Why do we need the laugh? What role does it play in people’s lives? The question can cause bewilderment. After all, the laugh is when it’s just ridiculous and no one thinks about what the role it plays. But laugh can be different, and the writer knows in advance what kind of laughter his reader will laugh.
There is humor, cheerful, kind, and there is a black one. “Black humor” is when you feel empathy and, out of them, a piercing horror, but you still cannot help laughing. In any case, there is the black humor in “Catch 22”. Heller describes his humor more “like bitter sarcasm or sharp satire” than as a "black comedy" - a genre in which he was credited by some critics.
However, if the “Catch 22” was only a ridiculous absurdist comedy, it is unlikely that the novel would have produced such a strong impression. War is ugly, abnormal, and worst of all that people die on it. Heller does not cease to remind us of this. And the combination of black humor with genuine drama without false sentimentality is another confirmation of the talent of the author.
The first pages seem unusually humorous because they are written in a lively, ironic language, flavored with sparkling humor. But the further the action unfolds more frightening events are described in the same satirical manner. This novel is imbued with black humor, and from that, it seems even more terrible. There are no heroes about whom we tell in school, there are no loud victories, there is a frightened crowd of soldiers whose common sense was paralyzed by a bureaucratic machine that turned them into a dull bloodthirsty herd. For the colonels and generals, the unfolding war is only a play soldier and another reason to boast epaulets. For each of them, the number of deaths is directly proportional to the envy of the colleagues and an increase in the opportunity to appear on the front page of newspapers as a hero. The accuracy of the system, parades, personal benefits and beautiful photos are important for them. American pilots either howl or laze around and try to slip off the flights somewhere in Italy during the Second World War. Moreover, they have fun as much as they can while everyone perfectly sees the folly of others and does not notice their own. So, this is another source of agonizing laughter and oppressive horror.
In the world of “Catch 22” the violence becomes a benefactor, greed for dignity, fearlessness is insanity, cowardice is the goal, faith is vulgarity, unbelief is an advantageous circumstance, innocence is the cause for murder, soul is a killing meat, murder is an annoying oversight, brutal murder induces indifference. Everything is perverted and gutted here.