Fiction Analysis of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
A. Time period – World War II (1939-1945)
B. Place – Pianosa, a small island off the coast of Italy C. Time Sequence – Most of Catch-22 is told out of sequence, with events from the past mixed in with events from the present. However, the book settles into a more chronological order as it approaches its end. D. Standards of Behavior – The social expectations are supposed to be in accordance to military tradition. But, the characters do not always conform to expected social behaviors.
Yossarian – The protagonist of the novel, Yossarian is a captain and a lead bombardier in his squadron. However, he hates the war, and his powerful desire to live leads him to the conclusion that millions of people are trying to kill him. Thus, his primary goal throughout the novel is to preserve his life. He makes endless attempts to save his skin from the perilous missions that he is committed to flying, but he is prevented of doing so by the paradoxical law called Catch-22. In the end, however, he runs away, not caring about the disgrace that may taint his reputation.
Chaplain Tappman – One of the most decent characters in the novel and a consistent friend to Yossarian. He is sincere, kind, and introspective. Although he is timid and full of doubts and fears, the chaplain grows into a much more assertive force near the end of the story.
Milo Minderbinder – A powerful mess officer, Milo controls an international black-market syndicate and is revered in obscure corners all over the world. He relentlessly chases after profit and bombs his own men as part of a contract with Germany. Milo insists that everyone in the squadron will benefit from being part of the syndicate and that “everyone has a share”. He also takes his job as mess officer very, very seriously; as a result, the troops in Yossarian's division eat better than any others.
Colonel Cathcart – The officer in charge of Yossarian's squadron. He yearns to be a general, and he tries to impress his superiors by volunteering his men for dangerous combat duty whenever he gets the chance. He constantly increases the number of missions that his men must fly.
Lieutenant Colonel Korn – Colonel Cathcart’s clever yet sinister assistant. He is the one who articulates the “deal” to Yossarian.
Doc Daneeka – A medical officer who feels very sorry for himself because the war has interrupted his private practice in the United States. He is the first person to explain Catch-22 to Yossarian. Later in the novel, he is considered dead; and, no matter what he does, he is never able to convince anyone that he is alive.
Hungry Joe – A former photographer for Life magazine, Hungry Joe is obsessed with photographing naked women. He has horrible nightmares on nights when he is not scheduled to fly a combat mission the next morning. He also has a fear of being suffocated by his roommate’s cat. Ironically, he is killed by that same cat.
Lieutenant Nately – A good-natured nineteen-year-old boy, who falls in love with a whore in Rome. He generally tries to keep Yossarian from getting into trouble.
Nately's whore – The whore with whom Nately falls in love with in Rome. After Yossarian breaks the news of Nately’s death to her, she attempts to kill him on several occasions.
McWatt – A pilot who delights in buzzing Yossarian’s tent as well as the bathers at the beach. He eventually kills Kid Sampson with his foolish antics.
Snowden – A squadron gunner who had died in Yossarian’s arms with his entrails splattered all over the floor of a plane. His death caused Yossarian to experience the shock of war and to witness the fragility of life.
Orr – He is a gifted fix-it man who is always constructing little improvements to the tent that he shares with Yossarian. On missions, he almost always has to ditch his plane. His successful arrival (desertion to) in Sweden rejuvenates Yossarian’s hope.
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