Honors Reading (Catch-22)
“'Can't you ground someone who's crazy?' 'Oh, sure. I have to. There's a rule saying I have to ground anyone who's crazy.' 'Then why don't you ground me? I'm crazy. Ask Clevinger.' 'Clevinger? Where is Clevinger? You find Clevinger and I'll ask him.' 'Then ask any of the others. They'll tell you how crazy I am.' 'They're crazy.' 'Then why don't you ground them?' 'Why don't they ask me to ground them?' 'Because they're crazy, that's why.'
'Of course they're crazy,' Doc Daneeka replied. 'I just told you they're crazy, didn't I? And you can't let crazy people decide whether you're crazy or not, can you?'
Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. 'Is Orr crazy?'
'He sure is,' Doc Daneeka said.
'Can you ground him?'
'I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That's part of the rule.'
'Then why doesn't he ask you to?'
'Because he's crazy,' Doc Daneeka said. 'He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he's had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to.''That's all he has to do to be grounded?'
'That's all. Let him ask me.'
'And then you can ground him?' Yossarian asked.
'No. Then I can't ground him.'
'You mean there's a catch?'
'Sure there's a catch,' Doc Daneeka replied. 'Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy.'
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
'That's some catch, that Catch-22,' he observed.
'It's the best there is,' Doc Daneeka agreed.” (Heller 45-46).
! This is the first introduction to the meaning of the phrase “Catch-22” in the book. It has more saliency than likely any other passage in the book. The circular nature of the predicament is what makes it beautiful. Although seemingly comical at first, almost Albit & Costello, this kind of situation arises very often in the book and often has a depressing result. For instance, Yossarian is caught unable to escape the airforce due to the requirements for leaving. If pleading insanity and requesting removal, he proves he is not insane and therefore is unable to leave.
! “'It will make no difference [whether or not he were Jewish],' Yossarian promised, and Yossarian was right. 'They're after everybody.'
Clevinger recoiled from their hatred as though from a blinding light. These three men who hated him spoke his language and wore his uniform, but he saw their loveless faces set immutably into cramped, mean lines of hostility and understood instantly that nowhere in the world, not in all the fascist tanks or planes or submarines, not in the bunkers behind the machine guns or mortars or behind the blowing flame throwers, not even among all the expert gunners of the crack Hermann Goering Antiaircraft Division or among the grisly connivers in all the beer halls in Munich and everywhere else, were there men who hated him more.” (Heller 85).
! One of the men (Clevinger) had just been convicted for a crime he did not commit. Although they had no proof that he committed the crime, they considered their suspicion that he committed it, evidence. They found that: “it was their patriotic duty to” punish him. This is another reference or instance rather of the central irony in Catch-22. The deluded commanders and officers of war continuously redefine logic and enforce their inhumane rules. The purpose and salience of this passage is that Clevinger experiences one of the motifs of this book, that is, that there is a personal hatred between allies and an emotional indifference between enemies. Throughout the book, many of the main characterʼs, Yossarianʼs, friends hardly realize that a war is even going on and on missions, they donʼt realize the direness of their situation.
! “A chunk of flak more than three inches big had shot into his other side just underneath the arm and blasted all the way through, drawing whole mottled quarts of Snowden along with it through the gigantic hole in his ribs it made as it blasted out. Yossarian screamed a second time and squeezed both hands over his eyes. His teeth were chattering in horror. He forced himself to look again.Here was God's plenty, all right, he thought bitterly as he stared - liver, lungs, kidneys, ribs, stomach and bits of the stewed tomatoes Snowden had eaten that day for lunch. Yossarian hated stewed tomatoes and turned away dizzily and began to vomit, clutching his burning throat. The tail gunner woke up while Yossarian was vomiting, saw him, and fainted again. Yossarian was limp with exhaustion, pain and despair when he finished. He turned back weakly to Snowden, whose breath had grown softer and more rapid, and whose face had grown paler. He wondered how in the world to begin to save him.
'I'm cold,' Snowden whimpered. 'I'm cold.'
'There, there,' Yossarian mumbled mechanically in a voice too low to be heard. 'There, there.'
Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage.
The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden's secret. Ripeness was all.” (Heller 445-455)
! Yossarian had been having small flashbacks throughout the book to one point prior to the books beginning when he personally attended to a rookie, Snowden, whom had been shot and seriously injured on his first mission. This was Yossarianʼs most traumatic experience for he had to witness this boy die. The last paragraph in this passage has the most meaning. Although Yossarian had been somewhat aware of this entire book, this passage explicitly states it: oneʼs life is not something invulnerable. At any point, especially in war, one is vulnerable to death. This is likely what kept Yossarian circumspect throughout the book, this is what was key to his survival. Itʼs also why he ultimately decided to desert the army and escape for his own life in the interest of staying “ripe”.
! “Haven't you got anything humorous that stays away from waters and valleys and God? I'd like to keep away from the subject of religion altogether if we can.'
The chaplain was apologetic. 'I'm sorry, sir, but just about all the prayers I know are rather somber in tone and make at least some passing reference to God.'
'Then let's get some new ones. The men are already doing enough bitching about the missions I send them on without our rubbing it in with any sermons about God or death or Paradise. Why can't we take a more positive approach? Why can't we all pray for something good, like a tighter bomb pattern, for example? Couldn't we pray for a tighter bomb pattern?'” (Heller 200-201).
! This passage, taking place at the funeral of an individual the name of whom no high ranking attendee could produce, is exemplary of the captainʼs demeanor. This highlights the insensitivity of the higher ranks in war and their indifference toward a death of their own. It also shows the unconditional focus of the higher ranks on an objective that may make them look better to their superior officers. It also shows how the Colonel uses religion exclusively as a tool to improve the performance of his men. They then continue after this topic about the legality of atheism.
! I enjoyed this book. Its comical explanation of war allowed it to bring attention to some ridiculous aspects that did not deserve to be described in any other manner. This tone also brought an increased amount of enjoyment out of the reader, although some may find it offensive if it conflicts with their perception of war (that it is entirely logical, strategic, calculated, and humane). I would recommend this book as its reading level isnʼt too high for it targets an audience whom has an interest in comedy. It also, in my opinion, adds a perspective on war that should be considered.