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.
Yossarian manages to find a way out of this catch by deciding, at the novel’s end, to flee for Sweden. Thus he no longer has to fly missions, nor must he accept a deal, offered in unsavory fashion by Cathcart and Korn, allowing him to go home. By running to Sweden, Yossarian preserves his independence and leaves behind the military and its “catches.”
Catch-22 Quotes in Catch-22
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.
As far back as Yossarian could recall, he explained to Clevinger with a patient smile, somebody was always hatching a plot to kill him.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
“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.”
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.
“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?”