Author: Joseph Heller
Synopsis: Describes the life of a bombardier, Yossarian, during the final months of World War II in an American bomber squadron on the island of Pianosa near Italy. Yossarian struggles with the complexities of other people in the squadron, especially his superiors who keep increasing the number of combat missions required. While his peers accept the absurdities of their situation, Yossarian constantly seeks out of his duties, shocked by the ruthlessness of war.
Themes: One major theme in Catch-22 that of sanity, and how most of the world seems very absurd to anyone who is not crazy. Another theme is that of Catch-22, which is a problem in which the solution is impossible due to the situation in which the problem is in. The phrase Catch-22, incidentally, is one of the few commonly used phrases that came form the title of a book.
Point of View: The book is written in third-person point of view. The point of view generally follows Yossarian, but the thoughts of other characters are shown as well.
Characters/types: The main character is Yossarian, with whom the book revolves around. Other characters are introduced at the beginning of the book, but are described in greater detail as the book goes on. Character is plot in this book, as the story is set forth based on characters rather than chronologically.
Figurative Language/literary devices: The book makes considerable use of flashback.
For example, the author might be describing a character that made a brief appearance
in the action itself, and flash back into something that the character did a
long time ago. In this way the flashback is important as a type of characterization.
1. Which element was the most important to the development of the novel? Explain why.
Colonel Cathcart’s raising of the number of missions throughout the book is the most important to the development of the novel. Each time Yossarian has almost completed the number of missions required, Colonel Cathcart raises the number of missions again. Because of this, many men lose their lives who would not have otherwise, and Yossarian finally decides to stop flying his missions.
2. Identify the elements of plot below. Justify your answer.
A. initial incident: Probably the initial incident is Yossarian in the hospital in the first chapter. This sets up the novel nicely because Yossarian will spend considerable time in the hospital throughout the novel. During this initial incident, several of the characters are introduced, including the chaplain.
B. climax: The climax is when Colonel Korn and Colonel Cathcart finally relent and “agree” to send Yossarian home. Yossarian’s acceptance and refusal of the deal sets up the final stage of the novel.
3. Give an example of conflict. Identify the type of conflict and how it is / why it is not resolved. An external conflict is how Nately’s whore keeps on trying to kill Yossarian. No matter where they dump her, she somehow still manages to find Yossarian. Even in the last paragraph of the book, she is still trying to kill Yossarian.
4. Give an example of irony from the novel. Identify the type and explain how or why it is ironic. Hungry Joe dies in his sleep, and “they found a cat on his face.” This is ironic because Hungry Joe would have nightmares that a cat was lying on his face and suffocating him.
5. Identify a flashback from the novel and explain the effect of the use of
Heller makes considerable use of flashback in Catch-22. one example can be found on pages 446-450, where Yossarian thinks of Snowden and the reader is suddenly transported back into the tail of the B-25, where Yossarian is attempting to keep Snowden alive as he is dying.
6. Give an example of foreshadowing from the novel. Explain the effect of the use of this device. Yossarian signing censored letters a “Washington Irving” during the first chapter of the book foreshadows the subplot of the C.I.D. men seeking whoever is doing this and them finally laying the blame on the chaplain.
7. From what point of view is the story told? What effect does this point of view have on the reader? The book is written in third-person point of view. The point of view generally follows Yossarian, but the thoughts of other characters are shown as well.
8. Describe the setting of the novel. The novel is set primarily in the 256th Bomber Squadron in Pianosa, an island off of Italy. Parts of the novel also take place in Rome and in the air.
9. Identify two major characters from the novel. For each character: A. Identify
the type. B. Give three quotes, with page numbers, which illustrates the character.
Character one: Yossarian
B. “They’re trying to kill me. [If not] then why are they shooting at me?” (p.25) “During the night, his talented roommate died, and Yossarian decided that he had followed him far enough.” (p. 191) “He was home free: he had pulled it off; his act of rebellion had succeeded; he was safe, and he had nothing to be ashamed of to anyone. “ (p 439)
Character two: Chaplain Tappman
A. Main character
B. “I’ve noticed that I make many of the men uncomfortable.” (p. 21) “I think that saying prayers before every mission is a very moral and highly laudatory procedure, sir.” (p. 200) “Those letters are insincere and dishonest. Their only purpose is to bring glory to Colonal Cathcart.” (p.397)
10. Give a one sentence statement of theme for the novel. One major theme in Catch-22 that of sanity, and how most of the world seems very absurd to anyone who is not crazy.
11. Identify one symbol from the novel and explain the symbolism. The soldier in white symbolizes the stark realization of war and the fear that all the men have of becoming the soldier in white.
12. Identify one allusion from the novel and explain the allusion. Colonal Cathcart alludes to the Twenty-third Psalm when he states “I don’t want any of this Kingdom of God or Valley of Death stuff.” When the chaplain notes that is from the Twenty-third psalm, Colonal Cathcart states “It’s out.”
13. Identify six different types of figurative language or literary devices used in the novel. For each type: A. Identify type. B. Give a quote with page number. C. Explain the effect.
1. A. Foreshadowing
B. “You can leave it in the syndicate and watch it grow” (p. 75)
C. This foreshadows Milo forming M & M Enterprises, and using that as an excuse to not go on any missions.
2. A. Irony
B. “The next thing you know you’ll be claiming you’re Washington Irving.” (p. 309)
C. Yossarian, of course, was the one who originally signed the papers “Washington Irving.”
3. A. Foreshadowing
B. “If you had any brains, you know that you’d do? You’d go right to Piltchard and Wren and tell them you want to fly all your missions with me.” (p. 326)
C. Later Yossarian finds out that Orr went to Sweden, and that is why he was urging Yossarian to come on a mission with him.
4. A. Dialogue
B. “ ‘Will you speak up please? He couldn’t hear you.’ ‘Yes, sir. I--’ ‘Metcalf.’ ‘ Sir?’ ‘Didn’t I tell you to keep your stupid mouth shut’ ‘Yes, sir.’ . . .” (p. 86)
C. The back-and-forth dialogue between the Action Board and Clevinger serves to provide much comic relief.
5. A. Direct Characterization.
B. “Colonal Cathcart was a slick, successful, slipshod, unhappy man of thirty-six who lumbered when he walked and wanted to be a general.” (p. 197)
C. Here, the author directly describes Colonal Cathcart’s physical features.
6. A. Irony
B. “[Hungry Joe] died in his sleep while having a dream. They found a cat on his face.” (p. 445)
C. This is ironic because Hungry Joe would have nightmares that a cat was lying on his face and suffocating him
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