Joseph Heller

Catch-22 (1961)

Joseph Heller (1923-1999)

      Born in Brooklyn.

      Served as Air Force bombardier in WWII.

      Wrote Catch-22 while working at a New York City marketing firm.

      Died of a heart attack.

 

Catch-22 (1961)

ďA concern for oneís own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didnít, but if he was sane he would have to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didnít have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.Ē

      Yossarian, a bombardier in WWII is dissatisfied with a war that seems to cause him nightmares, and disappointed in his friends who fail to see the war for the inhuman act it is and insist on valorizing it.

      He tries to escape war by faking fakes many illnesses until he realizes that insanity is the only way to be discharged from the military.

      Now the catch-22 is that by claiming to be insane, Yossarian has proven to be sane as only a sane person would claim insanity to avoid war. (Thus catch-22 refers to any paradoxical reasoning that catches the victim in its illogic and serves the law makers)

      Arrested for walking the street of Rome without a permit, Yossarian is told he can escape a court-martial and allowed to go home on an honorable discharge if he shows support for a policy that increases the number of flights each squadron takes.

      Tempted by the offer, Yossarian refuses to endanger other menís lives so chooses to desert the army, this rejecting the rule of Catch-22 and choosing to control his own life.

 

More

      Anti-romantic war novel that uses humor to convey the insanity of war.

      Representative of the revolutionary spirit of the 60s and 70s as it questions authority (Hippies, civil rights movement, university protests), replacing visions of glory and honor with a nightmarish comedy of violence, bureaucracy and madness. (Accepted after the Vietnam war, but still a shock around WWII)

      The power of bureaucracy is criticized as an impersonal control over menís lives and one that refuses to listen to reason.