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Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: A Summary


"Catch-22" is a satirical novel by American author Joseph Heller, first published in 1961. Set during World War II, the novel explores the absurdities and contradictions of war and military life through the experiences of Captain John Yossarian and other airmen in his squadron.

Key Themes

  • Absurdity of War: Illustrates the illogical and paradoxical nature of war.
  • Bureaucracy and Authority: Critiques the inefficiency and dehumanization within military bureaucracy.
  • Survival and Sanity: Explores the struggle to maintain sanity in the face of war's chaos.

Plot Overview

The novel is set on the fictional island of Pianosa in the Mediterranean Sea, during World War II. The story primarily follows Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier, and the various characters he encounters. Yossarian is caught in a catch-22 situation: he is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is considered sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved from duty.

Notable Characters

  • Captain John Yossarian: The protagonist, who attempts to maintain his sanity while fulfilling his service requirements so that he may return home.
  • Colonel Cathcart: An ambitious officer who continually raises the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service.
  • Milo Minderbinder: A mess officer who exemplifies greed and corruption in the wartime economy.

Impact and Legacy

"Catch-22" is renowned for its satirical representation of the absurdity of war and its influence on the English language, with the phrase "catch-22" becoming synonymous with a no-win situation or a paradoxical problem.


Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" remains a significant work in American literature, offering a unique and critical perspective on war and bureaucracy, characterized by its dark humor, complex characters, and a non-chronological narrative structure.