Study Guide

Catch-22

by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 Essay - Special Commissioned Essay on Catch-22

Special Commissioned Essay on Catch-22

Introduction

Special Commissioned Essay on Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Kathi A. Vosevich

See also Joseph Heller Criticism (Volume 1), and Volumes 3, 5, 8, 11.

“There was only one catch … and that was Catch-22,” Doc Daneeka informs Yossarian. As Yossarian, the lead bombardier of Joseph Heller's landmark first novel, soon learns, this one catch is enough to keep him at war indefinitely. After pleading with the doctor that he is too crazy to fly bombing missions, Yossarian is introduced to Catch-22, a rule which stipulates that anyone rational enough to want to be grounded could not possibly be insane and therefore must return to his perilous duties. The novel Catch-22 is built around the multifarious attempts of Captain John Yossarian to survive the Second World War, to escape the omnipresent logic of a regulation which somehow stays one step ahead of him.

At the time of its publication in 1961, Heller's antiwar novel met with modest sales and lukewarm reviews. But by mid-decade, the book began to sell in the American underground, becoming a favored text of the counterculture. Heller's novel burst onto an American culture that “still cherished nice notions about WW II,” Eliot Fremont-Smith recalled in the Village Voice. “Demolishing these, it released an irreverence that had, until then, dared not speak its name.” With millions of copies in print, Catch-22 is generally regarded as one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. It “is probably the finest novel published since World War II,” Richard Locke declared in the New York Times Book Review.Catch-22 is the great representative document of our era, linking high and low culture.” The title itself has become part of the language, and its “hero” (more aptly an anti-hero), Yossarian, according to Jack Schnedler of the Newark Star-Ledger “has become the fictional talisman to an entire generation.”

About The Work

Kathi A. Vosevich

SOURCE: Vosevich, Kathi A. “An Analysis of Catch-22.” In Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 131, edited by Linda Pavlovski. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group, 2003.

[In the following original essay, Vosevich examines Heller's Catch-22 on a number of levels, assessing the plot, characters, themes, evolution of the work, the novel's historical significance, and how the work has been studied since its publication.]

Joseph Heller's Catch-22, first published by Simon and Schuster in 1961, was the consummation of nearly ten years of intense writing and rewriting. It began as a series of note cards that outlined characters in a military setting,1 and then developed into brief sketches. One of these sketches became the basis for the short story “Catch-18,” ultimately the first chapter of the novel.2 This short story was published in 1955 in the Seventh Mentor Selection of New World Writing, an anthology of the best new literature and criticism, along with an excerpt from what would become Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

Heller took almost another year to complete the next chapter, and in 1961, he finally finished the novel under the title Catch-18. Earlier that same year, the well-known and popular writer Leon Uris had finished his new novel, Mila 18. Since Heller was by far the lesser-known writer, and his publishers felt that two novels with “18” in the title would confuse sales to Heller's detriment, a search began for a new title. After brief flirtations with Catch-11 and Catch-14, Bob Gottlieb, an editor at Simon and Schuster, came up with Catch-22—a phrase that has become part of our everyday English language.

Catch-22 sold well in America, but it got mixed reviews and did not make the best-seller lists. However, “while America slept” as one Simon and Schuster ad complained, the novel became a “#1 bestseller in England.”3 Meanwhile, in the U.S. Simon and Schuster continued to advertise the novel, and Catch-22 gained favor from critics and on college campuses. It was also nominated for the Thirteenth National Book Award, but lost to Walker Percy's The Moviegoer.

The publicity that the heavily favored Heller gained from losing the prestigious award and the $1000 prize was invaluable. Columbia Pictures soon bought the film rights for $100,000 and a percentage of the profits, and Dell decided to publish the book as a paperback. The paperback, which Heller requested to come out on the first anniversary of the hardback version, quickly became a number-one bestseller, and by 1968, more than two million copies had been sold.4 Current estimates of all copies sold are upwards of 24 million. Not bad for a novel that, as Heller himself admits, “won no prizes.”5

PLOT SUMMARY

Although Catch-22 is set off the Italian coast on the fictional island of Pianosa during the late stages of World War II, it is not strictly a war or antiwar novel in Heller's view. He says that it is “more anti-traditional establishment than antiwar” and that he uses the military organization “as a construct, as a metaphor for business relationships and institutional structures.”6 His contrapuntal style emphasizes the absurdity of these structures by not focusing on strict chronology, but ever circling, balancing, and counterbalancing his theme and characters.

The plot itself is relatively simple. Yossarian, a lead bombardier, has one goal: to live forever or die in the attempt. This goal is increasingly complicated after Colonel Nevers is killed in combat, and Colonel Cathcart replaces him. In an effort to get into The Saturday Evening Post, the new commander keeps raising the number of missions required before a pilot can return home. Yossarian's appeals not to fly the extra missions and prolong his life are complicated by Catch-22: if he were crazy, he could be grounded, but in order to be grounded he had to ask, and if he asked, then that proved he was not crazy, so he would not be grounded. The death of a young soldier named Snowden, who spills his guts literally and figuratively to show that man is just matter, triggers Yossarian's ultimate leap from all-consuming thoughts of self-preservation to the desire to take responsibility for himself and others.

The narrative structure, on the other hand, is not so simple as the plot. In fact, it is more of a jigsaw puzzle, and Heller himself had to put notes on a blotter while writing the novel (because of the abundance of characters and their interactions) to make sure all the pieces fit.7 He explained his lack of linear narrative structure as such:

Nine-tenths of Catch-22 is organized around three combat missions: the mission to Avignon, the mission to Bologna, and the mission to Ferrara. The first mission is the main one. The whole novel is a series of events that either deal with the missions or are outgrowths of events that happened on the mission. Now of course I was aware of this pattern; I had planned it at least a year before I began writing the novel.

The three missions have occurred before the time of the opening chapter, and they keep recurring. …

And this also is a part of the structure. I was very much aware that I was creating in the first, oh, four-fifths of the novel the effect of something being chaotic and anarchistic, and yet have the pieces come together much the way William Faulkner does in Absalom, Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury, and other works in which he deals with a large body of information presented in tiny fragments and then have the fragments connect toward the end of the book and give the whole picture.

The narrative line in Catch-22 assumes a forward motion only toward the end of the book when Yossarian decides to desert. Then the narrative goes straightforward with the exception of one flashback, the description of the death of Snowden, told in realistic form. Even the flashback is handled in traditional, straightforward narration. But until Yossarian's decision there is almost no forward action.8

As James L. McDonald explains, the “interplay between present narrative and the cumulative repetition and gradual clarification of past actions” portrays “dramatically, the manner in which the characters apprehend their world, and shows the impact of the past on their present attitudes and actions. Each moment in the present flashes their minds back to fragmentary images of past events which influence their behavior so heavily.”9 However, because Heller makes extensive use of flashbacks and circling back to scenes in an almost psychological order, the sequence of events is often lost. To untangle the plot into a linear sequence, a summary focused on Yossarian that follows the chronology of events on Heller's blotter may be helpful.10

As an enlisted man, Yossarian is stationed in Colorado where he meets, among others, Wintergreen. While there, Yossarian discovers the benefits of escaping into the hospital and mimics the disorder of the “Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice,” until the soldier dies. In early 1944, he is stationed in Santa Ana, California, as an aviation cadet and meets his friend Clevinger who goes on trial for telling Lieutenant Scheisskopf why morale is low. (Yossarian had warned Clevinger that Scheisskopf really does not want an answer to his pleas for enlightenment, but Clevinger ignores him.) Scheisskopf goes on to win awards for his parading cadets, and Yossarian goes on to sleep with the lieutenant's wife.

Yossarian is then shipped overseas to Pianosa and becomes a lead bombardier, gets demoted to wing bombardier, reinstated, then demoted again. The group commander, Colonel Nevers, is killed over Arezzo because he did not shirk his combat duties. He is replaced, unfortunately for the squadron, by Colonel Cathcart. At this time, the number of required missions is 25, and Yossarian has 23, but Cathcart immediately raises the number to 30. Cathcart volunteers his men for the mission to Ferrara to make a good impression for himself, but Yossarian has to go over the target twice because Aarfy, the navigator, cannot read maps. Kraft's plane is shot down the second time around, and Yossarian is at first reprimanded. However, to avoid criticism for a botched mission, Cathcart not only gives Yossarian a medal, but promotes him to Captain as well.

Milo, who is a pilot but acts as mess officer, has been providing fresh eggs for the soldiers, and making a profit for his syndicate. In April, with his money, he buys the entire Egyptian cotton crop. The same month, the squadron commander, Major Duluth, is killed in battle, and because it looks like there is an extra major job on the books, Captain Major is promoted and becomes Major Major (“Major” is his last name, as well as his title). He is immediately ostracized and victimized by Captain Black's Great Loyalty Oath Crusade. Black is jealous of Major Major's promotion, and in an unsuccessful effort to discredit him, he will not allow the new squadron commander to sign the oath.

In June, the Allies capture Rome, and Yossarian accompanies Nately to his girlfriend's whorehouse. Mudd, the dead man in Yossarian's tent, is killed the same day he arrives, and Yossarian is left with his unpacked belongings. Because the man never officially signed in to the squadron, Sergeant Towser will not allow his things to be removed—and so Mudd becomes an ever-present reminder of death, the one thing Yossarian is desperately trying to avoid.

The next big mission is Bologna, which Yossarian delays by poisoning the squadron's food and simply by moving the bomb line. When they finally fly the mission, Yossarian is so afraid that he pretends his intercom is broken and the plane turns back. The mission turns out to be a milk run, however, and when they go back the next day, Yossarian mistakenly takes no evasive action and runs into flak. Several planes are shot down, including his other tent-mate Orr's, but he manages to crash land safely. After the mission, Yossarian goes to Rome on a rest leave and meets the beautiful Luciana (with the invisible scar), who is not a whore but will sleep with him. He arrogantly and stupidly tears up her address and regrets his action for the rest of the novel. While he is in Rome, Cathcart raises the number of missions to 40, and Yossarian immediately runs to the hospital. This becomes a pattern with Yossarian, who only has 38 missions when Cathcart raises the number to 45. In the meantime, Milo bombs his own squadron for the Germans in an effort to recoup some of the monetary losses he suffered with the Egyptian cotton.

The most important mission in the novel takes place next: Avignon. In the briefing room before they fly, Yossarian starts a moaning fit among the men at General Dreedle's girlfriend/nurse. Dreedle orders the next man who moans to be shot, but Major Danby is so involved in synchronizing watches that he does not hear the order and moans. During the mission itself, Dobbs panics and seizes the controls from the pilot, Huple. The plane plunges into flak, and Snowden is shot, but Yossarian treats the wrong wound. He can offer no comfort other than repeating “there, there” because Milo has taken the morphine from the first aid kit for his syndicate's ventures. Snowden “freezes to death” and spills his guts, including the stewed tomatoes he had for lunch, all over Yossarian. Yossarian learns the secret: that man is matter.

Yossarian emerges from the plane naked. He even goes naked to the cemetery and sits in a tree at Snowden's funeral. Milo finds him in the tree and offers him chocolate-covered cotton that is, of course, inedible, and Yossarian refuses to eat it. This scene recalls the temptation in the Garden of Eden. In fact, Yossarian says he is in the “tree of life” and “of knowledge of good and evil, too” (272). As they are discussing the cotton, the Chaplain looks up and sees what he thinks is a vision. Yossarian is still naked when he receives his medal for the mission to Ferrara. Then, on the next mission, Clevinger flies into a cloud and never emerges.

Upset over Clevinger's death, Yossarian enters the hospital once again, faking a liver ailment. (This is where the first chapter of the novel begins.) To relieve his boredom, he censors letters and signs the name “Washington Irving”—which sparks a C.I.D. investigation into this crime. He soon meets the Chaplain and their awkward friendship begins. He also witnesses the death of the Soldier in White, who had been kept alive merely by switching the bottles that recycled fluids into and out of his body.

Yossarian leaves the hospital with 45 missions, but now he needs 50, so he tries to get grounded by Doc Daneeka, only to learn about the best catch there is, Catch-22, which prevents him from avoiding more missions; he cannot be grounded unless he is crazy and asks, but only a sane man would ask to be grounded and sane men are not grounded. He next goes to the Chaplain for help, and then to Major Major, who will only see him when he is not in his office. If he is in the office, then he will not see him, so Yossarian tackles him in a ditch, but there is nothing he or the Chaplain can do. By now, Yossarian has 51 missions, but needs 60. Dobbs snaps because of the unfair number of missions and asks Yossarian for his consent to murder Cathcart, but Yossarian refuses. Cathcart's latest scheme to get into The Saturday Evening Post is inadvertently thwarted by the Chaplain when he tells the colonel that enlisted men pray to the same God as officers.

On a milk run, Aarfy gets lost again, guides the planes over flak, and Yossarian is wounded in the leg. In the hospital, Yossarian gooses Nurse Duckett and begins an affair with her. He also sees a psychiatrist in the hospital and is judged to be crazy, but the doctor mistakes his name and sends another soldier home in his place. Meanwhile, Cathcart decides that all his “black eyes” have been caused by Yossarian. He is so distressed that even the name “Yossarian” terrifies him.

Cathcart volunteers the men for Bologna again, and Yossarian agrees to murder the colonel, but since Dobbs has his 60 missions, he is now repulsed by the idea. Orr invites Yossarian to fly with him, and Yossarian declines. When Orr's plane goes down, everyone survives, but Orr is lost. The next mission involves bombing a whole village to create a roadblock and Yossarian is very upset. Cathcart is more concerned with getting a tight bomb pattern and good aerial photographs than with the loss of innocent civilian lives.

Yossarian is relaxing with Nurse Duckett on the beach when McWatt buzzes him and accidentally cuts Kid Sampson in half. McWatt flies into a mountain in remorse, but since Doc Daneeka (who hates flying) is listed on the log to get flight pay, he is pronounced dead, too, even though he is obviously alive and standing on the beach. Cathcart uses these deaths as an excuse to raise the missions to 70.

On the next trip to Rome, Nately finally gets his girl. All she needed was a good night's sleep, and she wakes up in love with him. Nately's good fortune does not last long, however. After Milo's Thanksgiving Day feast, Sergeant Knight (who is jokingly firing a machine gun) awakens Yossarian. Yossarian is so angry that he tries to kill Knight, who he thinks is shooting at him. Nately tries to stop his friend and gets punched in the nose so hard that he is taken to the hospital. There, Yossarian learns that Nurse Duckett is dissociating herself from him because she wants to marry a doctor. He also learns that Dunbar has “disappeared.”

Meanwhile, Yossarian pleads with Nately not to volunteer to fly more missions (since he already has 70) to stay overseas with his girl and asks Milo for help. Milo talks to Cathcart and the end result is that the others in the squadron will have to fly 80 missions to make up for the fact that Milo has flown no more than five. Nately is ecstatic, but Dobbs causes a midair collision, and both he and Nately are killed over La Spezia. At the same time, the Chaplain, who has sinned by lying (he made up a disease called Wisconsin shingles to get into the hospital), is taken to a cellar for interrogation about a plum tomato, found guilty, then released. The squadron also gets a new general to Peckem's great disappointment: Scheisskopf.

Yossarian refuses to fly more missions, so he goes to Rome on a rest leave where he tells Nately's whore about her lover's death. She immediately tries to kill him. As Heller states on his blotter, “Nately's whore becomes a symbol of his guilt and responsibility for never intervening in the injustices he knows exist everywhere,” and she begins to haunt Yossarian. Finally, someone is out to kill him specifically, but he escapes temporarily to Corsica, and then soon returns to the eternal city of Rome to find and help Nately's whore's kid sister. While there, he discovers that the old Italian man that Nately used to argue with has died and that Aarfy has raped and murdered an innocent maid. When the M.P.s find Yossarian and Aarfy together in Rome, they make one arrest: Yossarian, who is AWOL.

Back at the squadron, Cathcart and Korn offer Yossarian a deal: he can return home if he “likes” them and becomes their pal. Yossarian accepts the arrangement, even though he is betraying his friends, but as he leaves their office, Nately's whore stabs him, and he ends up in the hospital again. When he finds out that Orr has successfully rowed to Sweden, he repudiates the deal and decides to run away to responsibility. The Chaplain (who has chosen to persevere after his trial in the cellar) and Danby help in his desertion. Danby offers him money and the Chaplain offers to beat up anyone who might stop him. Yossarian determines to head for Rome to help Nately's whore's kid sister, but as he begins on his way, he must first leap out of the way of Nately's whore's knife.

Perhaps the best way to end a discussion of plot summary would be to examine Heller's answer to the question of what his novel is about:

What was it about? That question still makes me squirm (and I'm still tremendously glad I never had to write a review of Catch-22, either—or its jacket copy). It was set toward the end of World War II—I could be straightforward about that much—and concerned men in an American bomber group on an island off the coast of Italy. And—I swear!—it was only then, in trying to talk about it coherently, that I realized for the first time how extensively I was focusing on the grim details of human mortality, on disease, accidents, grotesque mutilations. I was again awash in the reds and pinks of the Rorschach color cards, in blood, in the deaths of such characters as Kid Sampson and Snowden and even with my colorless Soldier in White. Although I had from the start, from the second chapter on, been dutifully following a disciplined outline, I hadn't perceived till then how much material of a gory nature was embodied in its fulfillment. There was certainly an awful lot for a novel that has since been described by many as among the funniest they've read.11

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heller was born in Coney Island, a neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City, on 1 May 1923, to Russian Jews who had immigrated to America in 1913. His father, Isaac, died when Heller was five years old, leaving his mother, Lena, as sole parent. Heller was raised with his older half-brother and -sister (products of his father's first marriage). In his memoirs, Heller describes his neighborhood:

While certainly not a slum, Coney Island was in my time a depressed area for its year-round dwellers. …

We were children from poor families, but didn't know it. I don't think I have ever in my life thought of myself a underprivileged, as unfairly deprived of something I might reasonably wish to own and didn't. … It was a blessing of our childhood to be oblivious of our low economic sate and of how others might regard us. …

Nearly all were immigrants and living on a roughly equal level. This was the nature of life; they had learned that in Europe. It was not stylish to bemoan. They expected life to be hard, and most were living better than they had been able to do in the Old World. I doubt that many had known the luxury of running water, central heating, and indoor plumbing before they arrived in America. …12

Even from an early age, Heller displayed an unusual sense of humor. He recollects this revealing event:

Rising on the sidewalk outside our building, near the curb, was a telephone pole, with spikes sunk into opposite sides on escalating levels to serve as steps for the serviceman to climb to the seat at the repair box about two stories up. They weren't difficult to mount once you attained the starting point at the bottom, a sturdy wedge of wood hammered into the pole for a first foothold about three feet from the ground. I found out how easy it was one day when, given a boost to that bottom wedge by a friend, I began going up the spikes, hand over hand and leg after leg. At the top, when I was at the seat, I discovered with happy surprise that I was gazing right into the open window of our kitchen. And I saw my mother there, busy at the stove inside just a few feet away.

‘Ma, can I have a glass of milk?’ I asked in my most innocent voice.

The look of bewildered amazement and then stark horror that struck her face when she turned and saw me posed in air just outside the window was so extreme that I feared I, too, might die of fright at just that moment. It could have been about then that my mother made for the first time the remark about my idea of humor that she would repeat many times afterward in maternal surprise and tribute, though often with a dismayed shake of the head:

‘You've [He's] got a twisted brain.’13

(74-75)

Heller graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1941, and worked as a file clerk at Manhattan Mutual Automobile Casualty Company and then as a blacksmith's helper at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and galvanized the nation for war, Heller joined the U. S. Army Air Force and subsequently became, like Yossarian, a bombardier on the B-25J Mitchell bomber.14 He was a member of the 488th Bombardment Squadron, which among other locations was stationed on Corsica in the Mediterranean. His experiences are the factual basis for Catch-22. David M. Craig states that:

Heller's experiences as a bombardier over Avignon during World War II were catalytic to his career as a writer. In them Catch-22 begins. Their spark was not to his desire to be an author. … Rather, Avignon provided in highly compressed form his essential subject, human mortality, and engaged his imagination in a way in which this subject could eventually be given expression.15

However, in a 1986 interview at the Air Force Academy, Heller claimed that most of his war experiences do not correlate to events in the novel:

Nothing of my personal experience comes through in the character of Captain Yossarian. … That part of my experience I did use in the novel had to do with the mechanics of missions by B-25 bomb groups stationed in Corsica in that particular war. … My own experience in World War II was, I'm ashamed to say, extremely beneficial—from the time I enlisted to the time I was discharged with the exception of a few months towards the end of my tour of duty when I was scared. … Yossarian's protest and indignation at the choices presented to him came to me as part of the American era that followed World War II.16

Yet the unit's unofficial history points out some compelling similarities between Catch-22 and what Heller's unit actually experienced. For example, in May 1944, the Germans launched a predawn air attack on the squadron that was led by a captured British Beaufighter airplane.17 The attack was serious enough that 24 purple hearts were consequently awarded.18 The history also mentions the numerous complaints about food and the frequency of hoarding eggs.19 Perhaps from these incidents, the character of Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer/pilot, began to form with his bombing raid on his own men and buying eggs for seven cents apiece, selling them for five, and making a profit—not to mention always getting fresh eggs for the mess.

In Now and Then, published in 1998, Heller himself points out more similarities between his World War II experience and his novel—notwithstanding his 1986 remarks at the Air Force Academy. For example, he talks about a pilot named Ritter, whose “patient genius for building and fixing things and these recurring close calls in aerial combat” were qualities from which he fashioned the character of Orr.20 Heller also reveals that he derived the name “Yossarian” (though none of the characteristics) from a friend named Francis Yohannon, and that Hungry Joe was based on a pilot named Joe Chrenko who always fought with Yohannon's dog.21 In the novel, Heller “turned the dog into a cat to protect its identity.”22 In addition, Heller states that Major de Coverley was based on the squadron executive officer, Major Cover, who rented two apartments in Rome for the use of the officers and enlisted.23

More importantly, Heller describes a report he heard of a mission to Ferrara where a radio gunner was “pierced through the middle by a wallop of flak … and he died, moaning … that he was cold.”24 Heller...

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Themes

While critics have found and analyzed various themes in Catch-22, perhaps the most written about are the themes of absurdity, abuse of power, and the destructive force of capitalism or big business. Heller uses World War II as a metaphor for contemporary society with all its faults and complications and insane institutions, a society that has lost touch with itself and its vestiges of humanity. The war becomes a vehicle for the exploration of these larger themes.

ABSURDITY

Throughout the novel, Heller gives us specific examples of absurdity—from Doc Daneeka's “death” to Cathcart's overarching desire to get into The Saturday Evening Post no matter the cost...

(The entire section is 3621 words.)

Critical Response

When Catch-22 first appeared in print, its critical reception was quite mixed. Its style was described as dizzying, in an uncomplimentary sense, because of its abundance of characters. It was also descried as relying too heavily on anecdotes and as being repetitive and monotonous. The author's sense of humor and sanity were even questioned. Yet, at the same time, Heller's sense of humor was called outrageously funny and perceptive and his novel hailed as being the best American novel to come out in years. In other words, American critics as a whole were not quite sure what to make of Catch-22 in the beginning. John W. Aldridge sums up the reviews as such:

They ranged...

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Critical Analysis

Analyzing Catch-22 by one critical approach is a daunting task. Critics have chosen to examine character (focusing almost exclusively on Yossarian or Milo Minderbinder), structure, or theme. They have discussed its comedy and tragedy, its satire and straightforwardness, its realism and surrealism. Focusing on the death of Snowden, the central recurring image in the novel, brings all of these aspects into play. The death of Snowden shapes the novel and the character of Yossarian. As the novel opens in medias res, the young man is already dead, but Yossarian has not come to grips with this event. Yossarian therefore relives the death over and over again, each time revealing a bit more about the experience...

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Work In History

PUBLIC RESPONSE

Catch-22 did not make the best-seller lists in America when it was first published. On the other side of the Atlantic, the British publishers Secker & Warburg turned it down as being too American right before Simon & Schuster released it in the States. However, another publisher in England, Jonathan Cape, due in large part to the director Tom Maschler, picked it up and released it in the Spring of 1962. Within a week of its publication, Catch-22 became a bestseller in England, ahead of novels by Iris Murdoch and J. D. Salinger—quite a different response than its lukewarm reception in America. Eller suggests the following as a reason for the discrepancy:...

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Adaptations

The influence of Catch-22 on theater, film, and TV would be difficult to estimate. For example, although Robert Altman's film M*A*S*H appeared in theaters before the film version of Catch-22, its debt to Heller's 1961 novel is obvious, especially in its theme of trying to maintain sanity amidst the absurdity of war. Heller knew Ring Lardner, Jr., who wrote the screenplay very well and stated that Lardner knew Catch-22 very well.99 The TV series of the same name continued the depiction of this theme. However, only three adaptations of the novel have been made: the 1970 film directed by Mike Nichols and two plays by Joseph Heller, the first entitled Catch-22: A Dramatization...

(The entire section is 9546 words.)