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Catch 22

Catch 22

Joseph Heller’s famous novel follows Captain John Yossarian, a bombardier in World War II, in his journey to get out of the war. Yossarian feigns ill in an attempt to get medical discharge but the Air Force does not allow anyone to leave from an illness. After being forced to return to the front, you realize that the other men in Yossarian’s batalion are equally unique & crazy.

The novel really shines in the unique characters. Althought they are all very peculiar, they still come off as believable. It is hard for me to describe the strange and sometimes humourous antics & conversations this crew has. A good example is the following quote,

“When I was a kid,” Orr replied, “I used to walk around all day with crab apples in my cheeks. One in each cheek.”

… A minute passed. “Why?” [Yossarian] found himself forced to ask finally.

Orr tittered triumphantly. “Because they’re better than horse chestnuts… When I couldn’t get crab apples,” Orr continued, “I used horse chestnuts. Horse chestnuts are about the same size as crab apples and actually have a better shape, although the shape doesn’t matter a bit.”

“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 applies in my cheeks. When I couldn’t get crab apples I walked around with horse chestnuts. In my cheeks.”

The novel is chock full of these odd conversations & makes for endless quotability. In addition to being entertaining to read the exchanges, they also aim to bring up some interesting intellectual debates about the war, life, & their many hypocrisies. The culminating hypocrisy of the book & also where the novel gets its name is when the doctor refuses Yossarian’s request for discharge based on the fact that he is crazy. His reasoning is that if Yossarian were crazy he wouldn’t be against flying the missions (since you would have to be crazy to do so) & if he is not crazy & doesn’t want to fly the missions then he is capable of flying them & must do so – a catch 22.

Catch 22 will always be one of my favorite books & I highly recommend it to anyone who is literate.