Catch-22

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Communication and Miscommunication Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Catch-22, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon

The novel opens with Yossarian censoring letters—blocking out important military information—while lying in the hospital. He begins signing his name as Washington Irving or Irving Washington. This introduces a theme of communication, and garbled communication, that runs throughout the text. Appleby, a soldier and superlative Ping-Pong player, is told by Orr that he has flies in his eyes, but hears that he has “sties in his eyes.” Aarfy claims not to be able to hear Yossarian when they’re flying, even though Yossarian makes plain, via body language, what he desires (usually, to get out of the plane’s crawl-space). Orr consistently leads Yossarian in linguistic circles when the two are tent-mates. The chaplain is never able to communicate with his fellow officers, many of whom, like Whitcomb and Cathcart, believe he is strange and militarily unnecessary. Whitcomb desires that form-letters be sent by the chaplain to families of bereaved soldiers, but when these letters are sent, they are so general as to seem mocking and absurd—they indicate no personal knowledge of the soldier at all. And a good deal of the novel takes place during the soldiers’ “rest leave” in Rome, where they must communicate with Italians in a hodge-podge of English and other languages, often with comedic effect.

While funny, the outcomes of these miscommunications are occasionally quite serious. Because Yossarian has signed one of his censored letters with the chaplain’s name, the chaplain is nearly tortured and imprisoned by military police. Yossarian seems never to escape from this web of miscommunication, but his decision to flee to Sweden at the end of the novel indicates a willingness to sever all communicative ties with the Army and with his native country.

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Communication and Miscommunication Quotes in Catch-22

Below you will find the important quotes in Catch-22 related to the theme of Communication and Miscommunication.
Chapter 2 Quotes

As far back as Yossarian could recall, he explained to Clevinger with a patient smile, somebody was always hatching a plot to kill him.

Related Characters: John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian (speaker), Clevinger
Chapter 3 Quotes

Do you remember . . . that time in Rome when that girl who can’t stand you kept hitting me over the head with the heel of her shoe? Do you want to know why she was hitting me?

Related Characters: Orr (speaker), John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian
Chapter 5 Quotes

Sure there’s a catch . . . Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.

Related Characters: Doc Daneeka (speaker)
Chapter 10 Quotes

Ex-PFC Wintergreen accepted the role of digging and filling up holes with all the uncomplaining dedication of a true patriot.

Related Characters: Clevinger, Wintergreen
Chapter 11 Quotes

“What makes you so sure Major Major is a Communist?”
“You never heard him denying it until we began accusing him, did you? And you don’t see him signing any of our loyalty oaths.”
“You aren’t letting him sign any.”
“Of course not . . . that would defeat the whole purpose of our crusade.”

Related Characters: Doc Daneeka (speaker), Captain Black (speaker), Major Major
Chapter 16 Quotes

You will . . . you’ll tear it up into little pieces the minute I’m gone and go waling away like a big shot . . . because . . .Luciana let you sleep with her and did not ask you for money.

Related Characters: Luciana (speaker), John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian
Chapter 19 Quotes

Colonel Cathcart was a slick, successful, slipshod, unhappy man of thirty-six who lumbered when he walked and wanted to be a general. He was dashing and dejected, poised and chagrined.

Related Characters: Clevinger, Colonel Cathcart
Chapter 20 Quotes

What displeased Corporal Whitcomb most about the chaplain, apart from the fact that the chaplain believed in God, was his lack of initiative and aggressiveness.

Chapter 24 Quotes

But the Germans are also members in good standing of the syndicate, and it’s my job to protect their rights as shareholders. . . . Don’t you understand that I have to respect the sanctity of my contract with Germany?

Related Characters: Milo Minderbinder (speaker)
Chapter 26 Quotes

Can’t you see me . . I’m wounded! Help me, for God’s sake! Aarfy, help me!

I still can’t hear you . . . .

Related Characters: John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian (speaker), Aarfy (speaker)
Chapter 27 Quotes

“You have a morbid aversion to dying. You probably resent the fact that you’re at war and might get your head blown off any second.”
“I more than resent it, sir. I’m absolutely incensed.”

Related Characters: John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian (speaker), Major Sanderson (speaker)
Chapter 31 Quotes

The War Department replied touchingly that there had been no error and that she [Mrs. Daneeka] was undoubtedly the victim of some sadistic and psychotic forger in her husband’s squadron. The letter to husband was returned unopened, stamped KILLED IN ACTION.

Related Characters: Clevinger, Mrs. Daneeka
Chapter 33 Quotes

It just isn’t right for a nice girl like you to go looking for other men to sleep with. I’ll give you all the money you need, so you won’t have to do it any more.

Related Characters: Nately (speaker), Nately’s Whore and her kid sister
Chapter 34 Quotes

“They’re going to disappear him.”
“They’re what? What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. I heard them talking behind a door.”
. . .
“It doesn’t make sense. it isn’t even good grammar. What the hell does it mean when they disappear someone?”

Related Characters: John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian (speaker), Nurses Duckett and Cramer (speaker), Dunbar
Chapter 35 Quotes

No, sir . . . it’s generally known that you’ve flown only two missions. And that one of those occurred when Aarfy accidentally flew you over enemy territory while navigating you to Naples for a black-market water cooler.

Related Characters: Milo Minderbinder (speaker), Aarfy, Colonel Cathcart
Chapter 36 Quotes

You’re damned right we’re going to punish you. But we’re certainly not going to let you hang around while we decide how and when to do it. So get going. Hit the road.

Related Characters: Chaplain Tappman
Chapter 37 Quotes

Do you know what he wants? He wants us to march. He wants everyone to march!

Related Characters: Scheisskopf
Chapter 38 Quotes

You know, I said to Colonel Korn and Colonel Cathcart that I didn’t think they ought to make you fly any more missions if you didn’t want to, and they said they were very disappointed in me.

Related Characters: Colonel Cathcart, Colonel Korn
Chapter 39 Quotes

Catch-22 . . . . Catch-22. Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.

Chapter 41 Quotes

Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. . . . The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden’s secret.

Related Characters: Clevinger, Snowden
Chapter 42 Quotes

Goodbye, Yossarian . . . and good luck. I’ll stay here and persevere, and we’ll meet again when the fighting stops.

Related Characters: Chaplain Tappman (speaker), John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian