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Catch-22

A major major major major novel.

Catch-22 is 42 chapters of black humor, chocolate-covered cotton balls, dudes fist-fighting with cats, and some of the slickest wordplay around. As we read, laugh, and get super confused, we'll think about loads of Big Questions to find out why Catch-22 is considered a Great American Novel.

Through Common Core-aligned activities, guided readings, and loads of punny one-liners, you'll

  • learn to define and recognize the elements of satire.
  • discuss the tradition of the War Novel in mid-century America and think about how Catch-22 defied and changed this tradition.
  • analyze the purpose of non-linear narration.
  • close read the allusions Joseph Heller makes to everything from T.S. Eliot to William Shakespeare.
  • craft original arguments about sanity and insanity during wartime.

Plus so much more.

And at the very least, you'll finally learn what a Catch-22 is. Only you won't.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. Catch-22

In fifteen short lessons, you'll go from Catch-0 to Catch-22. Context will be key as we read our way through this classic war novel.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 3: Power To The People

Power:

  • Major Major Major Major has it—and he doesn't want it at all. 
  • Colonel Scheisskopf has a little bit of it—and he's hungry for more. 
  • Milo Minderbinder uses it.
  • Yossarian is caught in it.
  • Doc Daneeka feels thwarted by it.

Power is one of those massive literary themes that crops up everywhere, from Shakespeare to Fifty Shades of Grey.

Our man Major Major Major Major in disguise, looking super duper sure of himself.
(Source)

Why? Because power means drama. The question "Who has power and who wants power?" is the gasoline that makes literature run. Think of any dramatic (or even slightly dramatic) work, and you'll find themes of power lurking in it. (Hello, Disney!)

But Catch-22 frames the question of power a little differently from most other works of literature. Since the book has a tendency to talk about what isn't happening instead of what is happening, one of Catch-22's major (major major major) discussions of power comes in the form of not wanting power.

In this lesson we'll look at that poor Henry Fonda lookalike, Major Major Major Major, and bummed out he is to be in a position of power.