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Themes

Language in Catch-22 is impotent. Words lose their integrity because much of what the bureaucracy says is often a blatant lie. The men live in a world where their superiors have no problem deceiving them, and likewise begin to be insincere towards one another. Thus, their speech often lacks emotion and truth. The men often communicate poorly and misunderstand the messages conveyed. So there is deficiency in both using and understanding language. Words are just words in the world of Catch-22, and are not to be trusted.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How does censorship compromise the integrity of the letters that the men try to send home?
  2. Which characters show particular blindness or deafness and how does this hinder their ability to understand things?
  3. What causes speech to be ineffective and insincere? Consider Colonel Cathcart, General Peckem, Hungry Joe, and Yossarian.
  4. How are key moments of silence more effective and emotional than speaking?

Chew on This

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

Blatant untruths and a lack of understanding compromise the effectiveness of both the spoken and written word in Catch-22. This leads us to doubt the narrative itself as a tool of effective communication. Therefore, the book both asserts and negates its own message, becoming in itself a representation of Catch-22.

The impotence of language is directly caused by a general lack of integrity among all the characters in the novel.

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