Character Analysis
Captain John Yossarian is the main character of Joseph Heller’s 1961 satirical war novel, Catch-22. He’s a bombardier in the Army Air Corp’s 256th bomber squadron and he suffers from an intense fear of death. Catch-22 is a mysterious regulation that traps its victims in a web of circular reason. Basically, if there’s a rule then there’s always an exception to it. For instance, Catch-22 says that no one is allowed to read Catch-22. It always creates circumstances where, when things look fine, Catch-22 appears and ruins everything. Catch-22 keeps Yossarian in the war because his Colonel continues raising the number of missions he has to fly before he can be rotated Stateside. From the beginning of the book, Yossarian stands out as beeing different from the others, he doesn’t care about the war, and he’s not interested in risking his life. In addition, his contemporaries think he’s insane and they do not understand why he believes that people are trying to kill him.

Yossarian is both a member of his squadron and alienated by it (Sparknotes). Throughout the novel he carries with him the badge of being different. Though he lives and flies with his fellow airmen, he is constantly identified as an outsider. His Assyrian name strikes people as out of the ordinary because no one’s ever heard of it before. For instance, the egomaniacal Colonel Cathcart becomes distressed every time he hears the name. Heller writes:
Yossarian─ the very sight of the name made him shudder. There were so many esses in it. It just had to be subversive. It was like the word subversive itself. It was like seditious and insidious too, and like socialist, suspicious, fascist and Communist. It was an odious, alien, distasteful name (220).
Adding to Yossarian’s difference is the fact that he just doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about the war, or the enemy, or his “duty,” or parades. When he becomes fed up with the war, he simply invents a medical problem such as liver pain, or “seeing everything twice,” and retreats into the hospital. He says that, “All he was expected to do in the hospital was to die or get better, and since he was perfectly all right to begin with, getting better was easy. (175)” As a result, he spends as much of the war as possible in the hospital. On bombing runs, Yossarian is so petrified by flack, antiaircraft guns, and exploding planes that he devotes all of his attention and energy to avoiding the danger. He’s known for making his pilot fly in wild banking, diving, climbing, and rolling maneuvers in order to avoid enemy fire. Heller writes, “Yossarian did not give a damn whether he hit the target or not … just as long as they never had to go back” (130). When his pilot asks, “Yossarian, did the bombs hit the target?” Heller writes, “What bombs?” “Answered Yossarian, whose only concern had been the flak” (367).

Yossarian does not risk his life to save others. He says, “I used to get a big kick out of saving people’s lives. Now I wonder what the hell’s the point, since they all have to die anyway” (89) Through the whole novel his primary goal is to avoid risking his life whenever possible. The system of values around Yossarian is so skewed that this approach seems to be the only truly moral stance he can take, if only because it is so
logical. Because Catch-22 makes life so irrational, and asks people to risk their lives for reasons that are utterly unimportant, like “bomb patterns,” Yossarian seizes the one truly logical idea, that he should try to preserve life, his own life (Sparknotes).

Additionally, everyone thinks Yossarian is insane. Catch-22 keeps Yossarian in the war because concern for one’s own life proves that he is not really crazy, and to get out of combat a person has to be crazy. When Yossarian is wounded in the leg and interviewed by a psychiatrist, the psychiatrist believes Yossarian to be crazy because the official medical records list him as a soldier named “A. Fortiori,” who is in the hospital for a stone in his salivary gland. When Yossarian insists that he is himself and that he has an injured leg, the psychiatrist disagrees, because paperwork