Catch-22

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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.
Gallows Humor Theme Icon

Much of the humor in Catch-22 is gallows humor (or black humor)—the kind that takes on serious subjects without sacrificing its funiness. Some of the novel’s characters use gallows humor good-naturedly; others, less so. McWatt, for example, is always “buzzing” the camp, flying low over it, but one day he flies too low and accidentally kills Kid Sampson. Captain Black and Corporal Whitcomb make fun of the chaplain constantly, because they find his religious beliefs and non-combat assignment to be inherently funny. This bullying nearly drives the chaplain to abandon his beliefs altogether. Many of the novel’s subordinates make fun of their commanders, including Korn, who spends much of the novel reacting to Catchart’s stupidity and vanity. Major de Coverley’s strange abilities—horseshoe-playing and the renting of apartments in recently-liberated cities—are celebrated among the soldiers. De Coverley finds these apartments for the men despite the many dangers associated with flying to these far-flung locales. The Soldier in White and the Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice, two wounded men who eventually die, supply comic relief for Yossarian and others—until the presence of these injured soldiers make Yossarian and his friends fear that they, too, will succumb to injuries and not survive the war.

Indeed, a turning point occurs when Yossarian encounters Aarfy on their last visit to Rome. Aarfy, who has long joked about his behavior with women during his college fraternity days, tells Yossarian he has just raped and killed a woman. Yossarian is aghast, and is doubly horrified that Aarfy passes this behavior off as a joke. This traumatic event, coupled with the other horrors Yossarian has seen in destroyed and ransacked Rome, and with the death of many of his fellow soldiers, causes Yossarian to rethink his moral obligations, and his willingness to continue to fight in the war.

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Gallows Humor Quotes in Catch-22

Below you will find the important quotes in Catch-22 related to the theme of Gallows Humor.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Insanity is contagious. This is the only sane ward in the whole hospital. Everybody is crazy but us. This is probably the only sane ward in the whole world, for that matter.

Related Characters: John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian (speaker)
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 4 Quotes

You’re inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age?

Related Characters: Dunbar (speaker), Clevinger
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 9 Quotes

Even among men lacking all distinction he [Major Major] inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.

Related Characters: Clevinger, Major Major
Chapter 12 Quotes

Despite the multiple perils to which Major _____ de Coverley exposed himself each time he rented apartments, his only injury had occurred, ironically enough, while he was leading the triumphal procession into the open city of Rome . . . .

Related Characters: Clevinger, Major ______ de Coverley
Chapter 23 Quotes

The Germans are being driven out [of Italy], and we are still here. In a few years you will be gone, too, and we will still be here. You see, Italy is a very poor and weak country, and that’s what makes us so strong.

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 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 32 Quotes

And the very next morning they [Yossarian’s four new roommates] got rid of the dead man in his tent! Just like that, they whisked him away! They carried his cot and all his belongings right out into the bushes and simply dumped them there . . . .

Related Characters: Clevinger, Yossarian’s new roommates
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