Books and Movies Reviews

Catch22 A Study in PostWar Attitudes

Catch-22: A Study in Post-War Attitudes
In 1961, Joseph Heller published Catch-22, hisfirst novel. Based on his own war experiences, the novel wickedly satirized bureaucracy, patriotism, and all manner of traditional American ideals. This was reflective of the increasing disdain for traditional viewpoints that was growing in America at that time. (Potts, p. 13) The book soon became championed as another voice in the antiwar movement of the 1960's. However, Heller himself claimed that his novel was less about World War II, or war at all, than it was an allegory for the Cold War and the materialistic "Establishment" attitudes of the Eisenhower era. (Kiley, pp. 318-321) Thus, Catch-22 represents a rebellion against the standards of the Eisenhower era.
Catch-22 follows the experiences of Yossarian, a bombardier stationed near Italy during World War II. Yossarian is clearly representative of Heller; indeed, he could be considered an everyman. (Kiley, p. 336) Because of a traumatic experience, which is revealed bit by bit throughout the novel, Yossarian is terrified of flying. Yet Colonel Cathcart keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly. Yossarian's attempts to avoid flying are met with the Army's Catch number 22, which is a sort of mythical stumbling block to free will and reason. In the end, Yossarian defects and takes a stand against his situation by running away from it. The moral of the story seems to be that nothing is truly worth dying for, but there is plenty worth fighting for.
Yossarian is an antihero: the reader sympathizes with him despite, or perhaps because of, his unsavory beliefs and actions. (Potts, p. 84) It is easy to sympathize with him: he seems to be the only sane person in a crazy world, which may be why everyone keeps telling him he's crazy. Yossarian does battle with bureaucratic authority as personified by Colonels Cathcart and Korn, General Dreedle, and ex-P.F….