Nov 19, 2020 in Literature

Major Themes in Catch-22

Catch-22 was written by the American author Joseph Heller. It is a satirical novel that tells a story of Captain John Yossarian and the other airmen in the camp. The author emphasizes the soldiers attempts to keep their sanity, so they can fulfill the service requirements and return home. The novel is considered to be one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century. There are some books that criticize pragmatism, while others criticize idealism. This novel criticizes both phenomena. Catch-22 makes a statement that idealists are foolish, while opportunists are even worse. The other theme of the novel is militarys inefficiency that implies weak leaders and silly regulations. Thus, one may distinguish such major themes as idealism vs. opportunism and militarys inefficiency.


The opportunists may be preposterous, but they usually have a lot of power. For instance, one of the characters, Milo, controls many processes and entire towns. At the same time, as a classical opportunist, he merely cheats everyone. Milo cares only about profit. This is why he succeeds in many respects. The other character, Colonel Cathcart, appears to be absurd and disliked by many people. Yet, he has the authority and controls all the men. He forces pilots to fly extra missions, because he wants to carry forward. Thus, Colonel Cathcart puts their lives in danger.

One of the main characters, Nately, is the most reckless idealist. Additionally, he has misunderstandings with the ones who are opportunists. Nately believes in such notions as nationalism and love. His idealistic feeling toward prostitute causes him much trouble and costs a lot of money. It is not surprising that the owner of the brothel considers him a fool. Nately passionately believes that America cannot be destroyed. In response thereto, the owner of the brothel points out that The frog is almost five hundred million years old. Could you really say that America, with all its strength and prosperity . . . will last as long as . . . the frog?. Thus, Natelys idealistic feelings toward the future of the country seem to be reckless. At the same time, the opportunism of the old man does not help him. He loses the brothel, cannot accept it, and eventually dies.

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A person who uses idealism and opportunism simultaneously in order to get more power appears to be the most dangerous one. Such people appeal to idealism of others, while controlling them. Thus, they are gaining wealth and prestige. One should return to the character Milo in order to find such a combination. For instance, when Yossarian rejects to fly on the next mission, Milo demonstrates Yossarian that this is his primary responsibility. The real reason for these exhortations lies in the fact that Milo merely wants his subordinates to fly additional missions so that he can keep on amassing wealth. Milo tells Yossarian that The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them. Thus, the reader may notice that Milo uses the idealistic approach to democracy in order to make use of Yossarian to benefit. The other example is Captain Black. He runs the Oath Crusade, while he uses the ideal that cannot be argued. This ideal is loyalty. When his crusade fails, Captain Black remains a lonely man who constantly irritates the others. Thus, all of the idealists, who fail to comprehend opportunism, and opportunists, who use idealism as a tool, are condemned in the text. Therefore, one can conclude that both extremes are perilous.

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The other major theme in the novel is the militarys inefficiency. It appears that men, who run the armed forces, think only about the rules and advancement that they should follow, but they do not consider the solemnity of democracy or their soldiers lives. The hierarchy and the regulations established by the army affect both the soldiers involved and war effort in general. For instance, Yossarian is anxious about Mudd, a deceased character, as he is ...the unknown soldier who never had a chance. Simultaneously, Air Force is bothered about Mudd, because his situation appears to be a logistical problem for the former. The problem is that they cannot witness his death, as he was not officially signed in. Thus, Mudd never officially arrived. At the same time, the Air Force cannot merely ignore the fact of his death, because he has disappeared. Their statute insists that the situation never took place, though there is the undisputable fact that Mudd died in the plane. On the other hand, the contrary problem appears when Doc Daneeka survives. Thus, the regulations of Air Force insist on the fact of his death, even though Doc Daneeka is alive and stands on the ground.

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Totally inept leaders are the products of the fixed idea to follow a specific hierarchy. For instance, Major Major achieves his rank only for the reason that Colonel Cathcart appears to have an extra work place after the promotion. The reader may conclude that Colonel is glad to appoint Major Major as the squadron commander, because the former says that ...A superfluous major on his rolls meant an untidy table of organization. It happens even though Major Major does not have any aptitude for the position or training. While Yossarian attempts to make Major Major help him, the former merely avoids responsibility and people. When the leaders appear to be weak, the men do not have other option but to follow ingenious regulations, such as keeping Daneeka dead and Mudd alive.

In conclusion, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is considered to be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. The major themes of literary work are idealism vs. opportunism and militarys inefficiency. The author criticizes all of the previously mentioned phenomena, stating that any of the extremes does not lead to anything good.


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