CATCH-22Joseph Heller

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"One of the most bitterly funny works in the language... explosive, bitter, subversive, brilliant."

- The New Republic

"A monumental artifact of contemporary American literature, almost as assured of longevity as the statues on Easter Island... Catch-22 is a novel that reminds us

once again of all that we have taken for granted in our world and should not, the madness we try not to bother and notice, the deceptions and falsehoods we lack

the will to try to distinguish from truth."

- The New York Times Book Review

"A wild, moving, shocking, hilarious, raging, exhilarating, giant roller-coaster of a book."

- Herald Tribune

"The best novel to come out of anywhere in years."

- The Nation

"A dazzling performance that will outrage nearly as many readers as it delights."

- The Times

Yossarian, an American bombadier during the latter half of WWII, struggles with the reality of death. To make things worse, the bureaucratic system (military) disregards any sentiments or opinions of the soldiers leaving them in a constant state of fear and confusion. All Yossarian wants is to go home, but, in order to do so, he must complete flying his required number of missions; however, his commanding officer, Colonel Cathcart, is always increasing the number of missions required to fly. Yossarian soon becomes furious that he has no control over his destiny leading him to make drastic decisions and finding himself in ridiculous situations. Throughout the novel, little side-stories unfold bringing the reader into the lives of Yossarian's colleagues and exposing the bureaucracy for its unpredictable, absurd nature.

Yossarian -
Main character and protagonist. Captian in the Air Force and lead bombadier.Thinks everyone is out to kill him and hates the war for that reason. Frusterated that he has no say in his destiny.
Milo Minderbinder -
Mess hall officer. The founder of the international black market chain, M&M Enterprises, INC.
Doc Daneeka -
Squadron's medic. Pitys himself because he had to quit his lucrative private medical practice to go off to war.
The Chaplain -
Squadron's chaplain. Feels that everyone hates him and that he has no friends. Sort of a pathetic man. By the end of the novel he doesn't even believe in God despite being a chaplain.
Colonel Cathcart -
The commanding officer of Yossarian's squadron. He is very stupid and self concious. He is always trying to make a name for himself and become famous.
Nately -
Young man in Yossarian's squadron. He falls in love with a whore in Rome.
Dunbar -
A friend of Yossarian. Sympathizes with Yossarian because he openly talks about the war.
Major Major Major Major -
Depressed, lonely man. Everybody shows contempt towards him when he is promoted.
Mayor ------- de Coverly -
Mysterious, scary man. He is the executive commanding officer of the squadron. Always seems to get credit for capturing towns even though he never does any work.
Orr -
An annoying, buffoon who shares a tent with Yossarian. Always fixing things and always getting his plane shot down but manages to survive.
Lietenant Colonel Korn -
Colonel Cathcart's lacky
General Dreedle -
Arch-enemies with General Peckem. He is old and grumpy.
Nurse Duckett -
Yossarian's girlfriend near the end of the novel. She works in the hospital.
Lieutenant Scheisskopf -
Everyone hates him because of the parades he is always conducting
Snowden -
His death is the climax of the novel and causes Yossarian great despair. He opens Yossarian's eyes to horror and death of war.
General Peckem -
Wants to take General Dreedle's position.

"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he would have to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
'That’s some catch, that Catch-22,' he observed.
'It’s the best there is,' Doc Daneeka agreed" (Heller 46).

"'Catch-22,' the old woman repeated, rocking her head up and down. 'Catch-22. Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.'" (Heller 407).

"Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all" (Heller 440).

During the latter half of World War II (1940-1950's). As a bombadier, Yossarian bombs Axis occupied trade routes, supply depots, and buildings.

Late 1940's. Most of the story takes place on the island of Pianosa in Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy. When Yossarian and his friends go on rest leaves, they go to Rome.


"Joseph Heller was born May 1, 1923 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Russian immigrants. He grew up on the streets and is believed to have picked up his dark, smart-aleck humor by Coney Island. Heller admitted that his childhood consisted of little to no literature excluding the Illiad by Homer. After graduating high school, Heller went into the Army Air Corps. He was stationed on the island of Corsica and flew 60 combat missions. After he was dispatched from the military, he married Shirley Held. He continued his education at New York University earning a bachelor's degree in English, then attended Colombia University getting a master's degree, and finally attended Oxford University as a Fullbright Scholar. He then was an English instructor at Penn State University. After that he began working as an advertising copywriter for numerous magazines. After the release and success of Catch-22 he solely worked on writing fiction and plays. In the 1980s Heller was diagnosed with a rare nerve disease. He recovered from it, but, in December of 1999, he died of a heart attack.





1. Why did all of the men leave the hospital?

2. Why did Yossarian go to the hospital?

3. What is Catch-22?

4. What is the symbolism for deja vu?

5. Why does Yossarian tear up Luciana's information?

6. Why does the military police interrogate the chaplain and what do they accuse him of doing?

7. What happens to Orr?

8. What happens to Snowden?

9. What acts as the techinical climax of the book?

10. Where does Yossarian run away to?


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