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by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. One of the most challenging aspects of this novel is piecing together the order in which events occur. How does Heller manipulate time, fragment the action, and confuse cause and effect? More important, how does this confusing form fit the function? In other words, how does the way in which this story is told fit with what is actually happening in the story?
  2. How is insanity defined in Catch-22? What characteristics do "crazy" characters have? Is madness the norm or an exception during wartime?
  3. Does there seem to be any system of justice in the novel? Are "good" characters rewarded while "evil" ones are punished? Can we clearly say who is "good" or "evil"? If not, is there such thing as justice at all?
  4. Define the logic of Catch-22. What part does this logic play in the story being told?
  5. Catch-22 is an allegory of the common man vs. the bureaucracy of modern-day America. In Catch-22, how does the administration of the Air Force abuse its power? How does it keep its men enlisted and active? If it doesn't care for the well-being of its men, what are its goals?
  6. Are there any purely "good" characters in the book? If so, who are they and how is their goodness expressed? On the other hand, how do the more flawed characters demonstrate their cynicism, deceit, blindness, or lust for power?
  7. Few of the characters ever form lasting friendships with fellow soldiers. How is the individual kept isolated from his peers? In what ways do characters cope with their loneliness?
  8. Why is Yossarian so obsessed with death? Is he correct in assuming everyone is out to kill him? How do the deaths of Nately and Snowden change him?
  9. How does Yossarian maintain his personal integrity amidst all the corruption and apathy in Pianosa? What particular characteristics does he value? And what moral lines does he refuse to cross?
  10. Do you consider the ending of Catch-22 a happy or sad one? How might it be construed as a triumph for Yossarian? A defeat? Is it the only way out of the mad system of Catch-22?

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