On
May 1, 1923, Joseph Heller was born on Coney Island to Isaac and Lena Heller,
two Jewish immigrants from Russia (Daugherty). Born into a family living in a
small apartment, Heller would continue to write numerous books including his
most notable novel, Catch-22. His experiences would shape his own style of writing
and influence those of future satirical writers. Heller’s dark and wise humor
was shaped by his own life and would be the defining factor in his form of
satire.

            Heller
lived on the upper floor in a small building on West Thirty-first Street with his
parents, his half-brother, Lee, and his half-sister, Sylvia (Daugherty). However,
his life would drastically change as his father died from surgery to treat a
stomach ulcer when Heller was just five years old (Nichols). After Isaac Heller’s
death, the Heller family began to struggle with poverty as Lena did not speak English
well and Lee, only 14 years old, became a surrogate father of the family
(Nichols). Lee’s self-contradiction after a long day’s work would intrigue
Joseph and become an early introduction to his own satirical nature (Daugherty).

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            In
1930, Heller entered first grade and was a “bundle of anxiety” (Daugherty) that
constantly checked his own physical features. From a young age, Heller’s
writing and imagination were praised by teachers and would only continue to
improve as he aged. In 1942, Heller would graduate as an honors student from
Abraham Lincoln High School and take a job at an insurance firm (Nichols).

However, he would soon leave his job to enlist in the Army Air Forces in 1942
(Daugherty).

            Two
years after enlisting, Heller was sent to Corsica where he flew sixty bombing
missions as a second lieutenant between May and October 1944. After flying
sixty missions, Heller left Corsica for Naples on January 3, 1945 and was then
shipped back to the States on January 28 (Daugherty). 

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