Catch 22
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Catch-22. By Joseph Heller . Joseph Heller. Born May 1, 1923 in Brooklyn, NY to 2 very poor Jewish parents In 1942 at the age of 19 he joined the US Army Air Corps 2 years later he was sent to the Italian Front where he flew 60 missions as a B-25 bombardier

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Catch 22


By Joseph Heller

Joseph heller
Joseph Heller

  • Born May 1, 1923 in Brooklyn, NY to 2 very poor Jewish parents

  • In 1942 at the age of 19 he joined the US Army Air Corps

  • 2 years later he was sent to the Italian Front where he flew 60 missions as a B-25 bombardier

  • After returning from the war he studied English at NYU and received his masters from Columbia University

  • He began teaching composition at Penn State and later taught fiction and dramatic writing at Yale

  • He married Shirley Held in 1945 and they had 2 children

  • He wrote several satirical novels, short stories and plays

  • In 1981 he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome which would leave him temporarily paralyzed

  • In 1984 he made a significant recovery and divorced his wife

  • He remarried to a nurse who aided him in his recovery

  • He died of a heart attack on December 12, 1999 in East Hampton, NY

Context setting
Context & Setting

  • Catch-22 was written during the 1950's in the years following the end of WWII, but is set during the final couple years of the war

  • The tone of the novel takes on an anti-war sentiment even though WWII was popular among Americans

  • Set on the island of Pianosa on an American Air Force Base which is a few miles away from where Heller was stationed during the war

  • The 50s was a decade of repression in the United States

  • McCarthyism: paranoia, loyalty oaths and Americans' willingness to believe anything

  • Questioning of authority

  • the book became more popular and relatable during the Vietnam War, which most Americans opposed

John yossarian
John Yossarian

  • 28 year old bombardier

  • Captain in the Fighting 256th Squadron

  • anti-heroic

  • was once very brave

  • isolated from the rest of the squadron

  • paranoid

  • a little bit crazy

  • rebellious

  • very intense PTSD

  • freethinker

Milo minderbinder
Milo Minderbinder

  • greedy

  • talented businessman

  • bends the rules for his own benefit

  • seems like a nice guy but he cuts some pretty shady deals

  • represents the corruption of capitalism and mankind's love of money

Colonel cathcart
Colonel Cathcart

  • indecisive

  • irrational

  • incompetent

  • continues raising the number of missions required

  • wants to be a general

  • dishonest

  • dehumanizes his men

  • corrupt

  • represents everything wrong with American bureaucracy

Minor characters
Minor Characters

  • Doc Daneeka: The hypochondriac doctor who feels extremely sorry for himself and no one else. He doesn't listen to anyone's problems and he explains to Yossarian what a "catch-22" is.

  • The Chaplain: He is a loyal friend to Yossarian, and is always willing to go to bat for him with the higher-ups. His faith in God weakens as the novel progresses.

  • Nately: A light-hearted 19 year old kid who falls in love with a prostitute in Rome. His death greatly changes Yossarian.

  • Major Major Major Major: He is painfully mediocre and super awkward. His promotions distance him from the others in the squadron and promote his loneliness. People tend to avoid him

  • Orr: Yossarian's roommate. He purposefully crash lands his planes on every single mission but still manages to survive. He eventually escapes to Sweden.

  • The Soldier in White: A mysterious, unknown man. He represents the dehumanization within the war.

  • Snowden: His death shattered Yossarian's courage and belief in the war. He died in Yossarian's arms and his death is brought up several times throughout the novel.

Catch 22

  • Yossarian believes everyone is trying to kill him so he fakes a liver condition to stay in the hospital, but eventually checks out because he hates the really nice Texan.

  • Nearly all the men stationed on the island want to go home, but Colonel Cathcart keeps raising the number of missions necessary to go home.

  • Yossarian tries to get Doc Daneeka to ground him on the basis of insanity, but Doc Daneeka cannot ground him according to Army regulation Catch-22. If he was insane he would willingly fly missions, and the only way Doc Daneeka can ground him is if he asks for it, but asking for it proves he is sane based on the fact that he is concerned with his personal safety. Yossarian is stuck flying meaningless missions.

  • Yossarian gets creative and does everything he can to avoid flying missions.

  • Yossarian is repeatedly haunted by Snowden's death and brings it up constantly.

  • Meanwhile, Nately falls in love with a prostitute in Rome and eventually convinces her to return the feelings, but he is killed on his very next mission.

  • Nately's lover tries to kill Yossarian every time she sees him because she thinks he is somehow responsible for Nately's death.

Still plotting
...Still Plotting

  • A second subplot is created involving Milo and his shady business deals.

  • Milo runs a syndicate in which he uses military pilots and planes to fly goods all around the world, promising everyone involved a "share in the profit".

  • Eventually Milo's greed reaches a climax when he makes a deal with the Germans (DUN DUN DUN) and bombs his own squadron killing or injuring several of his own men.

  • Back to Yossarian...he is pretty upset about Nately's death and he flat out refuses to fly anymore missions.

  • Yossarian wanders around Rome and witnesses plenty of terrible things on the streets of the city before being arrested for not having a pass.

  • Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn offer him a deal: he can receive an honorable discharge and show support for their new policy which requires all the men to fly 80 missions OR he can face a court-martial and get in huge amounts of trouble

  • Yossarian finally gets over his self-serving attitude and realizes that by accepting the offer he would needlessly be endangering the lives of the other men.

  • Yossarian says no way to that Catch-22 and makes a run for Sweden, where he has heard Orr has escaped to as well.

Motifs themes
Motifs & Themes

  • Absolute power of a bureaucracy

  • Inevitability of death

  • Greed

  • Catch-22

  • The number of missions

  • Washington Irving

Literary rhetorical devices
Literary/Rhetorical Devices

  • Symbolism: chocolate covered cotton alludes to a lack of substance

  • Setting: Pianosa is too small, the air, the sea

  • Repetition of words, catchphrases and various events

  • Tone

  • Plot