The novel Catch-22 was written by Joseph Heller and first published in 1961. This funny book provides a satirical and sometimes humorous look at a fictional squadron stationed near the Mediterranean Sea in Italy during World War II. Set in the later part of the war, the book begins to tell its tale in the mid 1940’s and progresses through the end of World War II. The author uses the irony of the disjointed way in which the story is recounted to elicit humor in the reader.
The title of the book refers to a term, Catch-22. This is commonly known as a phrase to describe a situation that is a no-win situation or something that has no possibility of a positive outcome. The author has created a funny book by applying this term to the logic used by military leaders. Heller also elicits humor by criticizing the way in which situations play out when leaders instruct their troops to perform tasks that defy logic and are truly a Catch-22.
The story itself in Catch-22 is relayed in non-chorological order, with each of the events told from the point of view of several main characters. The author creates humor by beginning a story or quote with one character, then delivering the conclusion and punch line with another character entirely. The story is not told chronologically, however the story still progresses and humorously encourages the reader to keep up with the tale as it goes along.
The main character of the book is a man named Yossarian who is identified as a member of the United States Air Force and referred to as a “bombardier.” However, the story also closely follows several other related characters throughout the novel. This group of men is said to be the 256th squadron, a fictional group. The group is said to believe in the existence of a Catch-22, though it is revealed that the term does not actually exist later in the novel through a series of unsuccessful missions. Heller reiterates his point by proving that the Catch-22 truly does not exist, though the military leaders convinced their troops of its existence by simply convincing them of the fact.
This funny book is an intelligent look at historical events, taking the reader on an enjoyable ride through history that technically never happened. It is a classic novel for history buffs and fans of satirical work.