CliffsNotes on Heller's Catch-22

CliffsNotes on Heller's Catch-22

CliffsNotes on Heller's Catch-22

CliffsNotes on Heller's Catch-22


The original CliffsNotes study guides offer expert commentary on major themes, plots, characters, literary devices, and historical background.


  • Life and Background of the Author
  • Introduction to the Novel
  • List of Characters
  • Critical Commentaries
  • Critical Essays
  • Essay Topics and Review Questions
  • Selected Bibliography

    To the reader who regards style as mere adornment and structure as mere form, Catch-22 must appear a frustratingly jumbled series of disconnected episodes. The novel is written, however, within the viewpoint that style and structure limit and condition what is and what can be said.

    Structurally, the reader needs to be aware of how the novel is organized and unified. The organizing principle of the novel is not chronology. Time is disjointed, and episodes are placed for one of two purposes. The first of these purposes is to juxtapose two scenes in order to show their relevance to one another, regardless of their chronological order. For example, in the beginning and middle of chapter two, Yossarian is arguing with Clevinger, but in between we are shown where Yossarian lives at a time when Clevinger "had still not returned." The purpose of this rapid juxtaposition is to establish an ironic perspective on Clevinger’s claim that war is impersonal. Another example of this is the lifting of the first chapter out of sequence in order to establish the importance of the hospital, the friendship of Yossarian and the chaplain, and the psychology of Yossarian...

  • Excerpt

    Although the surface of chapter one is simple, this appearance is quite deceiving. the reader should note the details of time, place, and character in these early chapters because Catch-22 develops, in plot and in theme, by the continual re-occurrence of these elements in new and different situations, each new context adding to and elaborating on ideas until their meaning becomes more fully realized, both by the reader and by the characters themselves.

    In chapter one, not only are the characters themselves important, but so also are the contrasts in character and the overall irony of the chapter. Note particularly the setting: the hospital in Pianosa. Yossarian’s trips to the hospital will become more and more important as the novel progresses. the hospital, which we might associate negatively with sickness and positively with health, is here associated positively with escape and negatively with one of the major themes of the novel: insanity. Note how Yossarian and the chaplain talk about who is crazy and sane and how the sanest ward in the hospital becomes “the only sane ward in the whole world.”

    The irony is present here in such remarks as the comment that the Texan is so good-natured that no one can . . .

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