26 CLASSICS: Catch-22 Review

Title: Catch-22
Author: Joseph Heller
Genre: Classics

Blurb: Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—novels of all time. Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man 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 proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved. 

" 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 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 was 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." 

This was a wild, wild ride. Filled with humor, quirky characters, and bitter satire- captures how ridiculous and absurd war is.  It's certainly dense, and a little difficult to get into, but it's definitely worth it. 

Let me share some quotes with you that capture the essence of this novel better than I ever could. 
“They're trying to kill me," Yossarian told him calmly.
No one's trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.
Then why are they shooting at me?" Yossarian asked.
They're shooting at everyone," Clevinger answered. "They're trying to kill everyone."
And what difference does that make?”

That war is illogical, inhumane, and horrific is so well portrayed. Why do we see people who want to live as cowards? Is your country, a piece of land, something worth dying for? Should you be loyal to your country in the first place if it is telling you to die? Through Yossarian's eyes, which look at the war and cannot understand why he has to fly more and more missions to go home, he is sane. But everyone else sees him as insane, and so he has to keep flying. Catch-22. 

“Why are they going to disappear him?'
I don't know.'
It doesn't make sense. It isn't even good grammar.”

This sort of humor is what fills this book and makes the concept of "getting rid" of disobedient soldiers and the death of young, bright minds readable. It is sheer genius- using humor to make a dark subject approachable but also utilizing it to create more of a paradox and frustration in the reader. 

“To Yossarian, the idea of pennants as prizes was absurd. No money went with them, no class privileges. Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, all they signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than everyone else.”

This quote was so powerful when I first read it. Incentives and stupid prizes such as getting their name is the paper is what motivates a lot of the soldiers- and yet the "achievements" truly have not benefited anyone, like creating a perfect plane formation but not caring if they truly hit the target. 

“Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window, and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden's secret. Ripeness was all.” 

Perhaps the most bitter, saddening statement in the novel. There are so many characters that are lost in battle, or who are missing in action, and in the end, their lives are contained within a body that is as fragile as anything else in the world. That by going to war, it was making a waste of all those spirits, and turning them into plain matter. 

Overall: To understand why you can't understand war, read this book. It's intriguing, fresh, and more than anything, important. 

Rating: 5 kisses! 

1 comment:

  1. I think this is a classic that I feel like I absolutely need to read soon! I love books based on WW2, and the fact that this weaves humour into it really intrigues me! Great review Kate!