Catch-22

Catch-22 is a 1961 novel by Joseph Heller, an anti-war novel and a general critique of bureaucracy.

The novel's title is from a catch, or snag, described in the quote from chapter 5 below. The phrase "catch-22" almost immediately entered common usage for that kind of conundrum or self-defeating logic (see Catch-22 logic).

Chapter 1Edit

  • It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain, he fell madly in love with him.
    • Opening Lines
  • Dunbar sat up like a shot. "That's it," he cried excitedly. "There was something missing – and now I know what it is." He banged his fist down into his palm. "No patriotism," he declared.

    "You're right," Yossarian shouted back. "You're right, you're right, you're right. The hot dog, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mom's apple pie. That's what everyone's fighting for. But who's fighting for the decent folk? Who's fighting for more votes for the decent folk? There's no patriotism, that's what it is. And no matriotism, either."

    The warrant officer on Yossarian's left was unimpressed. "Who gives a shit?" he asked tiredly, and turned over on his side to go to sleep.

    • P. 9
  • The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likeable. In three days no one could stand him.
    • P. 9
  • "You murdered him," said Dunbar.

    "I heard you kill him," said Yossarian.

    "You killed him because he was a nigger," Dunbar said.

    "You fellas are crazy," the Texan cried. "They don't allow niggers in here. They got a special place for niggers."

    "The sergeant smuggled him in," Dunbar said.

    "The Communist sergeant," said Yossarian.

    "And you knew it."

    • P. 9
  • The colonel dwelt in a vortex of specialists who were still specializing in trying to determine what was troubling him. They hurled lights in his eyes to see if he could see, rammed needles into nerves to hear if he could feel. There was a urologist for his urine, a lymphologist for his lymph, an endocrinologist for his endocrines, a psychologist for his psyche, a dermatologist for his derma; there was a pathologist for his pathos, and cystologist for his cysts. … The colonel had really been investigated. There was not an organ of his body that had not been drugged and derogated, dusted and dredged, fingered and photographed, removed, plundered, and replaced. Pg.15

Chapter 2Edit

  • 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.

    "Who's they?" he wanted to know. "Who, specifically, do you think is trying to murder you?"

    "Every one of them," Yossarian told him.

    "Every one of whom?"

    "Every one of whom do you think?"

    "I haven't any idea."

    "Then how do you know they aren't?"

    "Because …" Clevinger sputtered, and turned speechless with frustration.

    • P. 24 ("Vintage" edition: p. 19)
  • Appleby was as good at shooting crap as he was at playing Ping-Pong, and he was as good at playing Ping-Pong as he was at everything else. Everything Appleby did, he did well. Appleby was a fair-haired boy from Iowa who believed in God, Motherhood, and the American Way of Life, without ever thinking about any of them, and everybody who knew him liked him.

    "I hate that son of a bitch," Yossarian growled.

    • P. 25
  • As far back as Yossarian could recall, he explained to Clevinger with a patient smile, somebody was always hatching a plot to kill him. There were people who cared for him and people who didn't, and those who didn't hated him and were out to get him. They hated him because he was Assyrian. But they couldn't touch him, he told Clevinger, because he was Tarzan, Mandrake, Flash Gordon. He was Bill Shakespeare. He was Cain, Ulysses, the Flying Dutchman; he was Lot in Sodom, Deirdre of the Sorrows, Sweeney in the nightingales among trees. He was miracle ingredient Z-247. He was –

    "Crazy!" Clevinger interrupted, shrieking. "That's what you are! Crazy!"

    • P. 29
  • Gasping furiously for air, Clevinger enumerated Yossarian's symptoms: 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.
    • P. 29 ("Vintage" edition: p. 23)

Chapter 3Edit

  • "Why did you walk around with crab apples in your cheeks? Yossarian asked again. "That's what I asked."

    "Because they've got a better shape than horse chestnuts," Orr answered. "I just told you that."

    "Why," swore Yossarian at him approvingly, "you evil-eyed, mechanically-aptituded, disaffiliated son of a bitch, did you walk around with anything in your cheeks?"

    "I didn't," Orr said, "walk around with anything in my cheeks. I walked around with crab apples in my cheeks. When I couldn't get crab apples, I walked around with horse chestnuts. In my cheeks."

    P.23
  • Colonel Cargill, General Peckem's troubleshooter, was a forceful, ruddy man. Before the war he had been an alert, hard-hitting, aggressive marketing executive. He was a very bad marketing executive. Colonel Cargill was so awful a marketing executive that his services were much sought after by firms eager to establish losses for tax purposes. Throughout the civilized world, from Battery Park to Fulton Street, he was known as a dependable man for a fast tax write-off. His prices were high, for failure often did not come easily. He had to start at the top and work his way down, and with sympathetic friends in Washington, losing money was no simple matter. It took months of hard work and careful misplanning. A person misplaced, disorganized, miscalculated, overlooked everything and opened every loophole, and just when he thought he had it made, the government gave him a lake or a forest or an oilfield and spoiled everything. Even with such handicaps, Colonel Cargill could be relied on to run the most prosperous enterprise into the ground. He was a self-made man who owed his lack of success to nobody.
    • P. 27
  • Havermeyer was a lead bombardier who never missed. Yossarian was a lead bombardier who had been demoted because he no longer gave a damn whether he missed or not. 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.
    • P. 29

Chapter 4Edit

  • "Sure, that's what I mean," Doc Daneeka said. "A little grease is what makes this world go round. One hand washes the other. Know what I mean? You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."

    Yossarian knew what he meant.

    "That's not what I meant," Doc Daneeka said, as Yossarian began scratching his back. "I'm talking about co-operation. Favours. You do a favour for me, I'll do one for you. Get it?"

    "Do one for me," Yossarian requested.

    "Not a chance," Doc Daneeka answered.

    • P. 32
  • "Who is Spain?"

    "Why is Hitler?"

    "When is right?"

    "Where was that stooped and mealy-colored old man I used to call Poppa when the merry-go-round broke down?"

    "How was trump at Munich?"

    "Ho-ho beriberi."

    and

    "Balls!"

    all rang out in rapid succession, and then there was Yossarian with the question that had no answer:

    "Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?"

    • P. 34
  • "Do you know how long a year takes when it's going away?" Dunbar repeated to Clevinger. "This long." He snapped his fingers. "A second ago you were stepping into college with your lungs full of fresh air. Today you're an old man."

    "Old?" asked Clevinger with surprise. "What are you talking about?"

    "Old."

    "I'm not old."

    "You're inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age? A half minute before that you were stepping into high school, and an unhooked brassiere was as close as you ever hoped to get to Paradise. Only a fifth of a second before that you were a small kid with a ten-week summer vacation that lasted a hundred thousand years and still ended too soon. Zip! They go rocketing by so fast. How the hell else are you ever going to slow down?" Dunbar was almost angry when he finished.

    "Well, maybe it is true," Clevinger conceded unwillingly in a subdued tone. "Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it's to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?"

    "I do," Dunbar told him.

    "Why?" Clevinger asked.

    "What else is there?"

    • P. 39

Chapter 5Edit

  • There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own 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. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

    "That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.

    "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.

    • P. 55 (p. 46 in Simon & Schuster 2004)

Chapter 8Edit

  • "Justice?" The Colonel was astounded. "What is justice?"

    "Justice, sir –"

    "That's not what justice is," the colonel jeered, and began pounding the table again with his big fat hand. "That's what Karl Marx is. I'll tell you what justice is. Justice is a knee in the gut from the floor on the chin at night sneaky with a knife brought up down on the magazine of a battleship sandbagged underhanded in the dark without a word of warning."

    • P. 80
  • "Last night in the latrine. Didn't you whisper that we couldn't punish you to that other dirty son of a bitch we don't like? What's his name?"

    "Yossarian, sir," Lieutenant Scheisskopf said.

    "Yes, Yossarian. That's right. Yossarian. Yossarian? Is that his name? Yossarian? What the hell kind of a name is Yossarian?"

    Lieutenant Scheisskopf had the facts at his finger tips. "It's Yossarian's name, sir," he explained.

    • P. 88
  • "You haven't got a chance, kid," he told him glumly. "They hate Jews."

"But I'm not Jewish," answered Clevinger. "It will make no difference," Yossarian promised, and Yossarian was right. "They're after everybody."

Chapter 9Edit

  • Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three.
    Based on quote from Shakespeare, Twelfth Night Act II, scene v: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”
  • "English history!" roared the silver-maned senior Senator from his state indignantly. "What's the matter with American history? American history is as good as any history in the world!"
    • P. 97, paperback

Chapter 10Edit

  • "Do you really want some more codeine?" Dr. Stubbs asked.

    "It's for my friend Yossarian. He's sure he's going to be killed."

    "Yossarian? Who the hell is Yossarian? What the hell kind of a name is Yossarian, anyway? Isn't he the one who got drunk and started that fight with Colonel Korn at the officer's club the other night?"

    "That's right. He's Assyrian."

    "That crazy bastard."

    "He's not so crazy," Dunbar said. "He swears he's not going to fly to Bologna."

    "That's just what I mean," Dr. Stubbs answered. "That crazy bastard may be the only sane one left."

    • P. 110

Chapter 12Edit

  • "Open your eyes, Clevinger. It doesn't make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead."
    • P. 123
  • "The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "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."
    • P. 124
  • Yossarian sidled up drunkenly to Colonel Korn at the officers' club one night to kid with him about the new Lepage gun that the Germans had moved in. "What Lepage gun?" Colonel Korn inquired with curiosity. "The new three hundred and forty four millimeter Lepage glue gun," Yossarian answered. "It glues a whole formation of planes together in mid-air."
    • P. 124

Chapter 17Edit

  • There was a much lower death rate inside the hospital than outside the hospital, and a much healthier death rate. Few people died unnecessarily. People knew a lot more about dying inside the hospital and made a much neater, more orderly job of it. They couldn't dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her behave. They had taught her manners. They couldn't keep death out, but while she was in she had to act like a lady. People gave up the ghost with delicacy and taste inside the hospital. There was none of that crude, ugly ostentation about dying that was so common outside the hospital.
    • P. 176

Chapter 18Edit

  • "Be thankful you're healthy."
    "Be bitter you're not going to stay that way"
    "Be glad you're even alive."
    "Be furious you're going to die."
    • p179
    • Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife and Yossarian.
  • "And don't tell me God works in mysterious ways," Yossarian continued. … "There's nothing mysterious about it, He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else He's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about, a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of Creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?" P.179
  • "[T]he God I don't believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He's not the mean and stupid God you make him out to be."Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife P.180

Chapter 21Edit

  • A moment ago there had been no Yossarians in his life; now they were multiplying like hobgoblins. He tried to make himself grow calm. Yossarian was not a common name; perhaps there were not really three Yossarians but only two Yossarians, or maybe even only one Yossarian – but that really made no difference! The colonel was still in grave peril. Intuition warned him that he was drawing close to some immense and inscrutable cosmic climax, and his broad, meaty, towering frame tingled from head to toe at the thought that Yossarian, whoever he would turn out to be, was destined to serve as his nemesis.

    Colonel Cathcart was not superstitious, but he did believe in omens, and he sat right back down behind his desk and made a cryptic notation on his memorandum pad to look into the whole suspicious business of the Yossarians right away. He wrote his reminder to himself in a heavy and decisive hand, amplifying it sharply with a series of coded punctuation marks and underlining the whole message twice, so that it read:

Yossarian! ! ! (?) !
  • P.210
  • Yossarian – the very sight of the name made him shudder. There were so many esses in it. It just had to be subversive. It was like the word subversive itself. It was like seditious and insidious too, and like socialist, suspicious, fascist and Communist.
    • P. 210

Chapter 22Edit

  • "But I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling them for four and a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy them from for seven cents an egg. Of course, I don't make the profit. The syndicate makes the profit. And everybody has a share."
    • Milo Minderbinder, p. 231

Chapter 23Edit

  • "What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can't all be worth dying for."

    "Anything worth living for," said Nately, "is worth dying for."

    "And everything worth dying for," answered the sacrilegious old man, "is certainly worth living for."

    • P. 247
  • "They are going to kill you if you don't watch out, and I can see now that you are not going to watch out. Why don't you use some sense and try to be more like me? You might live to be a hundred and seven, too."

    "Because it's better to die on one's feet than live on one's knees," Nately retorted with triumphant and lofty conviction. "I guess you've heard that saying before."

    "Yes, I certainly have," mused the treacherous old man, smiling again. "But I'm afraid you have it backward. It is better to live on one's feet than die on one's knees. That is the way the saying goes."

    "Are you sure?" Nately asked with sober confusion. "It seems to make more sense my way."

    "No, it makes more sense my way. Ask your friends."

    • P. 248

Chapter 24Edit

  • This time Milo had gone too far. Bombing his own men and planes was more than even the most phlegmatic observer could stomach, and it looked like the end for him. He had contracted with the Germans to bomb Milo's own camp.… Milo was all washed up until he opened his books to the public and disclosed the tremendous profit he had made.
    • P. 259

Chapter 27Edit

  • "Hasn't it ever occured to you that in your promiscuous pursuit of women you are merely trying to assuage your subconscious fears of sexual impotence?"

    "Yes, sir, it has."

    "Then why do you do it?"

    "To assuage my fears of sexual impotence."

    • P.308
  • "You have no respect for excessive authority or obsolete traditions. You're dangerous and depraved, and you ought to be taken outside and shot!"
    • P. 309 (pp. 379–380 in the new edition)

Chapter 29Edit

  • "Well, don't let that trouble you," General Peckem continued with a careless flick of his wrist. "Just pass on the work I assign you to somebody else and trust to luck. We call that delegation and responsibility. Somewhere down near the lowest level of this coordinated organization I run are people who get the work done when it reaches them, and everything manages to run along smoothly without too much effort on my part. I suppose that's because I am a good executive. Nothing we do in this large department of ours is really very important, and there's never any rush. On the other hand, it is important that we let people know we do a great deal of it. Let me know if you find yourself shorthanded. I've already put in a requisition for two majors, four captains and sixteen lieutenants to give you a hand. While none of the work we do is very important, it is important that we do a great deal of it. Don't you agree?"

P. 320

Chapter 31Edit

  • "Dear Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. and Mrs. Daneeka: Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father, or brother was killed, wounded, or reported missing in action."
    • P. 344

Chapter 34Edit

  • "It doesn't make sense. It isn't even good grammar. What the hell does it mean to disappear somebody?"
    • P. 378

Chapter 36Edit

  • And looking very superior, he tossed down on the table a photostatic copy of a piece of V mail in which everything but the salutation "Dear Mary" had been blocked out and on which the censoring officer had written, "I yearn for you tragically. R. O. Shipman, Chaplain, U.S. Army." [A. T. Tappman, Chaplain, U.S. Army in another version]
    • P. 382

Chapter 39Edit

  • Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian's fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.
    • P. 405
  • Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.
    • 'the old woman' ; P. 407 (Simon & Schuster, 50th Anniversary Edition, 2011)

Chapter 40Edit

  • "The men were perfectly content to fly as many missions as we asked them as long as they thought they had no alternative. Now you've given them hope, and they're unhappy. So the blame is all yours."
  • P 423

Chapter 41Edit

  • He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. 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.
    • P. 440

Chapter 42Edit

  • "When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don't see heaven, or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and human tragedy."
    • P. 445
  • "From now on I'm thinking only of me."

    Major Danby replied indulgently with a superior smile: "But, Yossarian, suppose everyone felt that way."

    "Then," said Yossarian, "I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn't I?"

    • P. 446
  • The knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off.
    • Last lines

External LinksEdit

  • Catch-22 quotes analyzed; study guide with themes, character analyses, literary devices, teacher resources
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Last modified on 17 April 2014, at 21:47