1961 – Although the novel is set in 1941 – 1943, and Heller does target the insanity and chaos of war, the text is more grounded in the early sixties and the movement for individual expression and anti establishment protest.
Novel – satiric
SETTING: Catch 22 takes place in Pianosa, an island off the coast of Italy in 1944. Heller mentions that the island is far too small to capture all the action of Catch 22, but it soon becomes apparent that Heller chose the island of Pianosa for a very specific reason. The fact that Pianosa is too small for all the action in the novel is one way of showing the nonsensical logic and isolation that war creates.
Since the characters also spend a large amount of their time in the air, it becomes a major part of the novel’s setting. The air, where all the bombing takes place, becomes a space for nonsensical logic, absurdity, and devastating tragedy. The air is even more of a hectic and nonsensical place than the ground of Pianosa because of all the deaths that occur in it throughout the novel.
Yossarian is the main protagonist in Heller’s Catch 22. He is a bombardier in the Army Air Forces where he is continually being put on more missions, rather than being sent home after flying the 25 initial missions he was supposed to fly. Yossarian believes that everyone is trying to kill him and his one goal is to stay alive. In order to do so, he constantly checks into the hospital with liver complaints. He has many interactions with Doc Daneeka who won’t send Yossarian home. He also defies authority, specifically Colonel Cathcart who is the reason he is being required to fly more and more missions. Colonel Cathcart is the one preventing him from going home and eventually Yossarian is made a deal that they will send him home if he will talk highly of the colonels and give them praise to the public. But after some thought, Yossarian refuses, knowing that he can not fall into the system that he has challenged so much and rallied against. He is against the idea of Catch-22 and disagrees with the demands of the army. Yossarian is friends with Orr, Nately, and Hungry Joe. When Nately is killed, Yossarian is the one to go tell Nately’s whore that he is dead and she tries to kill him by stalking him thereafter. Although he argued with Orr often, Orr was one of his closest friends and he was saddened when Orr went missing. Orr was constantly crashing planes so when he offered Yossarian the chance to fly with him, Yossarian refused. It wasn’t until he understood that Orr was still alive that Yossarian decided to run away and meet him in Sweden. Yossarian drank a lot and slept with many women to keep his mind off the war. Luciana is one of his lovers in the novel, but he is sure to rip the sheet with her address on it up right after their affair so that he could remain in a place of only having meaningless sex and no emotional ties, especially during his time at war. Yossarian is one of the only characters who shows remorse and grief when other characters die and he is extremely affected by Snowden, whose guts poured out all over Yossarian during his slow and cold death, later causing Yossarian to be caught naked sitting in a tree. Yossarian knows that the army views men as objects and names on a piece of paper and that is why he tries so desperately to avoid being killed. However, in his attempts for self-preservation Yossarian thinks about the rest of his squadron and is concerned for their well being, helping lead to his decision to reject the plan that Colonel Cathcart offers him to be “pals”.
Doc Daneeka is a squadron surgeon and a friend to Yossarian. He is famous for deprecating other soldiers' problems and wallowing in his own self pity. Doc Daneeka was just becoming successful as a doctor when he was called to war. Doc Daneeka fudges the documents on his flight numbers with the help of Yossarian so he doesn’t have to fly missions. He also is constantly checking his temperature hoping it will be skewed enough for him to avoid duty. Doc Daneeka's "death" is very significant. Since Yossarian avidly logs Doc Daneeka’s flying missions even though he does not fly them, his name appears on the flight log. When the pilot, McWatt, commits suicide, the flight log states that Doc Daneeka was on the plane when he really wasn't. Doc Daneeka is only dead on paper. Even when he demonstrates his liveliness, the men refuse to believe he wasn't in the plane when it crashes. This may signify the novel’s emphasis on the military importance of documents and records. Doc Daneeka's wife chooses to ignore the fact that he is alive and takes the money she would receive for his death. Even though Doc Daneeka does care for the men and contribute his skills as a doctor, he is quite cowardly and often acts with self-interest. He mostly just feels sorry for himself and tries to avoid the war around him.
Corporal Whitcomb Assistant to the Chaplain
Whitcomb believes that the Church should be expanded even though he does not believe in God or the Chaplain program. This conflict of interest furthers the idea that power hungry people staff the higher ranking military. Whitcomb also believes he is better qualified for the Chaplain's job because he has more drive to expand the Church. Due to this notion he is constantly annoyed and snippy with the Chaplain. Whitcomb of course being an officer misses the point of the church as a support system for the soldiers rather than a way to gain power. Whitcomb also plays a key role in getting the Chaplain in trouble by telling people that the Chaplain stole the plum tomato from Cathcart as well as telling people that the Chaplain has been forging his name as Washington Irving. Whitcomb does all this in the hopes that he will get the Chaplain's position. Whitcomb's significance in the book is to further exemplify the officers greed for power as well as emphasize the idea of responsibility. Due to Whitcomb accusing the Chaplain of forging the signatures as Washington Irving, an act actually done by Yossarian, the Chaplain gets in trouble.
Nately's whore: Throughout most of the novel, we perceive Nately’s whore in Rome as highly self-serving and conniving. She claims she loves Nately on occasion, but more often uses his affection for her to her own advantage. She often leads Nately on by doing things like falling asleep in his arms or professing her love, but then turns around and becomes furious at him the next instant for something he has said. Her fear of change makes her unwilling to give up her life of prostitution and makes her wary of accepting Nately’s love for her. While her life may be hard now as a prostitute, the new life Nately wants to create for her and her kid sister is unknown and therefore even scarier. However we ultimately find out that she really did love Nately the entire time. When Yossarian comes to tell her that Nately was killed in a mission she is furious and resolves to punish Yossarian, the bearer of bad news. She is distraught and decides she will kill Yossarian because she needs someone to blame for Nately’s death and she sees Yossarian as the most responsible for it. She makes multiple attempts to kill Yossarian, starting when he tells her the bad news. She attempts to kill him with a potato peeler and then after he gets help from the Red Cross, she is waiting to ambush him again. After that, she follows him everywhere despite all of Yossarian’s attempts to avoid her. After Yossarian makes his deal with Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn, she shows up once again and finally succeeds in stabbing Yossarian. Her appearance and success serve as a symbol of Yossarain’s betrayal of his friends in accepting the Colonels’ offer. We see this symbolism one last time when Yossarian is finally escaping and she tries to stab him again, however this time she is unsuccessful, proving that Yossarian’s decision to say no to the authority was the right decision and it was the decision that saved his life and the memory of his friends.
Character: Major Major Major Major (chapter 9)
A sad and lonely Henry Fonda look alike, Major Major has never been able to make personal connections. The truth of his father jokingly naming him Major Major make his childhood friends alienate him, which unfortunately becomes a reoccurring theme in his life. He continually disappoints everyone with his actions and choices, such as choosing to study English History, doing well in school, and doing what he is told; he is so disliked to the point where his teachers and advisors advance him as quickly as possible so they don’t have to deal with him. Just when he is shipped overseas and it seems as though he will finally make friends, Colonel Cathcart announces that Major Major Major (earlier appointed major by an I.B.M. machine) will replace the departed Major Duluth. This is told in front of a group of men whom Major Major was trying to become friends with during a game of basketball. The men then resent Major Major for his promotion to squadron commander, and stop talking and playing with him altogether. After his promotion, Major Major begins to eat alone in the mess hall at the insistence of Milo Minderbinder, and do tedious paperwork alone in his office all day. He reaches the point where he cannot bare the thought of interacting with anyone and orders his subordinates to never let anyone in to see him while he is in his office.
The extreme isolation Major Major feels and is put into conveys how trapped one can become in a bureaucracy because of it’s rules and the people who follow them. By our standards, Major Major hasn’t done anything wrong or awful, yet in the insane and backwards world that is Catch-22, he is ostracized by nearly everyone. This criticizes the same way our society quickly tears people down who are different. The purpose of Major Major’s unfortunate story is to shed light on how being conditioned by a system such as government or military can make you act and behave a certain way that when put into perspective, may not be morally right.
Milo Minderbinder is a very likable, and greedy capitalist. He consistently finds ways to make a profit through impossible means, buying items for more than he is selling them for and making a profit. Milo’s profit system put into place is made to confuse the reader and satirize the cryptic way that companies make and use their money. The profit that Milo earns goes towards the Syndicate, Milo’s economic share system, in which Milo always claims that everybody has a share in it. Milo’s official job in the military is a mess officer which leads him to start buying very good food for the squadron. Eventually Milo pursues other markets such as him purchasing all of the Egyptian cotton on the market so that he can monopolize the exchange of Egyptian cotton; this ends up being a failure and seeking a profit Milo tries to sell it in a variety of forms most notably chocolate covered cotton. Because of Milo’s successful economic choices he gains high positions of political power and popularity in various towns and cities becoming Mayor, Head Sheriff among other titles. Milo ends up betraying his country and duty for the sake of profit by organizing attacks on his squadron in exchange for money from the Germans. At the end of the book when Yossarian is trying to find Natelys Whore’s kid sister he asks Milo for help, Milo helps by getting Yossarian a flight to Rome, and tries to use his political influence to help Yossarian search for her, however when he goes to ask the Police for help the Policeman informs him that the market for illegal tobacco is very good and so Milo abandons Yossarian in order to go illegally smuggle tobacco. Milo ends up behaving solely on achieving profit and defies everything else that he should be responsible to.
Dunbar is one of Yossarian’s closest friends, faking injuries to avoid the war alongside Yossarian and sharing many of his personality traits. In addition, Dunbar also has the same awareness of the war going on around them, something that “no one else seemed to notice” (16). Dunbar is a very unique character through his odd and very contradictory philosophy on life. Dunbar, afraid of death, holds on to life dearly by trying his hardest to enjoy as little of it as he can, as he sees that being bored and miserable makes the time go by much slower, thus granting himself with more time of living. Despite this, Dunbar is a very fun-loving and upbeat character when he is not in this mindset, save for the final portion of the novel, in which his disposition becomes very dark and depressed. Towards the end of Catch-22, Yossarian and Dunbar’s relationship significantly dwindles, and Dunbar is eventually “disappeared” by the squadron.
Captain Aardvark, referred to as Aarfy, is the “nice-guy” of the squadron; affable, generous, and forgiving. He expects to work for Nately’s father when he returns from the war as a reward for so generously befriending Nately. Women are generally attracted to Aarfy and he boasts that he has never once paid for sex. But, in order to uphold this reputation, Aarfy rapes a maid and then kills her in a panic — all to avoid paying for a whore. This is not the first time we see rape and Aarfy in the same sentence. Earlier, Aarfy actually brags about his raping of two girls during his college years, reminiscing on the "good times". Aarfy is the lead navigator on Yossarian’s plane, yet always manages to get lost on combat missions, leading the men over areas of large amounts of flak. During one of these occurrences, Yossarian’s thigh is wounded. Yossarian continually shouts at Aarfy for help, but Aarfy strangely cannot seem to hear him. Although Aarfy is described with positive words, he shows that he has another side to him that does not add up to the “nice-guy” he is supposed to be.
The Chaplain is one of the very few characters in Catch 22 that could be called morally good. During the Times of war, the Chaplain is often very
troubled by the fact that his absent family may be running insufficiently without his presence, therefore, the chaplain is constantly creating scenarios in his head of all the ways his family could die without him. He cares a lot for his friends. He takes many risks to help Yossarian to the best of his abilities and he is very affected by Nately’s death. His one downfall is his tendency to lie, due to the fact he thinks that it is easier to tell the truth. He also lacks confidence and
doesn't believe he is meant to succeed in anything.
Orr is a bomber pilot who comes across as a light hearted funny character. Every time he goes up in a plane for a mission he always gets shot down and by strategically landing the aircraft he always manages to save himself and his team. His habitual crash landings suggests that Orr has a self destructive streak. Despite this Orr turns out to be a very ingenuous character who is the only one able to break the conundrum that is catch-22. Throughout the novel Orr tells Yossarian multiple times about the prostitute in Rome who hit him on the head causing him 12 days of not flying because he was concussed. Orr thought this injury would get him out of combat all together but however the head injury was not serious enough to send him home. Orr is Yossarian's tent mate and does whatever he can to make their living situation very homey and comfortable. At the end of the novel Yossarian finally figures out that Orr was planning his escape the whole entire time. By building the stove and other things he was practicing for when he left and also wanted Yossarian to still feel at home when he left. Every time Orr got shot down and crash landed somewhere he was practicing for his final plane ride. Orr studied maps to find out how to get to Switzerland which was the only neutral country during the war. He went there because he knew that he wouldn't have to be a part of the war anymore and he was free. Orr is the perfect representation of working around and through the system to get out of it. He was able to defy the bureaucracy and the hierarchy without anyone even realizing it.
Nately has a minor part. Nately is one of the younger men in Yossarian’s squadron and one of his co-pilots. He comes from a very wealthy family. While staying in an apartment in Rome, Nately falls in love with a whore. After a night full of sleep, Nately’s whore wakes up and realizes that she is in love with Nately. To Nately’s displeasure, Colonel Cathcart threatens to send Nately home without the whore unless he agrees to fly more missions. Nately is usually the one who is trying to keep Yossarian from getting in trouble. He is one of the good guys in the novel. Unfortunately he dies when Dobbs crashes into his plane midair during a mission. His death occurred right after he told Yossarian that he might actually survive after flying all of the missions.
ex-P.F.C Wintergreen: This minor character is introduced by Yossarian as a mail clerk who continuously goes AWOL back in the U.S. This constant urge to go absent without leave is what causes him to become ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, and he is constantly being demoted. His main goal in the novel is to humiliate General Peckem since he was the first one to demote Wintergreen. Wintergreen is able to intercept and forge documents which gives him an immense amount of power in the Air Force. Wintergreen is required to dig holes and fill them up repeatedly as punishment. Wintergreen is sent away to Pianosa when he hits a water pipe that sprays water everywhere but everyone thinks it is oil.
Snowden is not a prominent character in the novel; However, his death plays an important role in the story. Snowden, a fellow squad member of Yossarian, gets wounded in the back during an attempted mission that was lead by Yossarian. This was not a planned mission as it was only attempted because Yossarian did not feel good about the appointed mission and decided to try something else. So, Yossarian felt overwhelmingly guilty and Snowden's death became a recurring memory for him. Snowden's guts splatter all over Yossarian's uniform causing him to refuse to wear it because he feels responsible.
The soldier in white symbolizes a very important part of war. It shows how the bureaucracies/world powers/government/head of state do not care about soldiers. To them these people are just numbers on a page, they only care about results. Soldiers are expendable and easily replaced. The bandaged up soldier(soldier in white) shows this because when there is a different guy in the cast, to them its the same guy. They don't really have identity and nobody cares. For example they just switch the IV bag with the other bag. Its a very disgusting truth.
STYLE AND STRUCTURE:
Heller writes catch-22 in a non-chronological order deliberately to mimic the chaos of war and to create a surreal atmosphere that seems to be void of “logical and normal behavior”. The novel often changes characters or situations without an explanation and does not mention if it has gone forward or backward in time creating a sense of mystery for the reader. By using this writing technique and returning to certain events more than once Heller often highlights the episodes he wants the reader to take away from the book. No matter how scattered the novel is it is usually possible for the reader to know what part of the story is happening by locating the number of combat missions. The frustration and madness that the reader feels while trying to find out what’s happening in the novel gives the impression of what it is like to be Yossarian and serve under the incompetence of his commanding officers. As Yossarians friends die one by one the anti-war message is strongly imposed, as they are never mentioned again. Just as in reality, once someone dies there is no coming back. The most effective use of Heller’s non-chronological order is how Snowden is introduced. Although it is the most important event in the whole book it is only mentioned first in the 5th chapter and then lastly in the 41stchapter. He first treats the novel as a comedy and then as the novel progresses he leads to a more darkly reality of war. For the reader, the use of the non-chronological order creates a surreal world in which the characters live and ultimately shows the corruption and death war brings, even while putting in a bit of humor so the reader can enjoy the novel while understanding the realities of war.
Hierarchies: A large part of what Catch-22 is about, is the criticism of capitalism and its inherent hierarchical system. Heller satirizes the United States’s (and other nations’) tier systems that establish a line of power, claiming that under these establishments, the people are thrown into this game of king of the hill, climbing over one another to get to the top. Through characters such as Colonel Cathcart and his ridiculous decisions that put his men in danger in hopes of moving up in rank, Heller is able to satirize man’s abuse of power when put in an elevated position, also commenting on the greed that comes with obtaining this higher status (always wanting more). Heller then uses characters such as Hungry Joe (his PTSD that is continually recurring throughout the novel) and Yossarian (whose mental state deteriorates as the novel goes on) to highlight how this system of power plays affects the lives of the common man, ruining mentalities and killing the men at the bottom, the ones on the lowest tier do the most of amount of work and enduring the hardships that come with war. This hierarchical system that we have created in society, Heller essentially argues, is inherently evil in that it corrupts the state of man, turning them against each other (as seen with characters such as Milo) and turning life into a crawl for power. Heller then argues that the only power that we have in the novel is to say “no”.... but you’ll read that in another theme bullet point :).
In the novel Catch-22 Joseph Heller clearly satirizes the institution of capitalism through Milo Minderbinder’s cruel actions. Although he provides his men with the best food, he goes to ridiculous lengths to make a quick dollar, such as constantly betraying his men. He’s willing to feed them inedible chocolate-covered cotton, sells the morphine in the first-aid kits, and even gives away important military information to the Germans so that they can attack his own base! Heller uses these ridiculous actions to show how corrupt capitalism has become and how those who are put under its spell are willing to do anything to make even some money. Heller shows a side of Milo that is heartless and greedy, and opens the reader’s eyes each time his character goes to a different length to succeed in the market. By showing every negative aspect of capitalism into this one character, he is also showing how during wartime for a lot of businesses it’s all about making a profit. Heller shows that the capitalist side of war is a time to prosper and make money off of other people going off to risk their lives and fight. Soldiers are treated as objects, such as when Snowden is dying and Yossarian turns to the first-aid kit to at least stop the pain, he sees a note from Milo’s M&M Enterprises. Milo completely disregards the fact that his comrades are dying, and is low enough to sell the only thing that would have stopped Snowden’s pain for a profit. As one reads on, Milo’s actions become more and more corrupt and he begins to only serve himself. Heller’s satirical view on capitalism causes one to truly look at our society as a whole and to realize that even immoral crimes like Milo’s are committed everyday in our capitalist world.
In the novel the characters begin to question whether or not God is real. Yossarian and Scheisskopf's wife are both atheist and have a discussion about God. Neither of them believe in God, but they both have an idea about what they think he is like. She states that the God she does not believe in is just and loving. While Yossarian brings up the negative effects on war and points out that a truly good God would not allow these sufferings to occur. This conversation highlights how the characters in the novel want to believe in God and in goodness and hope, but they are frustrated with the realities of war. Because of Gods lack of involvement, Yossarian realizes he must make his own morals and decisions on what is right and wrong and live by it.
The actual concept of Catch-22 is a theme central to the novel. Catch-22 is a type of circular logic or situation in which an individual cannot escape because of some type of circumstance inherent to the problem or by a rule or regulation. In the novel, Catch-22 is first explained by Doc Daneeka and it becomes a reoccurring theme throughout. The first instance is when Yossarian asks Doc Daneeka if Orr can be stopped from flying any missions, or grounded, because he is crazy. Doc says he is crazy enough to be grounded but in order to do so he must make a request. However, only sane people can make requests, and Orr is crazy so therefore he cannot make a request. He has to be crazy in order to keep flying missions, but to make a request would make him sane. And if he sane he has to keep flying missions. Catch-22 explains the unfairness in bureaucracy. Those in higher positions make it impossible for anyone below them to escape their situation by creating rules that trap them,. Any time that Yossarian thinks he has found a way out of flying missions or out of the war completely, there is always a Catch-22. Yossarian eventually realizes that Catch-22 does not really exist and that is just a way for the strong to assert power over the weak.
Themes: Dealing with the Military
· Military people working in the war tend to care less about the reason they are fighting or who they are fighting with, and more about raising their rankings and gaining prestige among the people in higher power.
o Example to prove this: Colonel Cathcart is so obsessed with raising the number of missions to maintain his good reputation that he neglects the possibility of many of his men dying when flying the missions.
Themes: Dealing with the medical field of the military:
· The people who make up the medical field of the military can be less interested in their patients until they become just a name on a piece of paper.
o Example: The solider in white. He doesn’t have a name or a face and nobody even knows anything about him. Throughout the book, the bags on him are switched and nobody takes the time to actually find out what is wrong with him.
Bureaucracyin Catch-22 serves as a major theme throughout the book. From the beginning of the novel, Yossarian fights to be exempt from any more missions he may have to fly. Though he should be discharged long ago, the leaders of the squadron, Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn, increase the amount of missions one must fly continuously, making it so that no one goes home. In doing this, both men try to show their power to those below them, demonstrating that they are in charge, and whatever they say must go. Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn forget that they are dealing with other human beings, and disregard the men in the squadron's mental health and well being. They both ultimately want to move up in ranking, and will do whatever its takes to do so. Even after agreeing to discharge Yossarian from the war, they tell him that he must go back to the States and speak highly of them and their work. Despite acting almost evil at times, they still expect those under them to speak nicely about them for their benefit, solely because they are in charge. Both Cathcart and Korn are self-centered and selfish, not caring about anything but their ranking and power in the war and the eyes of the people.
Another theme in Catch-22 is the incompetence and negligence of the bureaucratic medical system. In the novel, health care is inadequate and soldiers die frequently due to medical malpractice and carelessness. The hospital should be a safe place for wounded soldiers, but the doctors and nurses fail to effectively treat many of their patients. One example is the soldier in white. None of the staff know a thing about him; not his name, his origin, or whether he is even alive anymore. The soldier in white is treated with the utmost indifference. When his waste pouch is full and his food pouch empty, the doctors simply switch the two. Additionally, the medical practitioners are highly insensitive about death. When a patient in the hospital dies and his family comes to visit, they approach Yossarian and ask him to pretend to be the dead man, Giuseppe, instead of telling the family the truth about their son. Yossarian is perfect for the job because any dying boy will do and everyone in the war is dying, explains a doctor. In this scene, Heller is satirizing the insensitive medical profession, which treats men like dispensable and interchangeable objects. One day, the hospital staff “disappear Dunbar” and he is never heard from again. Dunbar was neither ill nor wounded and the reader is lead to conclude that he is dead. Thus, the hospital is a place of mystery and deception, run by inconsiderate and careless practitioners who care more about titles than they do for their patients. A good example of such a doctor is Yossarian’s squadron medic, Doc Daneeka. Doc Daneeka is more concerned with his own problems than those of his patients and constantly laments, “Why me?” He is a healthy hypochondriac and never treats wounded soldiers because he sends them to his assistants, Gus and Wes. The pair is responsible for treating most of the injured soldiers on Doc Daneeka’s behalf, but seldom send men to the hospital. Gus and Wes have elevated medicine to an “exact science” because they only send men with temperatures higher than 102°to the hospital. Gus and Wes are the lowest practitioners in the novel’s medical hierarchy and represent the hoops and nonsensical regulations that one must face before he or she is granted with legitimate medical attention. Thus, through the health care in Catch-22, Heller is communicating that the medical system is an impersonal and corrupt bureaucracy filled with uncaring people who neglect the welfare of others for personal gain.
An important theme in Catch 22 is the idea of establishing and holding
onto what little power the individual has in an extremely power based
and hungry system that lacks the justice humanity deserves. Through
Yossarian’s continually standing up for himself and his beliefs by
just saying no to this corrupt system that he butts up against, the
reader is able to establish a connection to our own social systems
that we find ourselves battling. Giving people the reality that our
only power is to say no gives them the potential to make the best of
this reality and hopefully establish a world in which the individual
has the strength and empowerment to take a stand. This theme is one
that stays eminent throughout the whole novel and connects to a lot of
different actions that Yossarian takes. Such actions include when he
is sitting in the tree naked refusing to put his uniform on because
Snowden’s guts had been splattered all over them and in the end when
he refuses the deal offered to him by Colonel Cathcart and Corn
because really, that is his only power, to say no.
Heller’s portrayal of morality reveals a large amount about human nature and how war and our military platform warps morality or eradicates it in men altogether. The novel is littered with immoral generals and people in power down to the soldiers themselves, and Yossarian is faced with moral dilemmas very frequently. Nature itself has no sense of moral justice and consequently wartime results in a complete loss of moral standards.
Not only are the rules of society different from those of a non-military society, they are different from tent to tent, from person to person. There seems to be no standard for logical thinking, no universal moral compass.
Yossarian receives a medal for actions that get Kraft killed because his superiors do not want to admit his mistake. Major Major is promoted because of a computer error, and whenever he is to be promoted or demoted, Wintergreen intercepts the order and thwarts it. In the world of the text men are rewarded for wrongdoing and punished for being capable. Morality as well as downright justice here is not so much faulty as absurd and inverted.
Yossarian continues to struggle with morality throughout the entirety of the novel particularly at the end when he is faced with sacrificing his entire squadron for his own benefits. Heller demonstrates how vital morality is to human life and how in an environment where societal rules are lessened individuals often lose sight of their moral compass. When Yossarian chooses to turn down the offer of military benefits, freedom, and security in order to continue to stay true to his own morality, Heller’s true point is proven further. Yossarian’s morality, despite his confusing and absurd environment filled with morally clouded men, is still intact and he is able to make the decision to turn down the offer to save his fellow soldiers and stay loyal to his own values.
"Dear Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. and Mrs. Daneeka: Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father, or brother was killed, wounded, or reported missing in action."
This quote shows the lack of compassion and the overall detachment Colonel Cathcart has towards the soldiers.
Cathcart only cares about what will get him promoted; he increases missions, treats his soldiers poorly, and shows no remorse when they die on his commands. But as long as he is promoted he doesn't see a problem in that. His lack of empathy represents corrupt authoritative figures in the military and how they do not mind being responsible for the deaths of many men as long as they are somehow benefiting from it. Authority and authoritative figures are selfish and greedy and will do whatever it takes to be promoted; they don't care about the feelings or lives of anyone but themselves.
Represents how soldiers are treated as pawns, and not as individuals.
The military doesn't care about the life of a man enough to send a personal letter, but rather would cut corners and do whatever is most convenient. The military doesn't care about individual people.
Shows the ridiculousness of paperwork in a bureaucracy, and how paperwork runs everything.
Cathcart has a responsibility, as colonel, to communicate his men's deaths to their families
"This time Milo had gone too far. Bombing his own men and planes was more than even the most phlegmatic observer could stomach, and it looked like the end for him. He had contracted with the Germans to bomb Milo's own camp.… Milo was all washed up until he opened his books to the public and disclosed the tremendous profit he had made"(259).
Milo, bombing his own squadron and camp, shows how far Milo will go to fulfill his lust of money and ultimately, his ambitious desire to become powerful. It also shows how Milo has absolutely no regard of human life or morality and will do anything it takes to make a profit. Afterwards,Milo is forgiven for bombing the camp after he shows the hefty profit he had made and how everyone has "a share at M&M Enterpries".Heller implements the character of Milo to point out how easily one can be corrupted with greed and lose their morality by being enticed with money.
“When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don't see heaven or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every human tragedy” (445).
Yossarian, lying in a hospital bed after being attacked by Nately’s Whore, discusses with Major Danby that he no longer wants to fulfill the agreement he has made with Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn. Realizing that this deal goes against his better judgment, Yossarian rejects an offer to go home in order to preserve his moral integrity and ideals. This quote exemplifies Yossarian’s refusal to buy into a system that is governed by fraudulent conduct, corruption, moral indiscretion, and greed. From Milo to Colonel Cathcart, Yossarian is constantly struggling to maintain his humanity and morality in the face of bureaucratic and power hungry military officials who are eager to gain recognition. Yossarian’s ability to see the good in humanity is obstructed by cynical military officials who are willing to sacrifice the well being of another for their personal benefit. Regardless of how small the incident may be, when faced with the opportunity to
gain authority, Yossarian recognizes that these military officials will exploit every opportunity they get.
“Havermeyer was a lead bombardier who never missed. Yossarian was a lead bombardier who had been demoted because he no longer gave a damn whether he missed or not. He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive.” (29)
In Chapter 3, we learn about Havermeyer. Havermeyer is arguably the best bombardier in Yossaraian’s formation. Yossarian had been told by Doc Daneeka to try and be like Havermeyer, one who does not complain and gets his job done. This quote explains how Yossarian could not care less about his job as a lead bombardier. All that Yossarian cares about is staying alive.
-“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.” (46)
This important quote from Chapter 5 of Catch-22 deals specifically with the idea of a Catch-22. This instance is the first time Catch-22 is mentioned. The idea behind this quote is Yossarian is trying to convince Doc Daneeka that he is crazy and should not be able to fly in combat. Doc Daneeka tells Yossarian that the reason he is completely sane is he actually cares about his wellbeing. Doc Daneeka even tells Yossarian that if he was actually crazy, he would have not asked to be grounded. The larger point this quote is trying to make is Yossarian is not insane, he is perfectly able to fly (according to Doc Daneeka).