Joseph Heller, Catch-22, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961

  1. Christopher MacGowan

Published Online: 24 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch55

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

How to Cite

MacGowan, C. (2011) Joseph Heller, Catch-22, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961, in The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch55

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 FEB 2012
  2. Published Print: 21 JAN 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405160230

Online ISBN: 9781444393675



  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961);
  • Joseph Heller, pointing out in his 1994 preface to Catch-22 - the novel “won no prizes and was not on any bestseller list” in the United States when it first appeared;
  • novel's examples of Catch-22, being many - central to the narrative, predicament of Yossarian, bombardier in the air force in Italy in World War II;
  • demands of larger organization, the squadron - the whole war effort against the enemy, providing cover for private motives of officers, who punish non-conformists;
  • Dunbar, marked to “disappear” and “the soldier in white” - reduced to a mass of bandages, a small black hole, and two jars recycling liquids through him;
  • military organization, in the novel - allowing Heller to satirize through exaggeration, basic tenets of American culture;
  • Major Major, way to “disappear” himself - taking appointments for times when he is absent;
  • Yossarian's desperation, growing and becoming increasingly isolated - losing his friends one by one;
  • Yossarian's selfless pledge, to look for and rescue the 12-year-old sister - of “Nately's whore” and take her with him, criticized as sentimental;
  • Catch-22's influence, recognized - novel criticized for what some see as its excessive length, lack of structure, and uneven quality of its humor


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