Notes on Catch-22 Themes

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Catch-22 Topic Tracking: Catch-22

Chapter 4

Catch-22 1: Colonel Korn uses the same twisted logic as Catch-22 in the information sessions. Under Colonel Korn's rule, the only people permitted to ask questions are those who never do. Korn's rule is a logical trap that makes questions impossible to ask.

Chapter 5

Catch-22 2: Yossarian's plea to be sent home on the basis of insanity is useless because, according to Catch-22, insane men who ask to be grounded are in fact sane, and thus able to fly. Truly crazy people are instead those who agree to fly more missions. Catch-22 makes it impossible to be sent home on the grounds of insanity.

Chapter 6

Catch-22 3: Army regulation Catch-22 says you've always got to do what your commanding officer tells you to do, even if it goes against army regulation. The men have no refuge from the illogical power of the rule because officers are infallible, even if they are wrong, which they never are.

Chapter 9

Catch-22 4: The only one with any right to remove Mudd's belongings from Yossarian's tent was Yossarian. And, it seems to Major Major, Yossarian has no right. Thus, no one may move Mudd's gear. It's another Catch-22 trap.

Chapter 10

Catch-22 5: Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen's punishment of filling up holes is not a steady job. He loses it each time he finishes his sentence. To keep it, he must go AWOL again, which is impossible because he will be sent to the stockade. Wintergreen says this is another Catch-22. Similarly, Major Major's orders are very much in the spirit of Catch-22. Sergeant Towser may admit men to see Major Major, but only when he is not there. Major Major's orders make it impossible for anyone to see him.

Chapter 11

Catch-22 6: Each time Captain Black triumphs over his competitors, he becomes angry for their failure to follow his example. Each time they follow his example, he racks his brain for some new reason to be angry with them again. Thus, Captain Black is impossible to please because pleasing him makes him angry. Similarly, Captain Black's loyalty oath is voluntary, but failure to agree to it will result in death. Thus, the voluntary agreement is not really voluntary.

Chapter 12

Catch-22 7: The more it rains, the worse the men suffer. The worse they suffer, the more they pray that it will continue raining. The rain makes life miserable, but once it lets up, they must fly the dangerous mission to Bologna. Either way they must suffer.

Chapter 16

Catch-22 8: Luciana confuses Yossarian with her illogical response to his marriage proposal. She will not marry him because he is crazy and he is crazy because he wants to marry her. The circular argument is like Catch-22 in that his desire to marry Luciana hinders the marriage, just like his desire to be grounded prevents his grounding.

Chapter 39

Catch-22 9: The old woman learns that Catch-22 gives soldiers the right to do anything that the citizens cannot stop them from doing. The soldiers are justified in their unjust actions simply because they have the power. Yossarian realizes that Catch-22 does not exist, but it makes no difference. What does matter is that everyone thinks it exists, and this belief gives Catch-22 the power to repress the believers.

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