The Bridge On The River Kwai And Catch22 English Literature Essay

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Insanity is a broad term with objective and legal associations. It can mean one cannot simply conform to society rules or is very foolish. It can also mean a state or condition of disorder in the mind. The film The Bridge on the River Kwai, directed by David Lean focuses on the themes of futility and insanity of war. The film is viewed through the psychological, confrontational struggle of imperialistic authority between a proud British and a Japanese Colonel. The novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller follows Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier, whose paranoia and emotional distress due to his surroundings makes him believe that he is "crazy." Both film and novel are set during World War II but have different viewpoints and perspectives. The Bridge on the River Kwai symbolizes egotistical pride, stubbornness and acquiescing to military codes and rules. Major themes include heroism, military tradition and hierarchy. Catch-22 revolves around the strong will of a soldier to live or ironically die trying. Superior officers concerned about getting a promotion and all that matters to the troops is staying alive long enough to go home. Soldiers are concerned with survival rather the war itself, faced to endure bureaucracy and violence.

Lieutenant Joyce joined Shears and Warden on their mission to bomb the bridge on the River Kwai that the they helped make. Joyce thinks he is the perfect candidate for the fatal operation because he is confident. A similar character that echoes the traits that Joyce displays is Nately. Nately is a nineteen year old boy who is a member of Yossarian's squadron. Joyce and Nately show patriotism in the way they present and hold themselves but are quite naïve when it comes to war situations. For example while visiting his whore in Rome, Nately meets an old man. He argues about nationalism and moral duty with the old man. The old man believed that dying for one's country is an absurd notion and that immediately put Nately on the defensive. "'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 counties can't all be worth dying for.'" Both Joyce and Nately's ignorance and lack of knowledge ends up being their downfall. They died defending and serving their country during a mission, complying with the orders given to them by their superior officers.

The commanding officers in the film and the novel indicate the commitment and urge to lead to complete utter destruction. With set goals in mind the officers will do anything to reach them, not thinking of the consequences or death and injury inflicted upon the men they command as well as themselves. Colonel Nicholson was held captive by the Japanese and was punished when he refused to give his men the order to carryout manual labor for Colonel Saito. When Nicholson decided to design and build the bridge under his supervision he is released. Nicholson volunteered the junior officers including some of the injured officers in the hospital because he needed more men in order to help build the bridge. Nicholson's pride makes him make careless decisions for himself and his squadron in order to glorify his position. Major Warden suggested that the bridge should be destroyed and orders Shears to do so, even after knowing that Shears is inexperienced. Warden kills Nicholson when Shears and Joyce decide they will try to save the passing train on the bridge. In Catch-22 Colonel Cathcart's personality and ideologies are dangerous to the men he commands. Cathcart constant demand for his men to commit to more than the required missions leads his men to abhor nationalist goals or the abstract principles that come with the concept. Cathcart's continued rise of missions required are for his own selfish reasons, he does this to gain a higher rank in the army hoping to impress his superiors. Nicholson and Catchcart both made choices without thinking of the terror and apprehension faced by those they command.

Men lay down their lives for some vague notion of country and no one questions it. Bureaucracy is accepted by young soldiers, being the reason why the military is able to give out whatever orders they please. Catch-22 is a satire on the brutal insanity of war. "Catch-22" is an illogical or paradoxical situation which follows infinite circles of nonsense. Through regard to Catch-22, sane became arguable. In the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, the idea of insanity roots from the need of wanting to make a permanent mark during the war. Nicholson's twisted logic as to why his men should do the best job possible in building the bridge is because of his pride and ego. He intended the bridge to be his legacy. This is an example of when insanity prevails over pride. The want to triumph, made Nicholson and Cathcart act in extreme ways. The desire to succeed was not only to benefit their country but benefit them. After forced to destroy their creation, the final line of the film focuses on Major Clipton uttering, "Madness! Madness! Madness!"

Many acts of unreasoning occurred during World War II, and most of them are portrayed in the setting and through the characters. The film The Bridge on the River Kwai and the novel Catch-22 have concepts that reflect our own mentality in a time of insanity. The film and novel portray the military as a self-contradictory and oppressive force, taking away a soldier's individuality. Forcing soldiers and all of its participants to take the war on more of a personal level.