What is a summary of Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22?

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The action in Catch-22 takes place in Italy during World War II. While focused on the protagonist , Yossarian, the novel situates him within his US Army unit, which is based in a small town, Pianosa. The plot develops around Yossarian's frustrated efforts to be discharged from the army after...

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The action in Catch-22 takes place in Italy during World War II. While focused on the protagonist, Yossarian, the novel situates him within his US Army unit, which is based in a small town, Pianosa. The plot develops around Yossarian's frustrated efforts to be discharged from the army after completing his required service. His job is bombardier, the person who releases bombs from an airplane. The catch here involves the officers' constant increase in the number of missions the crews must fly to get discharged, so they never achieve enough missions.

With the ensemble quality of the novel, although the action basically moves chronologically, the focus shifts among different characters and their exploits. In addition, Yossarian—who spends significant amounts of time in the hospital, sometimes with illnesses that resist diagnosis—often reflects on a traumatic incident on one of his flights, when another crew member was fatally injured. Yossarian is also convinced that an unknown individual is trying to kill him, often leaping out and trying to stab him.

As the number of missions increases, they also become more dangerous as the planes fly deeper into enemy territory. In their camp, alliances and conflicts develop among the men. Milo Minderbinder, a fervent capitalist entrepreneur, creates a successful black market business that ultimately threatens the American forces by also selling to the other side.

Another significant part of the action occurs in Rome, where the soldiers go on leave, and involves their interactions with prostitutes. Yossarian falls in love and wants to marry one woman, who rejects him for being crazy. Another soldier, Nately, shows no remorse when he kills a prostitute by throwing her out a window.

The men do not want to fly with Orr, a navigator, because they consider him a jinx: the planes he is on always crashes, though he survives. When he disappears after a plane crashes in the water, everyone assumes he is dead. Later they get a postcard from him, revealing that he rowed a lifeboat to Sweden. This news encourages Yossarian that there is hope of surviving the war, although the knife-wielding attacker continues to stalk him.

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