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How is the main character Yossarian developed throughout the novel Catch-22?  

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tallman321 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 14, 2011 at 10:39 AM via web

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How is the main character Yossarian developed throughout the novel Catch-22?

 

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 14, 2011 at 11:02 PM (Answer #1)

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Although Captain John Yossarian attempts to have himself committed as insane, he is one of the few sane characters that emerge from Joseph Heller's classic anti-war satire, Catch-22. Yossarian is no hero; he has but one goal: to survive the war and return home. His best chance, he believes, is to be grounded, so he can sit out the never-ending bombing runs that his squadron faces. But he realizes that whenever he gets close to the maximum number of missions, they will be raised again by the squadron commander, Colonel Cathcart. His plea for insanity will not work, since by claiming that he is mentally ill, it only proves that he is sane. This is just one of the uses of the military's great, unwritten rule--Catch-22.

     "Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy."

Yossarian is horrified by the death and destruction around him, and though he will do just about anything to keep himself from contributing to it, he has a moral center lacking in most of the other characters. He recognizes the hypocrisy and deceit that has poisoned the self-serving members of higher command. Yossarian does not desire promotion or publicity like Cathcart: He only wants to go home. He does not descend into the double-dealing world of the treasonous Milo, nor the sadistic depths to which the murderous Aarfy plunges. He is perfectly willing to drop his bombs over the ocean instead of a non-strategic target because it will save lives--both those of the innocent civilians below and those inside his plane. And though he has no qualms about lying to get out of flying, he refuses to contribute to the problem by accepting an honorable discharge and then promoting Cathcart's name back home. Faced with the choices of continuing to fly; an honorable discharge that includes lying about his true motives; or court-martial, Yossarian finds yet another alternative. He will row to Sweden to join his friend Orr, who has already discovered the way out of the insanity of his war.

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