Catch-22, By: Joseph Heller

Information about the Book

The book starts out with the main character Yossarian faking an illness to stay in a hospital so that he doesn’t have to return to fighting. Eventually Yossarian has to
return to his squadron where, in his mind, he faces immanent death. Yossarian's squadron is based on the island of Pianosa off the western coast of Italy. To his friends Yossarian is a pathetic soldier that only cares about his own life and his chances of survival, he has little concern for whether or not his bombs ever hit the target. Yossarin's commanding officers are overly ambitious and Yossarian hates them for it. They always accept the most dangerous missions so that they look better and have better chances of being promoted. Although the main plot in the book is that of Yossarian's fight against certain death, the book often goes off on tangents to highlight the storys of other men on the base. Even though all the men on the base are fighting their own individual battles they are all fighting against the Catch-22. The Catch in the book is that every time they reach the number of missions they have to fly in order to go home the superior officers raise the number. The only way for them to get out of flying is to fake like they are going insane however by doing this they are deemed sane by the doctor since any sane person would claim that he or she is insane in order to avoid flying bombing missions. While all of this is going on the Character Milo's absurd business ventures start to have a big effect on the plot. Milo has single handedly taken over most of the European economy using twisted economics that only he truly understands. As the book begins to wind down Yossarian realizes that no matter what he tries he cannot beat the Catch-22. He decides to turn his back on the military and go to Sweden where the war can't reach him.

History of the WWII Time Period

On June 10th 1940 Italy joined the Axis powers in WWII. Mousseline's main goal in joining the war was to expand the Italian colonies into northern Africa. The
World War II Bombers
island of Pianosa, although not actually used for military operations due to its small size fits in perfectly with Heller's story because it sits between the Italian west coat and Africa.(Book Drum) Mousseline joined towards the end of the war in hopes that it would be over quickly and he would not be forced to do any real fighting. Because he thought that the war would soon be over he declared war on Britain and France and proceeded to attack their colonies in the northern coast of Africa. (worldwar2history) This is where the story fits in, as the fictional 256th bomber squadron runs air attacks on the military post and submarine pens that fuel the Italian advancement. Italy eventually surrendered when the allied forces invaded, by the end of the campaign a total of 650,000 soldiers had died making it the deadliest military campaign in western European history. (Wikipedia)
- Mark S.

History of the Time Period when Joseph Heller Wrote the Book


Joseph Heller wrote the book from 1955 to 1961 just as the war in Vietnam was heating up. Unlike WWII where it was the social norm to go off to war and serve your country young Americans that were drafted to go to Vietnam were not nearly as enthusiastic to say the least. By the time the book was published in 1961 the "hippie" movement among young Americans was starting to make its mark and the themes of questioning authority and loss of faith hit home with books young audience. Although the actual writing of the book predates the various social movements of the 60's and 70's the book its self is a very accurate reflection of the American youth's view of the war. The Cold War was also a very pressing matter in the early 60's and many Americans at the time could relate to Yossarin's constant fear of death in their day to day lives. The book was kind of the beginning of the Anti-war Sentiment in the U.S. and was arguably an inspiration for the popular Vietnam era TV show M*A*S*H*.

- Mark S.

History of Pianosa, Italy

The main setting of Catch-22 is a war camp in Pianosa, Italy. It is an island that is just off the coast

An Aerial View of Pianosa

of Italy. It is considered to be in the region of Tuscany and the province of Livorno. According to

- Robert R.Wikipedia, The island was first inhabited during Upper Paleolithic era, or the late stone age. The Romans also installed a theater and catacombs on two levels. Following the age of the Romans, the island was home to several military strongholds as well as small fishing villages. One interesting thing to note is that this island is quite small (about 4 square miles) making it almost too small to hold a full sized army base as seen in the story. According to Britannica, the name of the island comes from the root "piano" which means flat. This could be a part of the reason that Heller chose this as the setting as a flat island would be the perfect place to station a bomber squadron who needed places to land.

Biography of Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller in 1986

Catch-22 was written by Joseph Heller in 1953 and was first published in 1961. According to Wikipedia, Heller was born on May 1, 1923 and grew up in Coney Island, New York. At the age of 19 he joined the army during World War II. He was sent to the Italian front to fly bombing missions. He ended up flying 60 missions in total. Following the war he went to the University of Southern California as well as New York Universtity studying English at both universities. In 1945 he was married to his wife, Shirley. They had two children named Erica and Ted. Just after he had his children he started writing Catch-22 and though it took him a large amount of time to get published. After writing Catch-22 he went on to write screen plays, plays, and novels most of them pertaining to war. He died relatively recently, on December 12, 1999.

- Robert R.

PostModernism Ornament.jpg
Oh the Irony

The Postmodern Movement

Catch-22 is a part of the postmodern movement. This movement was in the 60s and 70's. Recently there has been a bit of a revival in the movement. There was no really connection of themes or ideals between authors but more often than not it was about the writers war experiences. There are many techniques that are similar throughout the movement. Irony, paranoia and temporal distortion were all used often in the movement. These ideas are all seen in Catch-22. Paranoia is seen as in the idea that there is a system to the madness of war. The irony is found in the idea of a pill making the madness seem sane and temporal distortion is found in bending the truth to fit the book. Often there were also different perspectives in many of the books. As in Catch-22, they tell stories from many different characters or views. In conclusion, the postmodern movement was a sort lived movement that gave us many great book including Catch-22.

- Ryne M.

The Critics and Readers thoughts on Catch 22

Catch 22 fim Cover.jpg
Catch 22 Film Cover

Catch 22 was originally placed the entire spectrum by both critics and readers. Some thought it was the best novel in years and others while others found it to be just repetitive stories. Although at the time of its release it was not the most popular book it was found to be very influential. The book was seen as such an important book in the history of the United States that they made a movie about it. The movie did not impress critics either. They found MASH, a black war themed comedy, to be better. There were a few extremist, who started a cult that followed the book. Many members of the cult were college students and teenagers. Although the reception for the book might have not have been the best it was definitely a held in a higher regarded than other books with average reviews.

- Ryne M.

Creative Project: A Commercial for Catchol

An Interview with Joseph Heller

The Offical Movie Trailer