My Personal Challenge – Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller


At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war. His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he is committed to flying, he is trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he is sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

My Thoughts

It took way too bloody long for me to read this book. Part of the reason is adjusting to the new routine of moving to a new city and starting a new job. The other part of it is that this book is just damn difficult to read! The best way I was able to justify the difficulty is that this is a book about war. A satire about war, no less. War is messy, disorganized, and it doesn’t make sense. Heller depicted that extremely well when writing this book. The book is written in a messy, disorganized, almost nonsensical manner. And it’s bloody brilliant!

It is my understanding that Heller wrote this book based on his own experiences in the Air Force. And if his experience is anything like what he wrote, he had one hell of a time! The main character, Yossarian, absolutely killed me. Of all of the men in his division, he has the most wits about him. He’s aware that everyone is out to kill him – it is war after all – but no one can do anything about it. Catch-22.

To the best of my understanding, in order to fly missions one must be sane. One would have to be crazy to want to fly more missions, and can thus be grounded. All a person has to do is ask to be grounded, but care for one’s safety is a sign of mental stability, therefore one cannot be grounded and is forced to fly more missions. Catch-22. During this explanation of what Catch-22 actually is, I laughed like I had never laughed in my life. According to Catch-22 is defined as “ A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions”. This is bloody brilliant. I absolutely love this.

In the midst of trying to grasp Catch-22 (the rule), and fighting to make sense of the writing style, I was left with a wonderful satire of war. Yossarian still kills me. Such an exquisite character. Reading this book is an experience that will stay with me for a long, long time. And rightfully so.


~ by Aubrey Smith on July 12, 2012.

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