Catch-22, Author Joseph Heller
Many people probably had to read Catch-22 for school at some point. Somehow, I was never assigned it for any literature class. I am so glad that I waited until adulthood to try reading this classic. It’s mandatory that you understand how absolutely foolish bureaucracy can be before you are able to enjoy this book and that’s something that only comes with fumbling through adulting.
This classic was adapted into a miniseries directed by George Clooney. Due to the episodic nature of the storytelling a miniseries seems much better suited for the material than a feature length film. If you’ve seen it, let me know in the comments how it compares.
The protagonist Yossarian is in the military during war time. He has figured out that he can spend the bulk of his time faking sick in the hospital ward and that this is the best way to ride out the war. Some may call him a slacker or a coward, he would agree.
“It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead.”Joseph Heller, Catch-22
It’s interesting to see a military novel about characters who are not nationalists or pro military in any way. These men are there against their will, disillusioned with the fantasy of wartime pride, or only there to avoid responsibilities back home. These are the characters whose stories get hidden behind propaganda. It’s important to remember that although some people do volunteer their service, during war time many others are forced by threat of prison.
The titular Catch-22 in Catch-22 is basically that a soldier can be sent home if they’re deemed crazy. They’d have to be crazy to want to keep flying planes in war. But if they’re sane enough to know flying planes in war is crazy they’re sane enough to keep flying planes in war. It’s a real conundrum.
Some of the characters do legitimately enjoy the flying planes part of their job. It’s an adrenaline rush that compares to no other and they’d be crazy to want to give that up. But those of us who what to keep our feet on solid ground think they’re crazy for doing something so risky. It’s crazy all the way around.
The novel is told through individual stories, loosely connected in time and place. Chapters will focus on different characters and time bounces around with little context. This all serves to illustrate how redundant government life can be and how inconsequential the actual sequence of events can be.
The novel also plays a lot with language. Puns, plays on words, and deep sarcasm are common here. Characters are built from irony. It takes a dry wit to appreciate this book but if you can find the humor you’re in for a treat.
That is, until it hits you with an emotional bullet. The traumas of war are few and far between on these pages but when they appear they are direct and powerful. Death is handled in a very straight-forward manner and then it is revealed why it has to be.
Death is a part of war and those that have experienced more of it are going to handle it differently than someone who’s experiencing it for the first time. Catch-22 does not romanticize any “honorable” deaths or support martyrs. The goal is to live through it, nothing more.
This novel has earned its place among classics. It’s clever, profound, thought-provoking, laugh out loud funny, and unpredictable. Read it as an adult after you’ve had to deal with the consequences of a form being filled out incorrectly and how impossible it is to rectify that mistake.
5/5 planes ✈✈✈✈✈
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Essentially, a catch-22 is a paradox. In the book it states that a soldier can return home from war if he’s deemed crazy. A soldier would have to be crazy to want to fly planes in war. However, if they’re sane enough to know that flying a plane in war is crazy they are ruled sane. Thus the paradox. The soldiers want to go home but cannot.
The original reason for banning the novel was profanity and crass language. Additional complaints have been brought up of the women in the book all being prostitutes.
Catch-22 is 453 pages long