Humour is employed in a variety of ways in Catch-22 and Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Heller and De Bernieres uses the same background theme; However, though contrasts are apparent in their portrayal of war, their use of humour is employed differently also. In Catch-22, the humour is interwoven throughout the majority of the novel and is mainly the instrument of satire. In Captain Corelli's Mandolin, humour is used mainly to defuse situations of their threatening implications, providing the reader with breathing space when needed between certain events. Their main differences are clear in terms of usage of humour and theme, though at times the two novels share various methods of portrayal and subsequently need to be compared. .
Catch-22's humour is best described as comically unstable. This also defines the entire style in which the novel is written, including the plots and the characters - especially the protagonist, Yossarian. Throughout the novel, Yossarian's logic represents an effort to detach himself from mass purposes, to rationalise his own survival. He argues and then questions assumptions of patriotic purpose, and his joking could be seen as a protective device and for recognising (his near) death, staving it off briefly by defusing a situation of it's sinister implications, to maintain self preservation. His joke about the German Lepage gun which glues formations of plans together temporarily injects comedy into the general fear of bombing Bologna. .
Yossarian believes and imagines himself at the focus of a massive conspiracy in a comically exaggerated form of paranoia. This seems ludicrous to the reader at first, but this thesis of Yossarian's is repeatedly being confirmed by the facts. The bombing of their own air base by Milo, Natley's whore attempting to murder Yossarian for bringing bad news, and his conversation in chapter 2 with Clevinger:.
"They"re trying to kill me.