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Catch-22

Catch-22

Overview
Catch-22 is a satirical
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

, historical
Historical fiction
Historical fiction tells a story that is set in the past. That setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the principal characters tend to be fictional...

 novel by the American author Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller was a US satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His best known work is Catch-22, a novel about US servicemen during World War II...

. He began writing it in 1953, and the novel was first published in 1961. It is set during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1943 and is frequently cited as one of the great literary works of the twentieth century. It has a distinctive non-chronological style where events are described from different characters' points of view and out of sequence so that the time line develops along with the plot.

The novel follows Yossarian
Yossarian
This article is about a "Catch-22" character. For the meerkat from "Meerkat Manor", see List of "Meerkat Manor" meerkats - Yossarian.Capt. John Joseph Yossarian is a fictional character and protagonist in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 and its sequel Closing Time...

, a U.S.
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Unanswered Questions
Quotations

"There's no patriotism, that's what it is. And no matriotism, either." Chapter 1, page 9

"Dunbar was lying motionless on his back again with his eyes staring up at the ceiling like a doll's. He was working hard at increasing his life span. He did it by cultivating boredom." Chapter 1, page 9

"As always occurred when he quarreled over principles in which he believed passionately, he would end up gasping furiously for air and blinking back bitter tears of conviction. There were many principles in which Clevinger believed passionately. He was crazy." Chapter 2, page 26. ('Vintage' edition Chapter 2, pg. 19)

"an unreasonable belief that everybody around him was crazy, a homicidal impulse to machine-gun strangers, retrospective falsification, an unfounded suspicion that people hated him and were conspiring to kill him." Chapter 2, pg. 29 ('Vintage' edition - Chapter 2, pg 23)

"He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive." Chapter 3, pg. 29

"You're inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age?" Chapter 4, pg. 39

"History did not demand Yossarian's premature demise, justice could be satisfied without it, progress did not hinge upon it, victory did not depend on it. That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance. But that was war." Chapter 8, pg. 75

Encyclopedia
Catch-22 is a satirical
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

, historical
Historical fiction
Historical fiction tells a story that is set in the past. That setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the principal characters tend to be fictional...

 novel by the American author Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller was a US satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His best known work is Catch-22, a novel about US servicemen during World War II...

. He began writing it in 1953, and the novel was first published in 1961. It is set during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1943 and is frequently cited as one of the great literary works of the twentieth century. It has a distinctive non-chronological style where events are described from different characters' points of view and out of sequence so that the time line develops along with the plot.

The novel follows Yossarian
Yossarian
This article is about a "Catch-22" character. For the meerkat from "Meerkat Manor", see List of "Meerkat Manor" meerkats - Yossarian.Capt. John Joseph Yossarian is a fictional character and protagonist in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 and its sequel Closing Time...

, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier
Bombardier (air force)
A bombardier , in the United States Army Air Forces and United States Air Force, or a bomb aimer, in the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces, was the crewman of a bomber responsible for assisting the navigator in guiding the plane to a bombing target and releasing the aircraft's bomb...

, and a number of other characters. Most events occur while the Airmen of the fictional 256th squadron are based on the island of Pianosa
Pianosa
The small island of Pianosa , about in area, forms part of Italy's Tuscan Archipelago. Its name comes from the Italian pianura . Its highest point stands above sea level. Pianosa is part of the Elba island municipality. On clear days, Elbans see Pianosa as a dark blue line over the lighter blue sea...

, in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 west of Italy.

Concept


Among other things, Catch-22 is a general critique of bureaucratic operation and reasoning. Resulting from its specific use in the book, the phrase "Catch-22" is common idiom
Idiom
Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made...

atic usage meaning "a no-win situation
No-win situation
A no-win situation, also called a "lose-lose" situation, is one where a person has choices, but no choice leads to a net gain. For example, if an executioner offers the condemned the choice of dying by being hanged, shot, or poisoned, since all choices lead to death, the condemned is in a no-win...

" or "a double bind
Double bind
A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual receives two or more conflicting messages, in which one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other , so that...

" of any type. Within the book, "Catch-22" is a military rule, the self-contradictory circular logic
Begging the question
Begging the question is a type of logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise....

 that, for example, prevents anyone from avoiding combat missions. In Heller's own words:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr
Orr (Catch-22)
Orr is a fictional character in the classic novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Orr is a bomber pilot in the squadron who is continually being shot down and having to crash land in the sea...

 was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. (p. 46, ch. 5)


Other forms of Catch-22 are invoked throughout the novel to justify various bureaucratic actions. At one point, victims of harassment by military police quote the MPs' explanation of one of Catch-22's provisions: "Catch-22 states that agents enforcing Catch-22 need not prove that Catch-22 actually contains whatever provision the accused violator is accused of violating." Another character explains: "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing." The theme of a bureaucracy marginalizing the individual in an absurd way is similar to the world of Kafka
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

's The Trial
The Trial
The Trial is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka's best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader.Like Kafka's other novels, The Trial was never...

, and George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

's Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is a dystopian novel about Oceania, a society ruled by the oligarchical dictatorship of the Party...

. The concept of "doublethink
Doublethink
Doublethink, a word coined by George Orwell in the novel 1984, describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts. It is related to, but distinct from, hypocrisy and neutrality. Its opposite is cognitive dissonance, where...

" has definite echoes in Heller's work.

Yossarian comes to realize that Catch-22 does not actually exist, but because the powers that be claim it does, and the world believes it does, it nevertheless has potent effects. Indeed, because it does not exist, there is no way it can be repealed, undone, overthrown, or denounced. The combination of force with specious and spurious legalistic justification is one of the book's primary motifs.

The motif of bureaucratic absurdity is further explored in 1994's Closing Time
Closing Time (novel)
Closing Time is a 1994 novel by Joseph Heller, written as a sequel to the popular Catch-22. It takes place in New York City in the 1990s, and revisits some characters of the original, including Yossarian, Milo Minderbinder and Chaplain Tappman....

, Heller's sequel to Catch-22. This darker, slower-paced, apocalyptic novel explores the pre- and post-war lives of some of the major characters in Catch-22, with particular emphasis on the relationship between Yossarian and tailgunner Sammy Singer.

Synopsis


The development of the novel can be split into segments. The first (chapters 1–11) broadly follows the story fragmented between characters, but in a single chronological time in 1943. The second (chapters 12–20) flashes back to focus primarily on the "Great Big Siege of Bologna" before once again jumping to the chronological "present" of 1943 in the third part (chapter 21–25). The fourth (chapters 26–28) flashes back to the origins and growth of Milo's
Milo Minderbinder
First Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder is a fictional character in Joseph Heller's most successful novel, Catch-22. As the mess officer of Yossarian's squadron, Minderbinder is a war profiteer during World War II, "perhaps the best known of all fictional profiteers" in American literature...

 syndicate, with the fifth part (chapter 28–32) returning again to the narrative "present" but keeping to the same tone of the previous four. In the sixth and final part (chapter 32 on) while remaining in the "present" time the novel takes a much darker turn and spends the remaining chapters focusing on the serious and brutal nature of war and life in general.

While the previous five parts develop the novel in the present and by use of flash-backs, it is in chapters 32–41 of the sixth and final part where the novel significantly darkens. Previously the reader had been cushioned from experiencing the full horror of events, but now the events are laid bare, allowing the full effect to take place. The horror begins with the attack on the undefended Italian mountain village, with the following chapters involving despair (Doc Daneeka
Doc Daneeka
Doc Daneeka is a fictional character in the novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.Doc Daneeka is the squadron physician and a friend of the novel's protagonist, Yossarian. "Catch-22" itself is first explained in the novel when Yossarian asks Doc Daneeka to excuse him from combat duty...

 and the Chaplain
Chaplain Tappman
Chaplain Captain Albert Taylor Tappman is a fictional character in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22...

), disappearance in combat (Orr
Orr (Catch-22)
Orr is a fictional character in the classic novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Orr is a bomber pilot in the squadron who is continually being shot down and having to crash land in the sea...

 and Clevinger), disappearance caused by the army (Dunbar) or death (Nately
Nately
-Background information:Nately starts off the book as a 19-year-old lieutenant, who will be "twenty next January" and who came from a very rich and respected family...

, McWatt, Mudd, Kid Sampson, Dobbs, Chief White Halfoat and Hungry Joe) of most of Yossarian
Yossarian
This article is about a "Catch-22" character. For the meerkat from "Meerkat Manor", see List of "Meerkat Manor" meerkats - Yossarian.Capt. John Joseph Yossarian is a fictional character and protagonist in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 and its sequel Closing Time...

's friends, culminating in the unspeakable horrors of Chapter 39, in particular the rape and murder of Michaela, who represents pure innocence. In Chapter 41, the full details of the gruesome death of Snowden are finally revealed.

Despite this, the novel ends on an upbeat note with Yossarian learning of Orr's
Orr (Catch-22)
Orr is a fictional character in the classic novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Orr is a bomber pilot in the squadron who is continually being shot down and having to crash land in the sea...

 miraculous escape to Sweden and Yossarian's pledge to follow him there.

Style


Many events in the book are repeatedly described from differing points of view, so the reader learns more about each event from each iteration, with the new information often completing a joke, the punchline of which was told several chapters previously. The narrative often describes events out of sequence, but events are referred to as if the reader is already familiar with them, so that the reader must ultimately piece together a timeline of events. Specific words, phrases, and questions are also repeated frequently, generally to comic effect.

Much of Heller's prose in Catch-22 is circular and repetitive, exemplifying in its form the structure of a Catch-22. Heller revels in paradox
Paradox
Similar to Circular reasoning, A paradox is a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition...

, for example: "The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him", and "The case against Clevinger was open and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge him with." This atmosphere of apparent logical irrationality pervades the whole book.

While a few characters are most prominent, notably Yossarian and the Chaplain, the majority of named characters are described in atypical extent, with fully fleshed out or multidimensional personas, to the extent that there are few if any "minor characters".

The seemingly random non-chronological structure to the novel is misleading. Catch 22 is actually highly structured, but it is a structure of free association where ideas run into one another through seemingly random connections. For example, Chapter 1 entitled "The Texan" ends with "everybody but the CID man, who had caught cold from the fighter captain and come down with pneumonia." Chapter 2, entitled "Clevinger", begins with "In a way the CID man was pretty lucky, because outside the hospital the war was still going on." The CID man connects the two chapters like a free association bridge and eventually Chapter 2 flows from the CID man to Clevinger through more free association links.

Major themes


One of the first themes developed in the novel is the question of what is right to do in a basic moral dilemma/social dilemma/prisoner's dilemma
Prisoner's dilemma
The prisoner’s dilemma is a canonical example of a game, analyzed in game theory that shows why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interest to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher working at RAND in 1950. Albert W...

; where a person can cooperate with others to their collective greater payoff; or can sell them out by not cooperating, and reap even greater benefits as an individual. Yossarian is presented as having decided upon and relishing the immoral choice to such questions: "Yossarian throbbed with a mighty sense of accomplishment each time he gazed at [the officers' club building] and reflected that none of the work that had gone into it was his", which solidly casts Yossarian as an anti-hero
Anti-hero
In fiction, an antihero is generally considered to be a protagonist whose character is at least in some regards conspicuously contrary to that of the archetypal hero, and is in some instances its antithesis in which the character is generally useless at being a hero or heroine when they're...

 to the reader. Yossarian (and Doc Daneeka) wonder "why me" when it comes to taking risks when others aren't. To this, Major Danby asks Yossarian, "But suppose everybody on our side felt that way", to which Yossarian replies, "Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way. Wouldn't I?"

Another theme is the turning on their heads of notions of what people generally think of as morally right or wrong, particularly patriotism
Patriotism
Patriotism is a devotion to one's country, excluding differences caused by the dependencies of the term's meaning upon context, geography and philosophy...

 and honor, which lead most of the Airmen to accept abusive lies and petty rules of bureaucrats, though Yossarian whole-heartedly disregards all such notions. When Major Major asks why he wouldn't fly more missions, Yossarian answers:

"I'm afraid."
"That's nothing to be ashamed of," Major Major counseled him kindly. "We're all afraid."
"I'm not ashamed," Yossarian said. "I'm just afraid."


Several themes flow into one another, for example, "that the only way to survive such an insane system is to be insane oneself", is partially a take on Yossarian's answer to the Social dilemma
Social dilemma
Social dilemmas are situations in which collective interests are at odds with private interests. Such situations arise when faced with prioritizing either short-term selfish interests or the long-term interests of a group, organization, or society. Many of the most challenging issues, from the...

 (that he would be a fool to be any other way); and another theme, "that bad men (who sell out others) are more likely to get ahead, rise in rank, and make money", turns our notions of what is estimable on their heads as well.

Heller suggests that bureaucracies often lead organizations, especially when run by bad or insane people, to trivialize important matters (e.g., those affecting life and death), and to grossly exaggerate the importance of trivial matters (e.g., clerical errors). Everyone in the book, even Yossarian at the beginning, is behaving insanely in their clerical decisions.

As the narrative progresses, Yossarian comes to fear American bureaucrats more than he fears the Germans attempting to shoot down his bomber; he feels that a majority of people are "out to get him", regardless of their nominal allegiance. Among the reasons Yossarian fears his commanders more than the enemy is that, as he flies more missions, the number of missions required before he can go home is continually increasing: he is always approaching the magic number, but he never reaches it. He comes to despair of ever getting home and is greatly relieved when he is sent to the hospital for a condition that is almost jaundice
Jaundice
Jaundice is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin, the conjunctival membranes over the sclerae , and other mucous membranes caused by hyperbilirubinemia . This hyperbilirubinemia subsequently causes increased levels of bilirubin in the extracellular fluid...

. In Yossarian's words: "The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart. And don't you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live." (Chapter 12)

This is reflected in the fact that, while the (official) enemies are the Germans, no German ever appears in the story as an enemy combatant. This ironic situation is epitomized in the single appearance of German personnel in the novel, who act as pilots employed by his squadron's very own mess hall officer Milo, who comes to devote most of his time not to war maneuvers but as a relentless private entrepreneur darting from country to country in search of profit. This predicament indicates a tension between traditional motives for violence and the modern economic machine, which seems to generate violence simply as another means to profit, quite independent of geographical or ideological constraints.

Developing both of the above themes, eventually Milo's pursuit of profit leads to him conducting missions for the Germans as well as the US military; this absurdity culminates in him organising a bombing of his own base, resulting in the death of many of his and Yossarian's colleagues, and serving to reinforce the latter's fear of his 'own' side.

List of Themes/Motifs:
  • Sanity and insanity
  • Heroes and heroism
  • Absurdity and inefficiency of bureaucracy
  • Power of bureaucracy
  • Questioning/Loss of religious faith
  • Impotence of language
  • Inevitability of death
  • Distortion of justice
  • Concept of Catch-22
  • Greed
  • Personal integrity
  • Capital and its amorality

Influences


Although Heller always had a desire to be an author from an early age, his own experiences as a bombardier
Bombardier (air force)
A bombardier , in the United States Army Air Forces and United States Air Force, or a bomb aimer, in the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces, was the crewman of a bomber responsible for assisting the navigator in guiding the plane to a bombing target and releasing the aircraft's bomb...

 during World War II strongly influenced Catch-22; however, Heller later said that he "never had a bad officer."

Czech writer Arnošt Lustig
Arnošt Lustig
Arnošt Lustig was a renowned Czech Jewish author of novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays whose works have often involved the Holocaust.Lustig was born in Prague...

 recounts in his book 3x18 that Joseph Heller personally told him that he would never have written Catch-22 had he not first read The Good Soldier Švejk
The Good Soldier Švejk
The Good Soldier Švejk , also spelled Schweik or Schwejk, is the abbreviated title of a unfinished satirical/dark comedy novel by Jaroslav Hašek. It was illustrated by Josef Lada and George Grosz after Hašek's death...

 by Jaroslav Hašek
Jaroslav Hašek
Jaroslav Hašek was a Czech humorist, satirist, writer and socialist anarchist best known for his novel The Good Soldier Švejk, an unfinished collection of farcical incidents about a soldier in World War I and a satire on the ineptitude of authority figures, which has been translated into sixty...

.

In 1998, some critics raised the possibility that Heller's book had questionable similarities to Louis Falstein's 1950 novel, Face of a Hero. However, Falstein himself never raised the issue between Catch-22s publication and his death in 1995, and Heller claimed never to have been aware of the obscure novel. Instead, Heller stated that the novel had been influenced by Céline
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Louis-Ferdinand Céline was the pen name of French writer and physician Louis-Ferdinand Destouches . Céline was chosen after his grandmother's first name. He is considered one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, developing a new style of writing that modernized both French and...

, Waugh
Evelyn Waugh
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh , known as Evelyn Waugh, was an English writer of novels, travel books and biographies. He was also a prolific journalist and reviewer...

 and Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

. Many of the similarities have been stated to be attributable to the two authors' similar experiences; both served in the U.S. Air Force on bombing crews in Italy in World War II. Their general themes and styles are quite different.

Literary allusions


Catch-22 contains allusions to and draws inspiration from many works of literature, both classical and modern. Howard Jacobson
Howard Jacobson
Howard Jacobson is a Man Booker Prize-winning British Jewish author and journalist. He is best known for writing comic novels that often revolve around the dilemmas of British Jewish characters.-Background:...

, in his 2004 introduction to the Vintage Classics publication, wrote that the novel was "positioned teasingly ... between literature and literature's
opposites – between Shakespeare and Rabelais and Dickens and Dostoevsky and Gogol and Céline
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Louis-Ferdinand Céline was the pen name of French writer and physician Louis-Ferdinand Destouches . Céline was chosen after his grandmother's first name. He is considered one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, developing a new style of writing that modernized both French and...

 and the Absurdists
Absurdism
In philosophy, "The Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any...

 and of course Kafka on the one hand, and on the other vaudeville
Vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

 and slapstick
Slapstick
Slapstick is a type of comedy involving exaggerated violence and activities which may exceed the boundaries of common sense.- Origins :The phrase comes from the batacchio or bataccio — called the 'slap stick' in English — a club-like object composed of two wooden slats used in Commedia dell'arte...

 and Bilko
The Phil Silvers Show
The Phil Silvers Show is a comedy television series which ran on CBS from 1955 to 1959 for 142 episodes, plus a 1959 special. The series starred Phil Silvers as Master Sergeant Ernest G...

 and Abbott and Costello
Abbott and Costello
William "Bud" Abbott and Lou Costello performed together as Abbott and Costello, an American comedy duo whose work on stage, radio, film and television made them the most popular comedy team during the 1940s and 1950s...

 and Tom and Jerry
Tom and Jerry
Tom and Jerry are the cat and mouse cartoon characters that were evolved starting in 1939.Tom and Jerry also may refer to:Cartoon works featuring the cat and mouse so named:* The Tom and Jerry Show...

 and the Goons (if Heller had ever heard of the Goons)."

Explanation of the novel's title


The title is a reference to a fictional bureaucratic stipulation which embodies multiple forms of illogical and immoral reasoning. That the catch is named exposes the high level of absurdity in the novel, where bureaucratic nonsense has risen to a level at which even the catches are codified with numbers.

The opening chapter of the novel was originally published in New World Writing
New World Writing
New World Writing was a paperback magazine, a literary anthology series published by New American Library's Mentor imprint from 1951 until 1964....

 as Catch-18 in 1955, but Heller's agent, Candida Donadio, requested that it change the title of the novel so it would not be confused with another recently published World War II novel, Leon Uris
Leon Uris
Leon Marcus Uris was an American novelist, known for his historical fiction and the deep research that went into his novels. His two bestselling books were Exodus, published in 1958, and Trinity, in 1976.-Life:...

's Mila 18
Mila 18
Mila 18 is a novel by Leon Uris set in German-occupied Warsaw, Poland before and during World War II. Leon Uris's work, based on real events, covers the Nazi occupation of Poland and the atrocities of systematically dehumanising and eliminating the Jewish People of Poland...

. The number 18
18 (number)
18 is the natural number following 17 and preceding 19.In speech, the numbers 18 and 80 are sometimes confused. When carefully enunciated, they differ in which syllable is stressed: 18 vs 80 . However, in dates such as 1864, or when contrasting numbers in the teens, such as 17, 18, 19, the stress...

 has special meaning in Judaism (it means Alive in Gematria
Gematria
Gematria or gimatria is a system of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase, in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other, or bear some relation to the number itself as it may apply to a person's age, the calendar year, or the like...

) and was relevant to early drafts of the novel which had a somewhat greater Jewish emphasis.

The title Catch-11 was suggested, with the duplicated 1 paralleling the repetition found in a number of character exchanges in the novel, but because of the release of the 1960 movie Ocean's Eleven
Ocean's Eleven (1960 film)
Ocean's 11 is a 1960 heist film directed by Lewis Milestone and starring five Rat Packers: Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey Bishop....

 this was also rejected. Catch-17 was also rejected, so as not to be confused with the World War II film Stalag 17
Stalag 17
Stalag 17 is a 1953 war film which tells the story of a group of American airmen held in a German World War II prisoner of war camp, who come to suspect that one of their number is a traitor...

, as well as Catch-14, apparently because the publisher did not feel that 14 was a "funny number". Eventually the title came to be Catch-22, which, like 11, has a duplicated digit, with the 2 also referring to a number of déjà vu-like events common in the novel.

A 1950s/early 1960s anthology of war stories included a short version as "Catch-17".

Literary significance and criticism


As commented on by Heller himself in the preface to Catch-22 from 1994 onwards, the novel prompted polarized responses upon its first publication in the United States.

Reviews in publications ranged from the very positive; The Nation
The Nation
The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.The Nation...

 ("was the best novel to come out in years"), the New York Herald Tribune
New York Herald Tribune
The New York Herald Tribune was a daily newspaper created in 1924 when the New York Tribune acquired the New York Herald.Other predecessors, which had earlier merged into the New York Tribune, included the original The New Yorker newsweekly , and the Whig Party's Log Cabin.The paper was home to...

 ("A wild, moving, shocking, hilarious, raging, exhilarating, giant roller-coaster of a book") and The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

 ("A dazzling performance that will outrage nearly as many readers as it delights") to the highly negative; The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

 ("doesn't even seem to be written; instead, it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper," "what remains is a debris of sour jokes") and from another critic of the New York Times ("is repetitive and monotonous. Or one can say that it is too short because none of its many interesting characters and actions is given enough play to become a controlling interest").

Although the novel won no awards at publication, it has stood the test of time and is seen as one of the most significant novels of the 20th century. Scholar and fellow World War II veteran Hugh Nibley
Hugh Nibley
Hugh Winder Nibley was an American author, Mormon apologist, and professor at Brigham Young University...

 said it was the most accurate book he ever read about the military.

Rankings

  • The Modern Library
    Modern Library
    The Modern Library is a publishing company. Founded in 1917 by Albert Boni and Horace Liveright as an imprint of their publishing company Boni & Liveright, it was purchased in 1925 by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer...

     ranked Catch-22 as number 7 (by review panel) and as number 12 (by public) on its list of the greatest English language novels of the twentieth century.
  • The Radcliffe Publishing Course rank Catch-22 as number 15 of the twentieth century's top 100 novels.
  • The Observer
    The Observer
    The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

     listed Catch-22 as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time.
  • TIME puts Catch-22 in the top 100 English language modern novels (1923 onwards, unranked).
  • The Big Read
    Big Read
    The Big Read was a survey on books carried out by the BBC in the United Kingdom in 2003, where over three quarters of a million votes were received from the British public to find the nation's best-loved novel of all time...

     by the BBC
    BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

     ranked Catch-22 as number 11 on a web poll of the UK's best-loved book.
  • In 2011 Catch-22 was voted Best Novel On Earth.

Adaptations

  • Catch-22 was adapted into a feature film of the same name
    Catch-22 (film)
    Catch-22 is a 1970 satirical war film adapted from the book of the same name by Joseph Heller. Considered a black comedy revolving around the "lunatic characters" of Heller's satirical anti-war novel, it was the work of a talented production team which included director Mike Nichols and...

     in 1970, directed by Mike Nichols
    Mike Nichols
    Mike Nichols is a German-born American television, stage and film director, writer, producer and comedian. He began his career in the 1950s as one half of the comedy duo Nichols and May, along with Elaine May. In 1968 he won the Academy Award for Best Director for the film The Graduate...

    .
  • Heller also dramatised his own novel for the stage, and wrote another short play, Clevinger's Trial, that was based on scenes from Catch-22.
  • Aquila Theatre
    Aquila Theatre
    The Aquila Theatre was founded in London in 1991 by Peter Meineck and has been based in New York City since 1999. Aquila's mission is to bring the greatest theatrical works to the greatest number and presents a regular season of plays in New York and at international festivals. Education...

     produced a stage adaptation of Catch-22 directed by Peter Meineck
    Peter Meineck
    Peter Meineck is the Artistic Director and founder of Aquila Theatre. Peter is also a clinical professor of Classics at New York University...

     and based on Heller's own play which he wrote in 1971. This production toured the USA in 2007/8 with a New York City production in the fall of 2008.
  • A pilot
    Television pilot
    A "television pilot" is a standalone episode of a television series that is used to sell the show to a television network. At the time of its inception, the pilot is meant to be the "testing ground" to see if a series will be possibly desired and successful and therefore a test episode of an...

     for a comedy series based upon Catch-22 was made and televised in 1973, with Richard Dreyfuss
    Richard Dreyfuss
    Richard Stephen Dreyfuss is an American actor best known for starring in a number of film, television, and theater roles since the late 1960s, including the films American Graffiti, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goodbye Girl, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Stakeout, Always, What About...

     in the starring role of Capt. Yossarian
    Yossarian
    This article is about a "Catch-22" character. For the meerkat from "Meerkat Manor", see List of "Meerkat Manor" meerkats - Yossarian.Capt. John Joseph Yossarian is a fictional character and protagonist in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 and its sequel Closing Time...

    .
  • Catch 22
    Catch 22 (band)
    Catch 22 is an American ska punk band from East Brunswick Township, New Jersey.The band was formed by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Tomas Kalnoky and drummer Chris Greer who recruited trumpeter Kevin Gunther, who was working in a local record store...

     is also the name of a ska
    Ska
    Ska |Jamaican]] ) is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues...

     band from New Jersey that takes the name of the book.

Release details


This list covers the first and most recent printed publications by the original publisher Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster, Inc., a division of CBS Corporation, is a publisher founded in New York City in 1924 by Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster. It is one of the four largest English-language publishers, alongside Random House, Penguin and HarperCollins...

 as well as all other formats. Other print publishers include Dell
Dell Publishing
Dell Publishing, an American publisher of books, magazines and comic books, was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte, Jr.During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Dell was one of the largest publishers of magazines, including pulp magazines. Their line of humor magazines included 1000 Jokes, launched in...

, Corgi, Vintage
Vintage (publisher)
Vintage Books is a publishing imprint founded in 1954 by Alfred A. Knopf. Its publishing list includes world literature, fiction, and non-fiction...

, Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. is a New York publishing house, founded by Alfred A. Knopf, Sr. in 1915. It was acquired by Random House in 1960 and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Random House. The publishing house is known for its borzoi trademark , which was designed by co-founder...

, Black Swan, Grasset & Fasquelle and Wahlström & Widstrand.

The original manuscript is held by Brandeis University
Brandeis University
Brandeis University is an American private research university with a liberal arts focus. It is located in the southwestern corner of Waltham, Massachusetts, nine miles west of Boston. The University has an enrollment of approximately 3,200 undergraduate and 2,100 graduate students. In 2011, it...

.
  • 1961, Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-671-12805-1, pub date June 1961, Hardback
  • 1961, Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-440-51120-8, advance Paperback with signed bookplate
  • 1978, Franklin Library ISBN 0-8124-1717-8, signed limited edition Leather Bound
  • 1984, Caedmon Audio
    Caedmon Audio
    HarperCollins Audio is a record label that specializes in audio books and other literary content. Formerly Caedmon Records, the name was changed when the label switched to CD-only production. Its marketing tag-line was Caedmon: a Third Dimension for the Printed Page.Caedmon was formed in 1953 by...

     ISBN 0-694-50253-7, Audio Cassette
  • 1996, Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-684-83339-5, pub date September 1996 Paperback
  • 1980, Books On Tape ISBN 0-7366-8962-1, unabridged Audio Cassette reader Wolfram Kandinsky
  • 1980, Books On Tape ISBN 0-7366-9085-9, unabridged Audio CD reader Jim Weiss
    Jim Weiss
    Jim Weiss is a children's' storyteller. Weiss has released many audio cassettes and CDs over the past 25 years. Examples of his retellings of stories include various works of Shakespeare, The Three Musketeers, and Sherlock Holmes. Most of his work was released by Greathall Productions...

  • 1994, DH Audio ISBN 0-88646-125-1, abridged
    Abridgement
    Abridgement or abridgment is a term defined as "shortening" or "condensing" and is most commonly used in reference to the act of reducing a written work, typically a book, into a shorter form...

     edition Audio Cassette reader Alan Arkin
    Alan Arkin
    Alan Wolf Arkin is an American actor, director, musician and singer. He is known for starring in such films as Wait Until Dark, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Catch-22, The In-Laws, Edward Scissorhands, Glengarry Glen Ross, Marley & Me, and...

  • 1999, Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-684-86513-0, pub date October 1999, Hardback
  • 2007, Caedmon ISBN 9780061262463, unabridged Audio CD reader Jay O. Sanders
    Jay O. Sanders
    Jay Olcutt Sanders is an American character actor.Sanders was born in Austin, Texas, to Phyllis Rae and James Olcutt Sanders. He is noted for playing Mob lawyer character Steven Kordo in the 1986–88 NBC detective series Crime Story...

  • 2008, Hachette Audio ISBN 9781405503877, unabridged Audio CD reader Trevor Nelson
    Trevor Nelson
    Trevor Nelson MBE is an English DJ and presenter.Born in Hackney to a family of St Lucian heritage, he attended Central Foundation Boys' Grammar School in Cowper St, Islington, London EC2 and Westminster Kingsway College...


See also


  • Antinomy
    Antinomy
    Antinomy literally means the mutual incompatibility, real or apparent, of two laws. It is a term used in logic and epistemology....

  • Hobson's choice
    Hobson's choice
    A Hobson's choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered. As a person may refuse to take that option, the choice is therefore between taking the option or not; "take it or leave it". The phrase is said to originate with Thomas Hobson , a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England...

  • Morton's fork
    Morton's Fork
    A Morton's Fork is a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives , or two lines of reasoning that lead to the same unpleasant conclusion...


External links