Catch-22 Plot Summary
Captain Yossarian is an American bombardier stationed off the Italian coast during the final months of World War II. Paranoid and odd, Yossarian believes that everyone around him is trying to kill him. All Yossarian wants is to complete his tour of duty and be sent home. However, because the glory-seeking Colonel Cathcart continually raises the number of required missions, the men of the "fighting 256th squadron" must keep right on fighting.
With a growing hatred of flying, Yossarian pleads with Doc Daneeka to ground him on the basis of insanity. Doc Daneeka replies that Yossarian's appeal is useless because, according to army regulation Catch-22, insane men who ask to be grounded prove themselves sane through a concern for personal safety. Truly crazy people are those who readily agree to fly more missions. The only way to be grounded is to ask for it. Yet this act demonstrates sanity and thus demands further flying. Crazy or not, Yossarian is stuck.
The frantic bombardier employs alternative measures to avoid combat flights. Faking a liver condition, Yossarian checks into the hospital and passes time by censoring mail and forging "Washington Irving" to official army correspondence. Yossarian postpones the mission to Bologna when he stealthily moves the bomb line on the map of Italy. A sudden outbreak of diarrhea caused by poisoned sweet potatoes also delays the mission, much to the chagrin of Milo, the mess hall officer and entrepreneur responsible for a complex international trade syndicate in which everyone has a share.
Hungry Joe has flown more combat tours of duty than anyone. Orders shipping him home are constantly unfulfilled and the ragged hero has frequent screaming nightmares. Yossarian is blamed for the loss of Kraft's plane over Ferrara because he flew over the target twice. Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn cover-up the disaster by awarding Yossarian a medal for bravery and promoting him to captain. Yossarian stands naked in formation to receive his medal. Still traumatized by Snowden's death over Avignon, Yossarian refuses to wear his gore-soaked uniform. Young Nately crashes in an emergency mission and Yossarian bears the news of his death to his beloved whore in Rome. Heartbroken and furious, she stalks Yossarian with animalistic rage and tries to murder him with a kitchen knife.
Yossarian rebelliously refuses to fly more missions. Colonel Cathcart offers Yossarian a deal: Yossarian will be sent home if he promises to praise his commanding officers. Realizing that such a bargain would betray his fellow soldiers, Yossarian refuses to sell-out.
The chaplain brings Yossarian the thrilling news that his former tent-mate, Orr, has washed ashore in Sweden after many weeks lost at sea. Yossarian realizes that Orr was not the blundering pilot that he pretended to be. Instead, Orr ingeniously rehearsed his escape with every planned crash-landing. In a rush of excitement, Yossarian decides to run away and join Orr in Sweden. Yossarian discovers that there is no such thing as Catch-22. However, it does not matter, because people believe in it anyway. He will not stick around and risk being killed in a war that is almost over. Yossarian escapes to Sweden, determined to stay alive.