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Joseph Heller

 Table of Contents

Catch-22 Theme of Fear

War and constant death tend to breed fear. Add in a key ingredient of Catch-22, a bureaucracy that covers up ugly truths to seem competent and successful, and you've got a good recipe for 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. However unfounded their fears are, these fears have real consequences because those in power often act on assumptions with negative consequences.

Questions About Fear

  1. Where is the line between 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 a rational and healthy, and is not a cause for shame.

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