Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 details the physical and psychological struggles of a young airman named Yossarian, who feigns illness and madness in an attempt to avoid being killed over World War II Italy. Realizing that the war is putting him in personal danger, Yossarian mounts a series of protests against it. At first, his protests are passive, as when he feigns illness and seeks refuge in an army field hospital. Later, he refuses to fly bombing missions, goes AWOL, and attempts escape, by inflatable rubber lifeboat, from Italy to Sweden.
Catch-22 features a dizzying array of characters, each having a unique dysfunctional relationship with the military bureaucracy that Heller rails against. Yossarian fights against the system because it does not take him into account. Orr, one of Yossarian’s peers, who shares Yossarian’s distaste for the war, successfully turns the military’s complete disregard for him into a tool that eventually enables him to escape. In contrast, Milo Minderbinder, one of the more insidious characters, harnesses the system for his own personal gain, counting on the self-interest of others to divert their attention from his ruthless profiteering.
One of the most haunting characters in the novel is the soldier in white. Completely wrapped, like a mummy, in strip bandages, the soldier in white first appears as a patient at the field hospital where Yossarian is hiding from the war. Yossarian observes that...
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