Catch-22

Catch-22

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.

Catch-22 Quotes in Catch-22

The Catch-22 quotes below all refer to the symbol of Catch-22. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Catch-22 published in 1996.
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)
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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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)
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

But Yossarian still didn’t understand how Milo could buy eggs in Malta for seven cents apiece and sell them at a profit in Pianosa for five cents.

Related Characters: John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian, Milo Minderbinder
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Related Characters: Chaplain Tappman, Clevinger, Corporal Whitcomb
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Related Symbols: Catch-22, Rome
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:

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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)
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 265
Explanation and Analysis:

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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)
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 313
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 353
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 378
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 39 Quotes

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

Related Symbols: Catch-22, Rome
Page Number: 417
Explanation and Analysis:

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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
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 463
Explanation and Analysis:

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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)