Catch-22

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Catch-22 Symbol Analysis

Catch-22 Symbol Icon
A Catch-22 is a particular kind of paradox first described to Yossarian by Doc Daneeka. This catch is described as follows: any soldier sane enough to hate warfare is sane enough to have to participate in the war, whereas any soldier crazy enough to like war is too crazy to fight it. Yossarian recognizes this catch as a particularly inescapable case of logical paradox. The Catch-22 recurs throughout the book, both in comic and in tragic form. Many of Yossarian’s interactions with military higher-ups, and with his tent-mate Orr and the officers Aarfy and Milo, are dictated by exactly this kind of impossibility. Catch-22s can lead to instances of humor, as in chains of miscommunication among military bureaucrats. But Cathcart’s desire to increase the number of required missions, a part of Catch-22, also results in the death of nearly all of Yossarian’s closest comrades.
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Catch-22 Symbol Timeline in Catch-22

The timeline below shows where the symbol Catch-22 appears in Catch-22. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5: Chief White Halfoat
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...is not crazy. Daneeka explains that this is a catch in the system—he calls it “Catch-22.” (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...behaving rationally, thus he’d be sane and forced to fly more missions. Yossarian remarks that “Catch-22” is a “powerful” catch, and Daneeka agrees. (full context)
Chapter 6: Hungry Joe
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...missions (55, at time point) than the 27th Squadron requires (only 40). Wintergreen answers that Catch-22 is to blame. Yossarian must obey all orders—whatever Cathcart commands—regardless of what Cathcart himself is... (full context)
Chapter 10: Wintergreen
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...duty by breaking the rules and serving his punishment. Wintergreen identifies this situation as a Catch-22. (full context)
Chapter 25: The Chaplain
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...He is told he may wait for the Major, and does—but then feels that the Catch-22 (the Major will only take guests when he is out) is a practical joke aimed... (full context)
Chapter 39: The Eternal City
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...apartment that used to be inhabited by the prostitutes, and the woman claims that a “catch-22” is to blame. (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...who busted up the apartment argued that their having to leave the flat was a catch-22, but they did not explain the phrase’s meaning. The woman asks Yossarian who will take... (full context)
Chapter 40: Catch-22
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
But there’s is a catch, of course—a catch-22. Cathcart and Korn tell Yossarian that he will be sent home only if he pretends... (full context)
Chapter 42: Yossarian
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...closer to settling on running away, which he considers a path out of this last catch-22—whether or not to accept Cathcart’s deal. (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...cowardly move, but Yossarian argues it is a way of taking an active step—refusing the catch-22 presented by Korn and Cathcart, breaking the cycle of military control of his life, and... (full context)