the rice god in backward regions where such crude gods were still worshipped by ignorant and superstitious people, and deep inside the jungles of Africa, he intimated with becoming modesty, large graven images of his mustached face could be found overlooking primitive stone altars red with human blood. Everywhere they touched he was acclaimed with honor, and it was one triumphal ovation after another for him in city after city…(22.129)
It is absurd for one man to be celebrated in so many different countries of the world simply because he brings money to the nation. As a symbol, Milo represents American capitalism. Although this economic system is widespread across the globe, it is not worshipped unquestionably by every nation. The depiction of Milo as a celebrity in every country is thus a gross exaggeration.
"You see? Imagine a man his age risking what little life he has left for something so absurd as a country!" he declared.
Nately was instantly up in arms again. "There is nothing so absurd about risking your life for your country!" he declared.
"Isn't there?" asked the old man. "What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can't all be worth dying for." (23.54-56)
The old man makes patriotism seem absurd by reducing the definition of a country to a purely geographical essence. And he further ridicules the concept of nationhood by pointing out how arbitrary countries' borders are. Thus, he makes it seem like soldiers from each country fight only for a random piece of land. This renders the concept of war absurd.