© 2015 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.



by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 Theme of Fear


Being surrounded by war and constant death tends to breed fear. Shocking, we know. Add in a healthy dollop of Catch-22 and a bureaucracy that covers up ugly truths to seem competent and successful, and you've got a good recipe for some good old fashioned paranoia. Characters in this novel have no trust or faith and live in constant fear of betrayal. They read into others' actions too deeply and often assign them unintended messages—sort of like misinterpreting a text from your crush. However unfounded their fears are, these fears have real consequences because those in power often act on assumptions, with negative consequences following soon after.

Questions About Fear

  1. Where is the line between a healthy fear for one's life and excessive paranoia? Where does Yossarian draw this line?
  2. How does fear affect Yossarian? Physically? Mentally? What does this say about his character?
  3. How do different characters cope with their fear? Look in particular at Yossarian, Hungry Joe, and Aarfy.
  4. Does the administration enhance the men's natural fears to keep them in line? If so, how do they do it? Is this totally crappy of them, or what?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Through his paranoia and refusal to fly missions, Yossarian demonstrates that he is a coward.

Despite his paranoia, Yossarian demonstrates that his fear is rational and healthy, and is not a cause for shame.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Noodle's College Search