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Author: Joseph Heller
Publisher: Vintage Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 528
Genre: Novel
Captain John Yossarian, the novel’s protagonist, is a bombardier in the 256th Squadron of the Army Air Forces during World War II, stationed on Pianosa, a fictionalised island in the Mediterranean between mainland Italy and Corsica. The squadron’s assignment is to bomb enemy positions in Italy and eastern France. It is the summer of 1944, but events of the novel are not told in chronological order; sometimes time changes without warning. Most of the action takes place from spring through December of 1944, but there are flashbacks to 1942, when Yossarian was in basic training at Lowery Field in Colorado, and to 1943 when he was in cadet training at Santa Ana, California. When the novel opens, Yossarian is in the base hospital, on Pianosa, faking a liver ailment. He has learned that the hospital can be a peaceful refuge and that liver ailments are difficult to diagnose. When able, hospitalised officers censor enlisted men’s letters home; an early indication of Yossarian’s character is the creative way he approaches this task, even altering one letter to resemble a love note and signing Chaplain Tappman’s name. Others in Yossarian’s ward include Dunbar, who thinks he can live longer by pursuing boring tasks and making time pass slowly, and the 'soldier in white', an enigmatic figure smuggled into the ward in the middle of the night and encased from head to toe in gauze and plaster. Yossarian is so annoyed by a bigoted Texan that he soon returns to his regular quarters where his tent mate, Orr, uses outstanding mechanical talents to improve living conditions. Other squadron members include McWatt, a pilot who enjoys buzzing Yossarian’s tent and the beach bathers; Nately, who is in love with a prostitute in Rome; Doc Daneeka, a friendly but ineffectual flight surgeon who explains the meaning of 'Catch-22'; and Colonel Cathcart, who yearns to be a general so he tries to look like a strong leader by raising the number of missions required of the men to complete a tour of duty. The early chapters satirise the military and political establishment, specifically through distortions of logic and reality. Earlier in the summer, when an apparently hazardous raid on Bologna seems imminent, for example, Yossarian postpones the mission by simply moving a line on a map, indicating that the Americans and other Allies have already captured the city.
ISBN: 9780099477310
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