Notes on Catch-22 Themes

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Catch-22 Topic Tracking: Insanity

Chapter 1

Insanity 1: Yossarian believes that the hospital, the army, and the world are all full of insane people. Chaplain Tappman visits the hospital ward, and once Yossarian determines that the clergyman is not a madman, he warns Tappman that insanity is contagious. He believes that the ward is the only sane place in the world.

Chapter 2

Insanity 2: Yossarian believes that war is madness. Men lay down their lives for some vague notion of country and no one seems to mind. Men lose their minds and are rewarded with medals. Clevinger thinks Yossarian is crazy for being paranoid but Yossarian knows that his awareness of insanity in the world will save his life. Everywhere he looks he sees a crazy man, a nut, and he knows his life is in peril amid so much madness. Clevinger enumerates Yossarian's symptoms as an unreasonable belief that people hate him and want to kill him, along with homicidal impulses and violent fantasies.

Chapter 3

Insanity 3: Orr rationally explains his irrational desire to obtain droopy cheeks by stuffing them with crab apples and horse chestnuts. His tone of utter sensibility drives Yossarian crazy because Orr is one of the strangest freaks Yossarian has ever met.

Chapter 5

Insanity 4: Illogical logic provides a constant thread of insanity throughout the novel. The most prominent example of this insane reasoning comes in Catch-22, which says that a crazy man wishing to be grounded is sane, while a sane man willing to fly is crazy. Catch-22 is about insanity, but it also employs insanity in it's strange logic. Yossarian proves his point that insanity is contagious. After Yossarian's goading, Appleby believes he may have flies in his eyes. He is offended when his friends ask him if he is crazy. He believes Yossarian is the insane one, not him!

Chapter 10

Insanity 5: When Yossarian resolves that he will not fly to Bologna, Dr. Stubbs says he is a crazy bastard and consequently may be the only sane man left in the squadron. Yossarian's rebelliousness is crazy, yet Stubbs believes it is the only sane way to save one's life. Psychiatrist Major Sanderson determines that Yossarian has a sadistic, paranoid, split personality. He diagnoses Yossarian as insane. However, Major Sanderson is crazy himself. He suffers from feelings of inadequacy formed during childhood and is more concerned with his own diagnosis than with Yossarian's. This is truly an insane world - even the doctors are demented - and it is becoming increasingly difficult to trust in the sanity of anyone at all.

Chapter 16

Insanity 6: Yossarian rashly proposes to Luciana. She will not marry Yossarian because she thinks he is crazy. She thinks he is crazy because he wishes to marry her. This is a circular argument that is illogical in itself. Thus, Luciana charges Yossarian with derangement, yet her irrational arguments reveal her own absurdity.

Chapter 18

Insanity 7: Yossarian fakes dementia to prolong his hospital stay. The doctors ask him to perform a completely insane stunt for a visiting family by pretending to be their dying son, Giuseppe. Though blatantly a farce, the visiting mourners accept Yossarian as their son. The scene is dreamlike and ridiculous, yet no one chooses to take notice.

Chapter 24

Insanity 8: Milo makes an outrageous deal with the Germans to bomb his own outfit. He reasons that such double-dealing is logical because it profits the syndicate, and whatever benefits the syndicate benefits the men since everyone has a share. The insanity of this bargain is surmounted only by the insanity of the government, which pardons Milo once he argues that betrayal is legitimate if it is profitable. The blind acceptance of Milo's logic is completely absurd.

Chapter 25

Insanity 9: The chaplain is losing his mind because he takes things too seriously and has begun to question religion. His mind is in shambles and his senses are jarred. He feels a weakening of the church's dogma and is plagued by visions and prophets. The loss of total belief in God, one's true faith, and the afterlife, cause the chaplain to question his profession, his life, and his sanity. Puzzling feelings of deja vu consume his mind and he seems to be cracking up.

Chapter 27

Insanity 10: Yossarian argues that he is nuts, cuckoo, and off his rocker. He cannot believe the army would send an insane man out to be killed. But who else will go? War is insane and spares no one.

Chapter 31

Insanity 11: Doc Daneeka is presumed dead even though he is blatantly alive. Officials ignore the fact that he is clearly living and absurdly decide that he is dead and gone. They even mail condolence letters to Mrs. Daneeka and ignore Doc Daneeka to his face! Their unwavering belief in his death, despite his obvious existence, is completely bizarre, yet everyone accepts the insane situation as normal.

Chapter 39

Insanity 12: Yossarian wanders aimlessly through the streets of Rome and is saturated by the sheer deterioration of logic and morality in his surroundings. The setting takes on a nightmarish distortion and Yossarian becomes so burdened by the insanity that nothing seems bizarre to him anymore. The sidewalk is a winding trail of warped suffering as men, women, and children scream, hide, torture, convulse, rape, and murder.

Chapter 42

Insanity 13: Yossarian realizes that Orr was not such a crackpot after all! Orr feigned insanity in order to disguise his escape plans. Orr, the apple-cheeked lunatic who maddeningly tinkered and incessantly repeated the same illogical stories, emerges as the most sane and industrious man of all. His feigned insanity was his ticket to freedom.

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