Study Guide

Catch-22 Sex

By Joseph Heller

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In Catch-22, the only mentions of love and sexuality happen in the realm of the world's oldest profession: prostitution. Many of the men often mistake lust for love, and sex is often used not just for pleasure, but as a tool of distraction and coercion. Nearly all of the women mentioned in the text are viewed primarily as sexual objects, and none of the men are able to establish lasting relationships with women, though we're not so sure a war zone is the best place to look for love. Talk about finding love in a hopeless place. 

Questions About Sex

  1. Are there any instances of true love in Catch-22? What is the boundary between love and lust?
  2. How do men treat women in Catch-22? What are the primary roles of women, and what does this say about the attitudes of the men? Consider Nately and his prostitute, Yossarian and Nurse Duckett, and Aarfy and Michaela.
  3. Is the chaplain's intense love for his wife and children compromised by his fear, or does his fear for them only enhance his love? Why, if he loves his family so much, can he not remember the faces of his children?
  4. Nately's prostitute, after Nately's death, is the only woman who proves immediately dangerous to the men. How does she use her femininity to pose a serious threat to Yossarian's life?

Chew on This

Like the prostitutes they love, the enlisted men and officers sell themselves to the military, an institution for which they have no real affection; they suffer in exchange for the glory.

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