Monday, February 14, 2011

A Review of 'Catch-22' by Joseph Heller

There’s only one catch—Catch-22.

It’s a legal loophole that means just when you’re sure you’ve won… you lose!

World War II flier John Yossarian knows that. He’s a lead bombardier who has decided that his only mission each time he goes up is to come down alive. His zany, unpredictable world is filled with war, whores, lunatics, thieves, violence, and sex.

And so is ours. Catch-22 is as revealing today as when it was first published. Outrageous, bawdy, hilarious, expresses the concerns of an entire generation in its black comedy… and “Catch-22” has stepped into our language to stand for all the absurdities of our age.

Wow… that’s all I could say upon finishing Catch-22.

The first thing that I found kind of cool (and slightly confusing) was the format in which the book was written. It has a linear structure and it is very episodic (meaning that every chapter is in no particular order).

Through these chapters, you get to know many, many characters (or at least what happened to them). Yossarian, Orr, Nately, Aarfy, Snowden, Major Major, Colonel Cathcart, Nurse Duckett, etc. The thing about this book is even though there are a large cast of characters, they all usually have one distinctive feature that helps you remember a large percentage of them.

This is a satire, criticizing the U.S. Military among other institutions and belief systems. It’s funny when you read it in your head, but it’s even funnier when you read it out loud! The sheer ridiculousness of what many of the Colonels and Generals say makes you do a double-take at the page and then laugh at the very irony that just came out of their mouth.

The kind of humor in this book is quite interesting. If you saw something funny on the page, you’d laugh, but then you’d look at that thing again and you’d start to realize just how dark the humor is or how shockingly serious the statement was.

Breaking away from humor for a moment, the story could really send shocks to the system. The descriptions of some of the deaths (or even thoughts about death) were so jarring. At one point, I read about two consecutive deaths and I had to go back and read that part again thinking that I had just made up something quite sick in my head.

Joseph Heller really made you sympathize with the characters and that’s what made this book so effective.

I can imagine that this book would be harder to read just as an individual, so I’m glad that I read this as part of my English class.

Well, I must get started on my Catch-22 essay, so I’ll wrap this up. I give this book:

Thanks for reading!


P.S. This is mostly to those that have already read the book, but for those that decide to pick up this book and give it a shot, here’s something to think about. I mentioned that this book was written in a non-linear fashion and that it was very episodic. Do you think the chapters were arranged in such a way to sort of summarize the level of sanity that there was as the book went on? It’s just a thought, but I want to see what you guys think. Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I agree, there are times when you laugh, and then feel uncomfortable because the humor is so dark. I think the chapters were arranged both to summarize the level of sanity, and also to maximize the emotional (and humorous) impact. If it had been told chronologically, some things would not have seemed as absurd, and the way I would have reacted as a reader would have been completely different. Great review!


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