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Catch 22 is a satirical novel written by Joseph Heller. It is a story about American army pilots on an island near Italy in the end of World War II in 1944.
Catch 22 is a story about how the main character John Yossarian wants to get out of the army and how he tries to act insane so he can be declared unfit to fly any more missions. It is a satirical antiwar novel. It was considered very unusual and was critisised by reviewers when it was first published in 1961. It contains “black humour” because it makes fun out of the horror of war and shows how stupid some of the rules of the army are. Heller uses an unusual mix of satire, surrealism and mixes up the time line of the story with flash backs to earlier parts of the main character Yossarian’s story. The purpose of the satire in this novel is to make an anti-war statement, show how stupid some of the bureaucratic rules of the army are, to show how people can use their power to control others and also to question the meaning of insanity.
John Heller was an army pilot in real life and based his story and characters on real experiences and people. He saw the real horrors of the war and shows this in his novel. An example of how he uses satire to make an anti-war statement is in Chapter 17 “The Soldier In White” where he compares dying in style in a hospital to dying a horrible death in the war. He uses a descriptive narrative style and shows pathos in this quote :
“People give up the ghost with delicacy and taste inside the hospital. There was none of that crude, ugly ostentation about dying that was so common outside the hospital. They did not blow up in mid air like Kraft or the dead man in Yossarian’s tent, or freeze to death in the blazing summer time the way Snowden had frozen to death after spilling his secret to Yossarian in the back of the plane. “I’m cold, Snowden had whimpered. I’m cold.” “There, there”, Yossarian had tried to comfort him. There, there.” They didn’t take it on the lamb weirdly inside a cloud the way Clevinger had done. They didn’t explode into blood and clotted matter.”
In chapter 40 “Catch 22” Heller is satirizing how people in power can use their power to control others.
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“Yossarian snorted. Stop bluffing, Colonel. You can’t court martial me for desertion in the face of the enemy. It would make you look bad and you probably couldn’t get a conviction.” “But we can court martial you now for desertion from duty, since you went to Rome without a pass. And we could make it stick. If you think about it a minute, you’ll see that you leave us no alternative. We can’t simply let you keep walking around in open insubordination without punishing you. All the other men would stop flying missions, too. No, you have my word for it. We will court martial you if you turn our deal down, even though it would raise a lot of questions and be a terrible black eye for Colonel Cathcart.”
In Chapter 6 “Hungry Joe” Heller uses satire to show how stupid some of the bureaucratic rules of the army are and explains what Catch 22 is. In this chapter John Yossarian finds out from ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen that Colonel Cathcart increases the numbers of flight missions they have to do before they can go home even though Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters only requires forty combat missions. Headquarters also demands that soldiers obey orders even if their commanding officer is corrupt. That’s Catch 22 as explained in this quote which uses parody to show how stupid the situation is and hyperbole to show Yossarian’s response when he is told about Catch 22:
“Daneeka was telling the truth” ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen admitted. Forty missions is all you have to fly as far as Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters is concerned. Yossarian was jubilant. “Then I can go home, right? I’ve got 48.” “No, you can’t go home” ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen corrected him. “Are you crazy or something?” “Why not?” “Catch 22.” “Catch 22?” Yossarian was stunned. “What the hell has Catch 22 got to do with it?” “Catch 22, Doc Daneeka answered patiently, when Hungry Joe had flown Yossarian back to Pianosa, “says you’ve always got to do what your commanding officer tells you to”. “But Twenty-seventh Air Force says I can go home with 40 missions.” “But they don’t say you have to home. And regulations do say you have to obey every order. That’s the catch. Even if the Colonel were disobeying a Twenty-seventh Air Force order by making you fly more missions, you’d still have to fly them, or you’d be guilty of disobeying an order of his.”
The main theme of this book is that Catch 22 is any situation that catches someone up in a law that has no logic and goes around in a circular reason. For example if Yossarian asks to be let out of his duties, he must be sane because only a crazy man would want to continue to fly missions. The only way Dr Daneeka can declare him insane and not fit to fly, according to Catch 22, is if he asks to be grounded, which would show he was sane. It goes around in a cycle that he can’t get out of. Another example of Catch 22 is a law that it is illegal to read – but you have to read to know the law. This is an example of the irony in the book.
The idea of this "Catch 22" is a metaphor for the absurdity of war and the military bureaucracy. In the end Yossarian chooses to ignore Catch 22 and save himself from the war by escaping to Sweden.