Book Report on Catch-22

This essay has a total of 1137 words and 5 pages.


In Catch-22, Joseph Heller reveals the perversions of the human character and society.
Using various themes and a unique style and structure, Heller satirizes war and its values
as well as using the war setting to satirize society at large. By manipulating the
"classic" war setting and language of the novel Heller is able to depict society as dark
and twisted. Heller demonstrates his depiction of society through the institution of war
(i.e. it's effects and problems during and after war). In the novel, the loss of
individuality through the lives of the soldiers; the insanity of war and Heller's solution
to insanity; and the idea of "there is always a catch" in life is shown to a dramatic
extent. Heller's novel not only satirizes war, but all of society.

Catch-22 shows how the individual soldier loses his uniqueness not as much from the
battlefield like other novels set during a war, but from the bureaucratic mentality. An
example of this Lt. Scheisskopf's obsession with parades that he sees the men more as
puppets than as human beings. At one point in the novel, he even wants to wire them
together so their movements will be perfectly precise--just as mindless puppets would be.
This theme also appears when Colonel Cathcart keeps increasing the number of missions his
squadron must fly--not for military purposes, but to solely enhance his prestige. One
other example of this theme is in the novel, when Yossarian is wounded. He is told to take
better care of his leg because it is government property. Soldiers, therefore, are not
even people, but simply property that can be listed on an inventory. In a bureaucracy, as
Heller shows, individuality does not matter.

Most war novels show that such things as lying, killing, adultery, and stealing are
permissible if the ultimate goal is just--Catch-22 demonstrates this idea. For example,
the men pleasure themselves with prostitutes in an apartment provided by the army. Also,
one of the men steals life-raft supplies to trade. Despite the suppression of these
important values, those such as honor and patriotism are also suppressed in the novel. The
men fight for "what they had been told" was their country, but it's really only to make
their officers look good. The officers at one point tell Yossarian that they are his
"country". Here again, Heller shows the failures of a bureaucracy--how no values remain.

Whenever the men think they have found a solution to a problem, a catch defeats them. The
men are grounded if they are insane, but if they recognize the insanity of their missions,
they are sane--and must fly more missions. These men are trapped in a crazy world--each
searching for his own solution. Each of them has their own unique and bizarre personal
insanity (e.g. The bombardier, Havermeyer, zeroes straight in on targets, no matter how
much antiaircraft fire peppers his plane. Other members of the squadron seem even crazier.
Continues for 3 more pages >>