?Catch-22?-What Is This Novel About? Essay, Research Paper
What is this novel about?
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is an interesting novel in the fact that throughout the
entire novel the plot seems to go nowhere. It just seems to be a bunch of events strung
together through the main character Yossarian. These events, however powerful, don?t
seem to lead to much of a point, until the reader finishes. Then, out of nowhere, comes
the meaning behind the book. Heller does a great job of ending the book. By having
Yossarian run away the meaning of the book is set in stone. Catch-22 is a novel which
discusses the fact that the importance or value of one thing to one person, could be
completely different to another, like in the cases of selling goods over human life with
ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, Milo Minderbinder with his wheeling and dealing and Doc
Daneeka and his description of what it takes to get home.
Each character in the novel seems to have a certain way in which they judge their
power, importance, worth and/or duty. Throughout the entire book, the only character
that resembles someone with good opinions of himself is Yossarian. He appears to be the
only character that realizes the insignificance the war effort is because almost all the
people in the novel are fighting for the wrong reason. He says, ?Am I supposed to get my
ass shot off just because the colonel wants to be a general??(p. 133). Other characters,
like ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen respond to questions with answer that seem to make no sense.
In the case where Yossarian is requesting that Wintergreen get them off the flight to
Bologna because they will probably die, Wintergreen comes back with the unbelievable
answer ?Then you?ll have to be killed. …if your destined to be killed over bologna, then
you?re going to be killed, so you might just as well go out and die like a man. I hate to
say this, Yossarian, but you?re turning into a chronic complainer?(p. 132-33). The
importance of life is gone. Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen is more concerned about peddling his
goods throughout the war then he is about the life of a friend.
Another strange character in the story was Milo Minderbinder. The person
originally brought in to run the mess hall, who later had his own business, M & M
Enterprises, in which he traded things in order to gain stuff for himself. He collected
stuff, like art and sculptures, that would be really valuable after the war. The only
problem with this, is that it got to the point that he would trade things valuable to the
other men in the army, like trucks and guns. He also made deals which involved
Americans attacking a bridge at Orvieto. The agreement was that he would get the money
for the attack plus six percent. Then Milo turned around and made a deal with the
Germans for defending the bridge at the same cost-plus-six agreement with a bonus of a
thousand dollars for each plane shot down(p. 265). Deals like this showed the fact that
the last concern of Milo was his fellow enlisted men. Money was far more dominant on
the ladder of importance for the owner of M & M Enterprises.
The title of the novel, Catch-22, is an example of how things are more important
to some than others. In order to prevent things from happening, this catch-22 was
established to allow anything to happen or not happen as desired. In order for a person to
leave the army because they are crazy, all they have to do is ask Doc Daneeka, but if a
character asks the Doc, he won?t send them home because they must not be crazy.
Yossarian argues about just this very point. the Doc starts by saying,
He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he?s
had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But he has to ask me to.
That?s all he has to do to be grounded? [Yossarian]
That?s all. Let him ask me.
And then you can ground him?
No. Then I can?t ground him.
You mean there?s a catch?
Sure there?s a catch. Catch-22…(p.54-55)
Some of the characters like the Doc, will hold the rule book above the wishes of a friend
who is in need of help. The order of importance in his life is not that of a true friend, but
someone using the system to escape responsibility.
The novel has many more such examples of how every character has an agenda
that they want to accomplish, and unless something is in that agenda, it doesn?t matter.
Heller summarizes it best at the end when Yossarian is arguing with Major Danby on
whether to run away or not. Danby says, ?What about the disgrace??(p. 462) and
Yossarian says in reply, ?What disgrace? I?m more in disgrace now?(p. 462). Yossarian
confirms the fact that to him, the war is wrong. It is more disgraceful for him to continue
fighting for the wrong reasons than to runaway and be free. The importance of doing
what is right morally is stronger than that of the war effort.