Catch-22
In 1961, Joseph Heller published Catch-22, his first novel. Based on his own war
experiences, the novel wickedly satirized bureaucracy, patriotism, and all
manner of traditional American ideals. This was reflective of the increasing
disdain for traditional viewpoints that was growing in America at that time.
(Potts, p. 13) The book soon became championed as another voice in the antiwar
movement of the 1960’s. However, Heller himself claimed that his novel was
less about World War II, or war at all, than it was an allegory for the Cold War
and the materialistic "Establishment" attitudes of the Eisenhower era. (Kiley,
pp. 318-321) Thus, Catch-22 represents a rebellion against the standards of the

Eisenhower era. Catch-22 follows the experiences of Yossarian, a bombardier
stationed near Italy during World War II. Yossarian is clearly representative of

Heller; indeed, he could be considered an everyman. (Kiley, p. 336) Because of a
traumatic experience, which is revealed bit by bit throughout the novel,

Yossarian is terrified of flying. Yet Colonel Cathcart keeps raising the number
of missions the men must fly. Yossarian’s attempts to avoid flying are met
with the Army’s Catch number 22, which is a sort of mythical stumbling block
to free will and reason. In the end, Yossarian defects and takes a stand against
his situation by running away from it. The moral of the story seems to be that
nothing is truly worth dying for, but there is plenty worth fighting for.

Yossarian is an antihero: the reader sympathizes with him despite, or perhaps
because of, his unsavory beliefs and actions. (Potts, p. 84) It is easy to
sympathize with him: he seems to be the only sane person in a crazy world, which
may be why everyone keeps telling him he’s crazy. Yossarian does battle with
bureaucratic authority as personified by Colonels Cathcart and Korn, General

Dreedle, and ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen. He goes up against ruthless capitalism in
the form of Milo Minderbinder. And he criticizes blind patriotism as seen in

Nately, Appleby, and Clevinger. It is important to note that these attitudes
applied far more readily to the 1950’s than to World War II. Catch-22 is set
in World War II; in many ways, it serves as an outlet for Heller’s own
experiences in the war. (Kiley, p.103) After the war, soldiers returned home to
a country that did not want to hear about their experiences. Most felt stifled
because they feared how others might react to the gruesomeness of the war.
(Adams, pp. 149-151) Indeed, the war was the most horrific event to date, and
few Americans wanted to dwell on it. So Heller’s novel seems inappropriate,
yet at the same time necessary: it made clear the fact that the war was not all
glory and honor, but was a bloody, gut-wrenching mess. (Potts, p.22) Indeed,
throughout the novel, men die in often gruesome ways, many times for little or
no reason at all. This was Heller’s condemnation of war: it is the ultimate
farce, the furthest of human endeavors from necessity. (Potts, p. 47) In short,
war is stupid. People die stupidly, from stupid causes, in stupid situations, by
stupid mistakes. It is almost laughable except that it is not at all funny. This
is what Heller gets across in some 400 pages of death, despair, and otherwise
pointless existence. (Kiley, pp. 208-214) Beyond its importance as a novel about
the war, Catch-22 also lambastes the blind conformity to social norms of the

1950’s. This unthinking loyalty to the "American way," he suggests, puts
too much power in the hands of those cynical enough to exploit the
impressionability of the masses. (Kiley, pp. 242-263) Indeed, this seemed to be
the case during the Eisenhower years. Senator McCarthy’s Communist
witch-hunts, ruthless business practices at the expense of the public, and the
social pressure to "keep up with the Joneses" driving mass consumerism, all
illustrated this danger. (Christie, pp. 94-102) In Catch-22, ex-P.F.C.

Wintergreen represents the power of information. By intercepting and forging
responses to communiqués within the theater of operations, he effectively
controls all military operations in the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Milo

Minderbinder represents unchecked greed and the dangers of the capitalist urge.
(Potts, pp. 73-75) He even paraphrases GM head Charles Wilson by saying,

"What’s good enough for M&M Enterprises is good for the country." (Kiley,
p. 339) And most of the men are caricatures of mindless flexibility to the will
of their superiors. They are indifferent to the commands that come to them from
above, and blindly, they obey. (Kiley, p. 147) Only Yossarian and his friends

Dunbar and Orr have the wherewithal to see how they are