Trying to Understand Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

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Catch 22 is a satirical war novel that was written in the 1950’s, but was published in 1961. Joseph Heller, the American author, was known for his novels to represent a comic vision of modern society with serious moral connections. His major theme throughout his writing is the conflict that occurs when individuals interact with such powerful institutions, such as: corporations, the military, and the government. Catch 22 was written in the post modernism era of the literature timeline. In the 1950’s, the Korean War was beginning, World War II ended, and Castro became the dictator of Cuba. All of these events had an influence on Heller as he was writing this novel about the WWII bombardier, Yossarian, and his struggle to stay sane with bombs bursting all around him. Chapter 1: The Texan

* Summary: Yossarian is hiding from the war in a hospital ward with a “liver disease” when he meets Dunbar, the bigoted Texan, and the soldier in white. * The Texan: an obnoxious patient that annoys all the patients in the ward and talks to the soldier in white all the time. * “You fellas are crazy” (Heller 11)

Chapter 2: Clevinger
* Summary: Yossarian is paranoid about the crazy people in the camp: Havermeyer, McWatt, Orr, and Nately; but, Clevinger insists Yossarian is the crazy one and Doc Daneeka cannot and will not release him because Cathcart raised the missions yet again. * Clevinger: An ingenious Harvard graduate who is the first to call Yossarian crazy. He is picked on in cadet training by lieutenant Scheisskopf, who brings him up on contrived charges before the action board. He is presumed dead when his plane crashes. * “Who’s they?.. Who, specifically, do you think is trying to murder you?” (Heller 17) Chapter 3: Havermeyer

* Summary: Yossarian is accompanied by a dead soldier in his tent (Mudd), Orr, and Hungry Joe who are driving him crazy, but Doc Daneeka still refuses to diagnose Yossarian as crazy in order to send him home; telling him he needs be more like Havermeyer. * Havermeyer: The best bombardier in the whole squadron. He loves peanut brittle, never misses a target, and never takes evasive action. Doc Daneeka told Yossarian to become more like Havermeyer. * “

Chapter 4: Doc Daneeka
* Summary: Yossarian argues with Hungry Joe, trying to explain that he is the crazy one, when Doc Daneeka begins to ponder why he of all the doctors was forced to deal with these babbling buffoons. * Doc Daneeka: A flight surgeon who resents his position and is bitter about the war taking away his practice in the states. Doc Daneeka is the one who explains catch 22. He is afraid to fly, so has McWatt sign his name. McWatt’s plane crashed, and people believed he was dead. * “I’m not on the plane.” (Heller 339)

Chapter 5: Chief White Halfoat
* Summary: Doc Daneeka was yearning for his practice back home and explains to Yossarian that catch 22 prevents him from grounding him when Chief White Halfoat enters the tent to begin telling stories of before the war; expressing his hate for the white men that kicked him and his family from home to home because of the unearthing of oil. * Chief White Halfoat: A Native American chief is the intelligence officer. He despises white men for kicking him off his home settlements and claims he will die of pneumonia, and he jokingly says he will slit his throat. Chapter 6: Hungry Joe

* Summary: Hungry Joe had his way with the prostitutes in Rome, had flown the most missions in the in the whole squadron, and had horrible nightmares resulting with bone chilling screams, but Doc Daneeka, despite Yossarian’s despondent pleas, could not even declare Hungry Joe as crazy thanks to catch 22. * Hungry Joe: Hungry Joe is the soldier with the most missions flown in the entire squadron, but his orders to return home never come. He has horrible nightmares that cause him to scream in horror, however, he is very good with the whores in Rome. He dies one night in his...
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