Study Guide

Literary Qualities of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 both absorbs and parodies a variety of literary genres. Given the book's fragmented chronology, episodic structure, and caricatured characterizations, some critics have objected to labeling it a novel. The book's mockery of political and social institutions and comic exaggeration are characteristic of the satire; Yossarian's series of misadventures echo the picaresque tradition; and the work's huge cast of characters and descent-into-the-underworld motif bring to mind the epic.

The structure of Catch-22 has also confounded traditional critics. Early reviewers criticized the book for its lack of organization. But Heller asserts that the surface disorder is intentional, mirroring the thematic thrust of Yossarian's quest—a rebellion against the repressive power of systems. Psychological rather than chronological time sets the framework for the novel; past and present intermingle through mental association. The narrative opens with Yossarian in the hospital and then shifts rapidly between scenes leading up to his hospitalization...

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This section contains 676 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Catch-22 Study Guide
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Catch-22 from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.