Catch-22 and A Few Good Men
Catch-22 is a novel about the Second World War. It is set on the island of Pianosa, which is off the coast of Italy. It is set in the end of the war while the Germans are on the run and being pushed out of Italy. The book focuses on a bomb group, more specifically a squadron in which a bombardier named Yossarian is assigned to. Yossarian is very upset because all these people he doesn’t even know (the Germans) are trying to kill him.
The novel is very hard to understand because of the way it is written. It is helpful in books about the military to have a time-date group so you know what is going on. This book doesn’t have that and is so full of flash backs and flash-forwards that it made my head spin. It wasn’t poorly written but it was hard follow. It has many technical errors such as having helicopters for search and rescue while helicopters weren’t used in military service until the Korean War. The story is a good one but paints a picture of military life as a joke almost. Most of the servicemen in this book had no discipline and did pretty much as they pleased.
Yossarian goes through the whole story trying to get out of his squadron and go home. His problem is the commander of the group keeps raising the number of missions required to fly before the rotate home. Every time he gets close the raise the number on him again. Through it all he tries all these schemes to get sent home he acts sick and tries to act crazy. When he tries to acts crazy he thinks that he has a perfect plan to get sent home since there was a rule that anyone who was crazy was unfit to serve in the rigors of combat, but the rule said they had to ask to be grounded. When he goes to get himself grounded he discovers there is a catch. Catch-22 says that anyone who asks to be grounded is not crazy because recognizing danger is the process of a rational mind and anyone with a rational mind is not crazy. That is the main story line of the book.
A Few Good Men is a movie about the trial of two Marines for murder. The main characters are Lt.j.g. Dan Kaffey and Lt.Cmdr Joanne Galloway. They are both lawyers in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the Department of the Navy. They are the defense attorneys for Lance Corporal Dawson and Private First Class Downey. Dawson and Downey were charged with murdering a member of their squad, Private First Class William Santiago. The reason that they killed him was technically an accident. They were trying to haze him when something went wrong. The reason they were disciplining him was because he broke the chain of command and went outside his unit for help. In the Marine Corps that is wrong because it makes the Marines in your chain of command look like a bunch of morons.
The two Marines, Dawson and Downey were ordered by their platoon commander who in turn was ordered by the battalion commander to discipline Santiago. The two Marines did not want to cut a deal for minimum jail time because the believed that they did nothing wrong they were following orders and they did not intend to kill him. The movie talks about a code that Marines follow especially Marines forward deployed on tense situation. Basically the code said that the unit and the mission come first all other things are secondary including comfort and personal safety. The Marines get through the trial and are found innocent because they were only following orders and did not intend to kill Santiago. They were found guilty of conduct unbecoming of a Marine and were dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps. The battalion commander Colonel Jessup was set to be court martialed for ordering the Code Red (hazing) and Kaffey and Galloway look like heroes for finding out the truth and righting the wrongs.
When you compare these two works you find yourself look at two possible extremes of military life although they are both fictitious and not even based on true stories. Catch-22 is all about how one person cared only about himself and focused only on his needs. All Yossarian cared about was he wanted to go home and that was it. He didn’t care about the war he didn’t care about the soldiers he was supposed to be supporting with the missions he flew. All that mattered to him was that he was in danger and he didn’t like it and wanted to go home. He watched all his close friends die one by one but it didn’t faze him. His mind was made up. A Few Good Men was at the other extreme. It showed life in the military as a hard, unforgiving life where one slipup could result in death or serious harm. The two Marines Dawson and Downey were the total opposite of Yossarian. Where he was undisciplined they were disciplined. While he only cared about himself they believed in their mission and were willing to die for it. Dawson and Downey were described as recruiting poster Marines while Yossarian would be sent off to count cracks on the runway the second anyone important showed up.
All in all both these works are good stories but neither seems to be particularly accurate. I’m sure that military life falls somewhere in between these two extremes.
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