Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Review by Shwetha H S

When I told my friends that I was reading Catch-22, one of them said “I tried reading it once, but left it after reading hardly the first 50 pages. It is full of poor jokes. You might abandon it as well.” What he didn’t know is once I start reading a book I cannot leave it without finishing it. I cannot even take up another book without finishing reading the previous one. And I am proud of that trait of mine, especially now, because I didn’t quit reading Catch-22. Yossarian is a lead bombardier for the United States of America, posted overseas and wants to live. He swears on his one and only life that everybody out there is trying to kill him. On top of that his superiors are raising the number of missions he has to fly if he wants to go home. As soon as he gets the number, he gets notified that the number of mission per person has been raised again. He complains to his friends about this constantly, but flies the missions anyway. Often he finds himself standing up for himself and others demanding to be sent home, but his superiors somehow convince him to fly more.

There are simply too many characters in this novel. You will get confused with who is who and who does what. Though they are too many in number, they all are unique character-wise. Only by the time you finish half of the book, will you be clarified with your doubts. But by then, one by one Yossarian’s friends die or disappear. Though it is Yossarian who is afraid of losing his life more than anybody else, others die before him. Your heart will go out for the Chaplain and you will hate Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn from the bottom of your heart and gut. This novel evidently makes you understand the plight of every person who was overseas fighting not knowing what for accurately. There are many highlights in the story. An argument between Yossarian and Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife about existence of God on Thanksgiving Day, an argument between Nately and an old Italian man about why or why not one should fight for the country and effect of war-destroyed Rome on Yossarian to name a few highlights. Icing on the cake is the last chapter. Everything happens at once that you wish to be there with Yossarian, Major Danby and the Chaplain. This novel on the whole is truly one of the greatest novels of the century.

Every victim was a culprit, every culprit a victim, and somebody had to stand up sometime to try to break the lousy chain of inherited habit that was imperiling them all.

Joseph Heller, hats off to you.