Study Guide

Catch-22 Passivity

By Joseph Heller

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Many of the characters are so jaded and corrupted by all the madness and sin around them that they can no longer differentiate between good and evil. They think it is pointless to aspire to goodness when it will get them nowhere; they reach a point where they no longer care. They are indifferent to celebration and tragedy alike and do their duties mechanically, without any real sense of purpose. Some begin to lose their ability to feel emotion and become numb. Yeah, everyone in this book basically becomes an emo goth kid by the end. Quick—someone get them all Hot Topic gift cards.

Questions About Passivity

  1. Why are so many men apathetic toward the results of the war and the success of their country?
  2. How do the men show their apathy toward the war? Toward their comrades' well-being?
  3. How does Heller show the men losing their humanity because of their apathy?
  4. How do the American citizens at home reveal their own apathy toward the war effort? Consider the public response to Milo's attack on Pianosa, Mrs. Daneeka response to her husband's "death," and the family who comes to visit Yossarian.

Chew on This

As they lose their emotional capacity, the enlisted men become more bestial and less human.

Because their apathy negates their fear, it gives the men more courage to fly their missions; thus, apathy could be construed as a positive force.

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