Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is a satirical novel by Joseph Heller. It critiques the absurdity of war and bureaucracy through the experiences of Captain John Yossarian, a bombardier in the US Army Air Corps during World War II. The novel is divided into 42 chapters, each with its own unique narrative structure and a non-chronological timeline. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, following Yossarian and his fellow airmen as they try to avoid flying dangerous missions over enemy territory.
The novel opens with Yossarian in the hospital, feigning illness to avoid flying. He soon realizes that he is trapped in a paradoxical situation created by the military bureaucracy. The titular "Catch-22" is a rule that states that a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous missions, but requesting to be removed from duty is evidence of sanity and therefore makes him ineligible to be relieved from duty.
Yossarian is not alone in his struggle to survive the war. He is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, each with their own quirks and personalities. One such character is Milo Minderbinder, a capitalist entrepreneur who becomes increasingly wealthy by trading goods and services with both the Germans and the Allies. Milo is a symbol of the greed and corruption that can arise in wartime, as people seek to profit from the misery of others.
As the novel progresses, Yossarian becomes increasingly disillusioned with the war and the military establishment. He begins to question the morality of his superiors and the logic of the war itself. He is not alone in his feelings of disillusionment - many of his fellow soldiers are also struggling to make sense of the war and their place in it.
The novel is full of absurd and humorous situations, such as the character of Major Major Major Major, who becomes the victim of his own name and is promoted to a position of power simply because of his title. The novel also features a number of recurring motifs, such as the phrase "everyone has a share" and the idea of circular logic.
As the war drags on, Yossarian becomes more and more desperate to avoid flying missions. He meets a young Italian girl named Nately's whore, with whom he falls in love. Their relationship is cut short by her untimely death, a tragic reminder of the toll that war takes on innocent civilians.
At the climax of the novel, Yossarian experiences a traumatic event that changes him forever. His friend and fellow airman, Snowden, dies in his arms after a mission gone awry. This event causes Yossarian to become even more disillusioned with the war and the military establishment. He begins to question the value of his own life and the lives of his fellow soldiers.
The novel ends with Yossarian deserting the army and fleeing to Sweden. This act symbolizes his rejection of the war and the Catch-22 system that has trapped him. It is a powerful statement about the human cost of war and the need for individuals to take a stand against injustice.
Overall, Catch-22 is a powerful critique of the absurdity of war and the dehumanizing effects of bureaucracy. Through its nonlinear narrative structure and satirical tone, the novel exposes the illogical and contradictory nature of military logic and the toll it takes on the soldiers who are forced to carry it out. It is a work of literature that has resonated with readers for decades, and continues to be relevant today.