Topics for Discussion

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1. Catch-22 is an allegory; that is, each character represents some human quality. List the major characters and their allegorical characteristics.

2. Yossarian's nickname is Yo-Yo. He marches backwards; he clings naked to a tree, only to be brought down by one of Milo's schemes. Examine how Heller uses details to build Yossarian into a symbol. What is Yossarian a symbol of?

3. The names of several other characters are also symbolic—names like Orr, Snowden, Scheisskopf, Mindbender. What is the effect of these names on the tone of the novel?

4. Is Yossarian crazy? Is he insane? Is there a difference?

5. What is "black humor"? How does it contribute to the themes of Catch-22?

6. Catch-22 was published in 1961, during the early days in the presidency of John Kennedy, a time when many Americans were very optimistic and idealistic. Why would a book as bleak as Catch-22 become so popular during such an era?

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