Catch-22 Study Guide

Catch-22 Study Guide

Original title:
September 4th 2004 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1961)
Pianosa, 1944 (Italy)
ISBN 0684833395 (ISBN13: 9780684833392)

Joseph Heller wrote his satirical “Catch-22” novel in 1961 under a very loyal and democratic President Kennedy leadership. Other ways it’s hard to imagine such a critical piece being published under the governance of Truman or Eisenhower. 

The plot is centered around the protagonist Captain John Yossarian during the Second World War. Location is at one of the American Air Forces base stationed in Italy. 

The chronological order of the novel is broken into different flashbacks and relived memories. A neutral person who never reveals himself tells the story, neither does he introduce his feelings or judgments. All these tools used by the author created an impression of the physical presence of the reader on the scene and adds to reader’s confusion and gravity of the situation.

Despite the setting of the book, the descriptions of the events happening around airmen are very funny. The officers who weren’t fit to fly due to their mental condition weren’t obliged to do so. Yet, if they applied to be excused from flying, that would mean exhibiting appropriate concern for the safety of the mission, which goes in line with being sane and fit for flying…. 

In the midst of this chaos, the soldiers take the liberty to insubordination, inappropriate relationships, sabotage, theft, negligence, leaving the base at their own wish. And all this goes without any punishment. Maybe that was the army democracy in the making? 

“Catch-22” is no glamorous Hollywood action movie: fights here are frequent but drunk and clumsy, the names of characters are far from firm and heroic, the medals are awarded to naked soldiers and aviators are wishing to avoid dangerous missions instead of purposely facing death. 

At the very end, all of the pilots, bombardiers and other soldiers only have one aim – to survive the war and return home. But each and every one of them has their own ways of beguiling the time.

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