The name of the novel I read is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. This novel’s uniqueness makes it hard to classify but I would classify it as an anti-war novel. The main theme of the novel is one of hope and freedom from the barbaric grasp of war. Heller uses World War II as an almost invisible framework in which he places a number of vaguely related stories presented in no particular chronological order, although the final narrative does tie them all together. Catch-22 was written in a very comical style. It displays the foolishness of wars and the inherent violence and idiotic bureaucracy while eliminating the glory, honor and graphic depictions so often included in wartime novels. Heller uses loads of humor to convey his messages and while the main theme is obvious to the reader, there are many hidden and double meanings buried in the intriguing stories.
I selected this novel because it was highly recommended by a close friend and I definitely enjoyed it. Heller’s humor is what I liked most about the novel. The novel is guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone’s face and I absolutely loved the characters. On the other hand, I found his lack of timeline very frustrating and confusing. Some may consider this ingenious but there were parts of the novel when I was thoroughly puzzled as to who was dead or alive. In addition to this, the lack of a chronological order makes this novel insanely difficult to summarize. Other than that, I have no complaints about this book and even without the timeline it’s an ingenious work.
The novel begins with the main character, Yossarian, in a military hospital with a phony liver condition that is severe enough to take him out of combat but not severe enough to operate on. Soon after, a friendly Texan is brought into the ward and he is so overly nice and talkative that all the patients in the ward, including Yossarian, recover from their various ailments and return to the war. After leaving the hospital, Yossarian talks to Doc Daneeka who informs him that the number of missions required to be relieved of service has been raised yet again by Colonel Cathcart to 50 from 45 while Yossarian has only completed 40. Needless to say Yossarian is enraged. Doc Daneeka is also the first to explain Catch-22 to Yossarian. In order for a pilot to be grounded for insanity, he must ask to be grounded but any pilot who asks to be grounded is obviously sane. Yossarian is both impressed and confused so he takes Doc’s word for it.
Hungry Joe is a member of Yossarian’s squadron who is obsessed with naked women and suffers from terrible nightmares on the nights before he’s not supposed to fly. He’s flown six tours of duty but every time he’s due to be sent home, Colonel Cathcart raises the number of missions. Cathcart is also proud to volunteer his men for the most dangerous and risky missions. A member of Yossarian’s squadron helps explain how Catch-22 requires them to fly the extra missions Colonel Cathcart has ordered even though the Air Force regulations only require 40 missions.
Milo is an extremely powerful mess officer who controls the international black market and searches diligently for profit. He even manages to make profit by buying eggs for 7 cents and selling them for 5 cents, an economic concept that Yossarian can’t grasp.
Major Major Major is Yossarian’s squadron commander. He resembles Henry Fonda and his promotion to squadron commander causes him to lose all his friends and sets him in a deep depression where he decides that he can only be seen when he is not in his office.
Captain Black, yet another member of Yossarian’s squadron, is very pleased that Colonel Cathcart has volunteered them for the outrageously dangerous mission of bombing Bologna. But before the mission, it rains endlessly postponing the bombing. But when the rain stops, Yossarian moves the bomb line on the map to indicate that Bologna has already been captured. While this confuses everyone for a while, the truth is finally discovered and they are forced to bomb Bologna. Yossarian is so terrified of bombing the city that during the mission he fakes an intercom