Catch 22

Joseph Heller satirizes, among other matters, red tape and bureaucracy in his first novel,

Catch-22. The novel concerns itself with a World War II bombardier named Yossarian
who suddenly realizes the danger of his position and tries various means to extricate
himself from further missions. Yossarian is driven crazy by the Germans, who keep
shooting at him when he drops bombs on them, and by his American superiors, who seem
less concerned about winning the war than they are about getting promoted.

Heller spent eight years writing Catch-22, is a former student at three universities--New

York, Columbia and Oxford--and a former teacher at Pennsylvania State College. From

1942 to 1945 he served as a combat bombardier in the Twelfth Air Force and was
stationed on the island of Corsica where he flew over 60 combat missions. That
experience provided the groundwork for this novel. (Way, 120) (Usborne)

The protagonist and hero of the novel is John Yossarian, a captain in the Air Force and a
lead bombardier in his squadron, but he hates the war. During the latter half of World War

II, Yossarian is stationed with his Air Force squadron on the island of Pianosa, near the

Italian coast and the Mediterranean Sea. (Heller) The squadron is thrown thoughtlessly
into brutal combat situations and bombing runs on which it is more important for them to
capture a good aerial photograph of an explosion than to destroy their target. Their
colonels continually raise the number of missions they are required to fly before being sent
home so that no one is ever sent home.

Heller\'s satire targets a variety of bureaucrats, the military-industrial complex, and the
business ethic and economic arrangements of American society. Humor rising out of the
crazy logic of modern warfare hits squarely on the mark. (Hicks 32). The following
passage demonstrates the humor and enlightens the reader about the book\'s title and the
major cause of

Yossarian\'s problems:

Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. Is Orr crazy?

He sure is, Doc Daneeka said.

Can you ground him?

I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That\'s part of the rule.

Then why doesn\'t he ask you to?

Because he\'s crazy, Doc Daneeka said. He has to be crazy to keep flying combat
missions after all the close calls he\'s had. Sure, I can ground him. But first he has to ask
me to.

That\'s all he has to do to be grounded?

That\'s all. Let him ask me.

And then you can ground him? Yossarian asked.

No. Then I can\'t ground him.

You mean there\'s a catch?

Sure there\'s a catch, Doc Daneeka replied. Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of
combat duty isn\'t really crazy.

Most of the supporting characters in Catch-22 are cardboard figures that are only
distinctive to the reader by their inane obsessions. Each lives with a particularly contorted
view of the war in which he believes that he can function in the world as he pleases and
that his dealings will achieve his objectives. (Kennard 83) The fantastically powerful mess
officer, Milo controls an international black market syndicate and is revered in obscure
corners all over the world. He ruthlessly chases after profit and bombs his own men as part
of a contract with Germany. Milo insists that everyone in the squadron will benefit from
being part of the syndicate, and that everyone has a share. The ambitious, unintelligent
colonel in charge of Yossarian\'s squadron, Colonel Cathcart, wants to be a general. He
tries to impress his superiors by bravely volunteering his men for dangerous combat duty
whenever he gets the chance. He continually raises the number of combat missions
required of the men before they can be sent home.

Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer, is the supreme champion of the profit
motive and free enterprise. He knows how to buy eggs for 7 cents and to sell them at a
profit for 5 cents. He contrives with Axis agents to bomb his own airfield when the

Germans make him a reasonable offer: cost plus 6 per cent. He does this because he
desperately needs more funds in his misguided quest to corner the Egyptian cotton market.

Milo\'s loyalties lay in general with capitalistic enterprise and specifically with M & M

Enterprises. He lives by the principle that what\'s good for the syndicate is good for the
country, despite the diametrically opposed arrangement of his position and his
philosophy. (Seltzer 298-99)

Colonel Cathcart tries to scheme his way ahead; he thinks of successful actions as
feathers in his cap and unsuccessful ones as black eyes. For example,