Joseph Heller’s thesis is an exploration of the human condition seen through the lens of absurdity and the dark humor of life’s inherent absurdity Heller, in his writing, seeks to shine a light on the human condition in a way that emphasizes the ridiculousness and contradictions inherent in life. Through his writing, Heller offers fresh perspectives on the human experience which can lead readers to explore their own experiences and to find more meaning in life.
Example 1: In Catch-22, Heller highlights the innate and often humorous silliness of bureaucracy, authority, and war. The novel’s namesake is the central concept of the book and aptly highlights the absurdities of military life. The catch-22 of the title is that in order for the character Yossarian’s to get out of combat, he needs to be declared medically insane, but due to the catch-22 clause, his simple declaration of being insane renders him sane and therefore able to be sent back into the air. This paradox and its implications offer much food for thought and humor at the same time.
Example 2: In Something Happened, Heller examines the inherent difficulty of life and its accompanying mundane routines, while also weaving in a subtext of the power and fragility of love. Through the mundane doings of protagonist Bob Slocum, Heller brings to light the struggle of leading an everyday life, and how it can both wear us down and lead to an appreciation of life.
Example 3: In Good as Gold, Heller tells the story of political science professor Bruce Gold, who, in an effort to win favor with his father, reaches out to a powerful Senator. Gold’s journey in navigating the political scene and his continual efforts to please his father, despite his knowing his father’s ultimate disapproval, brings to light themes of ambition and morality in a comedic yet poignant way.
Example 4: In God Knows, Heller examines the struggles of, and personal growth within, King David. The story follows David, a young king struggling to come of age, as he deals with the difficulties of leading a kingdom, understanding his own mortality, and finding peace and comfort through faith. The themes of faith and understanding mortality are explored in an entertaining and thought-provoking way in this novel.
Example 5: In Closing Time, the sequel to Catch-22, Heller tells a more personal story, this time focusing on the struggles of the elderly. Through the lens of the protagonists Yossarian and Luciana, Heller explores the struggles of aging in a way that is both humorous and sobering, exploring the nuances of life and death in a thought-provoking manner.
In summary, Joseph Heller’s thesis is a humorous exploration of the human condition. His stories explore themes of mortality, faith, love, relationships, ambition, and bureaucracy in a way that both entertains and educates. These five examples of Heller’s works serve to highlight the various areas of human experience in which Heller examines and explores.