Study Guide

Catch-22 Isolation

By Joseph Heller

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In Catch-22, the mechanized efficiency of modernity and the madness of war keep many of the characters isolated from one another. Despite spending so much time together, none of the men really form meaningful, lasting relationships. Instead, they suffer from profound loneliness and insecurity, or find meaning only in material things. Whenever there is a fellow who is slightly odd, he becomes marked as a target for the others, which only serves to increase the victim's sense of alienation. What can we say? All's fair in love and war—including picking on the weakling.

Questions About Isolation

  1. What fears or weaknesses specifically isolate Major Major, the chaplain, and Major Dobbs from one other? For Major Major and the chaplain, what is the importance of their names in their alienation from others?
  2. Why does Yossarian have access to the minds and memories of some characters? How does he metaphorically merge his identity with theirs?
  3. Do any true and lasting friendships form in Catch-22 despite the overwhelming alienation experienced by the majority of the characters? Are there instances in which lonely characters successfully unite?
  4. How do isolation and alienation cause apathy and ultimately dehumanization?

Chew on This

In choosing to isolate himself, Major Major chooses wisely; only in isolation can he maintain his morals.

In choosing to isolate himself, Major Major shows his weakness and gives up any hope of being accepted into society.

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