Catch-22

Style

Many events in the book are repeatedly described from differing points of view, so the reader learns more about each event from each iteration, with the new information often completing a joke, the setup of which was told several chapters previously. The narrative's events are out of sequence, but events are referred to as if the reader is already familiar with them so that the reader must ultimately piece together a timeline of events. Specific words, phrases, and questions are also repeated frequently, generally to comic effect.

Much of Heller's prose in Catch-22 is circular and repetitive, exemplifying in its form the structure of a Catch-22. Circular reasoning is widely used by some characters to justify their actions and opinions. Heller revels in paradox. For example: "The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him"; and "The case against Clevinger was open and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge him with." This atmosphere of apparently logical irrationality pervades the book. This style is also recognizable regarding how exactly Clevinger's trial would be executed by Lieutenant Scheisskopf: "As a member of the Action Board, Lieutenant Scheisskopf was one of the judges who would weigh the merits of the case against Clevenger as presented by the prosecutor. Lieutenant Scheisskopf was also the prosecutor. Clevinger had an officer defending him. The officer defending him was Lieutenant Scheisskopf."[4]: 76 

While a few characters are most prominent, especially Yossarian and the Chaplain, the majority of named characters are described in detail with fleshed out or multidimensional personas to the extent that there are few if any "minor characters". There are no traditional heroes in the novel, reflecting the underlying commentary that war has no heroes, only victims.[5]

Although its nonchronological structure may at first seem random, Catch-22 is highly structured. It is founded on a structure of free association; ideas run into one another through seemingly random connections. For example, Chapter 1, titled "The Texan", ends with "everybody but the CID man, who had caught a cold from the fighter captain and come down with pneumonia."[4]: 24  Chapter 2, titled "Clevinger", begins with "In a way, the CID man was pretty lucky because outside the hospital the war was still going on."[4]: 25  The CID man connects the two chapters like a free association bridge and eventually Chapter 2 flows from the CID man to Clevinger through more free association links.


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