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Joseph Heller




_____ 1. During war, soldiers often feel as if their commanding officers consider them interchangeable. This feeling is best illustrated in Catch-22 by the case of
    A. Yossarian's leg wound
    B. the dead man in Yossarian's tent
    C. the soldier who saw everything twice
_____ 2. Which situation is less clearly an example of Catch-22 than the others?
    A. Only those who never ask questions may ask questions
    B. The chaplain must be Washington Irving if he doesn't know whether he is or not
    C. Men may see Major Major only when he is out
_____ 3. Joseph Heller's concern with the McCarthyism of the 1950s is best shown by
    I. Chief White Halfoat's red Indian joke
    II. Colonel Cathcart's finding Yossarian's name subversive because it contains two s's
    III. accusation meaning automatic guilt for Clevinger and for the chaplain
    A. I, II, and III
    B. I and II only
    C. II and III only
_____ 4. Milo Minderbinder's deals with the Germans demonstrate the belief that
    I. morality plays no role in business
    II. what is good for business is good for one's country
    III. government should serve business interests
    A. I and II only
    B. I and III only
    C. I, II, and III
_____ 5. In style, Catch-22 uses elements of
    I. realism
    II. black humor
    III. surrealism
    A. I and II only
    B. I and III only
    C. I, II, and III
_____ 6. Point of view in Catch-22 is a combination of
    A. omniscient and first person
    B. omniscient and third-person limited
    C. first person and third person
_____ 7. Heller broadens the scope of Catch-22 through allusions to other literary works. Which of the following is the allusion most relevant to the theme of disintegrating values?
    A. The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot
    B. King Lear by Shakespeare
    C. The Iliad and The Odyssey
_____ 8. Which is the main plot of the novel?
    A. Milo Minderbinder's pursuit of a business empire
    B. Yossarian's opposition to Cathcart on increases in the number of missions
    C. Peckem's campaign to acquire Dreedle's command
_____ 9. The officer who consciously sees himself as a practitioner of elegant literary style is
    A. Colonel Cathcart, as when he lists "feathers in my cap" and "black eyes"
    B. General Dreedle, as in his memo ordering everyone on combat duty to practice skeet shooting
    C. General Peckem, as in his directives on bombing patterns and his speech welcoming Colonel Scheisskopf
_____ 10. The island of Pianosa is located near
    A. Corsica
    B. Sicily
    C. Trieste

11. According to Catch-22, what kinds of people thrive on war?

12. Who is "the enemy" in Catch-22? Consider the perceptions of characters in the novel.

13. How do comic routines make it easier to grasp Heller's serious message? Use examples.

14. Which characters seem more like stereotypes than individuals? Why are they included?

15. Was it Snowden's death that caused Yossarian to desert, or were there other causes?


_____ 1. Which pair best illustrates the theme that things are not what they seem?

    A. Gus and Wes
    B. Piltchard and Wren
    C. Daneeka and Mudd
_____ 2. Which decision is affected by the actions of the mail clerk, ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen?
    A. Cathcart's plan to promote Major Major to colonel
    B. Korn's suggestion that Yossarian be awarded a medal
    C. Whitcomb's form letters for families of men killed
_____ 3. The B-25 crew member whose position is most obviously exposed to the enemy is that of the
    A. pilot and co-pilot on the flight deck
    B. bombardier in his compartment
    C. tail gunner at the rear of the plane
_____ 4. One reason Yossarian may have refused to wear clothes after Snowden's death is that
    A. the blood and dirt were not removed
    B. the uniform stood for a system that was killing his friends
    C. he wanted to confuse General Dreedle about where to put the medal
_____ 5. A major method Heller uses to structure Catch-22 is
    A. use of flashbacks and deja vu
    B. use of chronological order
    C. following comic scenes with grim ones
_____ 6. An attitude toward soldiers as things is shown by
    A. the manner in which Doc treats Yossarian for shock after Snowden's death
    B. Scheisskopf's desire to wire the cadets together so they will march perfectly
    C. Danby's conversation with Yossarian on the ethics of desertion
_____ 7. The early scene where Yossarian goes alone to the beach and finds it filled with eerie suggestions of death foreshadows
    A. his affair with Nurse Duckett at the beach
    B. the riotous Thanksgiving Day
    C. the macabre death of Kid Sampson
_____ 8. Even for the sake of his syndicate, Milo does not
    A. sell chocolate-covered cotton to the Russians
    B. bomb his own squadron in a deal with the Germans
    C. paint M & M over symbols on military planes
_____ 9. Religious symbolism is not particularly apparent in the scene between
    A. the chaplain and Captain Flume in the woods
    B. Orr and his crew examining the raft's survival gear
    C. Yossarian and Milo in a tree during Snowden's funeral
_____ 10. A kindly presence that sees to the men's welfare early in the novel, but not later, is that of
    A. the mysterious Major de Coverley
    B. the old man in Rome
    C. military planners in the Pentagon

11. If you were to view some of the characters as symbols, what would they stand for? Use three of these characters in your response: Major Major, Captain Black, Chief White Halfoat, Havermeyer, Major de Coverley, Milo Minderbinder.

12. Was Yossarian's decision to desert an act of courage or an act of cowardice? Explain.

13. What motivates the chaplain to take the blame for Yossarian's actions?

14. How does the straightening out of the time pattern in the last few chapters show that things have become very grim for Yossarian?

15. What similar functions are served by the beach, the apartments in Rome, and the base hospitals?


  1. C
  2. B
  3. A
  4. C
  5. C
  6. B
  7. A
  8. B
  9. C
  10. A

11. Your first reaction to this question may be to say Milo Minderbinder and big business people thrive on war. It's a good answer, but others thrive as well. Consider the manipulative Lieutenant Colonel Korn; the sneaky Wintergreen; the conniving General Peckem; and even lesser characters such as Piltchard and Wren and the bombardier Havermeyer. You may find others as well. In your answer, describe the benefits each person can acquire in the military that would be unavailable- or at least less available- in civilian life. Minderbinder and Korn, for instance, can take advantage of military transport in their business ventures. Peckem and Wintergreen, who enjoy sabotaging the plans of others, have greater opportunities in the military than they would in civilian life- whole combat wings come under their influence. And Piltchard, Wren, and Havermeyer simply enjoy military work- bombing itself, a skill useless in civilian life.

12. If you are tempted to say "the Germans" are the enemy, think about it. When General Peckem is preening himself in his speech to the newly arrived Colonel Scheisskopf, whom does he identify as the enemy? "Dreedle's on our side and Dreedle is the enemy." When Yossarian complains about additional missions, whom does he identify as the enemy? Anyone likely to get him killed, including Colonel Cathcart. You could come up with many more examples- Cathcart vs. Korn, Whitcomb vs. the chaplain,. the C.I.D. men vs. their country's officers, the men vs. Major Major, and so on. The enemy is within; the real battles in Catch-22 involve bureaucratic infighting. In each instance that you use, clearly state the arena in which the enmity occurs- what each side sees as making the other the enemy.

13. Answers to this question are likely to be highly individual, since each reader will have favorite comic scenes. One example everyone is likely to remember is Clevinger's trial before the Action Board. Clevinger gets in trouble because he takes everything said to him literally, and protests every time he is misunderstood. Contradictory orders are given- shut up, speak up. Questions phrased negatively make any answer the wrong answer- "When didn't you say we couldn't punish you?" The humor ends by the time the colonel is pounding the table to define justice, and it becomes clear that the trial was a formality only. The humor makes it easier to grasp Heller's message when you realize that the colonel is unaware of or does not care about lack of logic. The punishment tours that Clevinger must march are very real, and the fat, comic colonel has the power to inflict them. If his questions and comments had been phrased more seriously, you might have been taken in. You might have believed real justice was possible.

14. You might consider answering the second half of the question first. Stereotypes are useful when a cast is as large as that of Catch-22- not just because you can't recall that many characters as distinct individuals, but also because real life involves relating to most people as types. It is a way of functioning, to know that a certain person is a bigot, another is warm-hearted, and so on. Characters with similar roles in Catch-22 include Hungry Joe, who is governed by his ineffective lust for women; Colonel Moodus, who is a caricature of the worthless son-in-law; Colonel Cathcart, who operates solely in his own self interest; Milo Minderbinder, who will do anything to make a profit; and so on. Again, you will be able to think of many more, simply by jotting down all the characters you can remember, and then choosing from your list.

15. Read this question carefully. The key word is cause. There is little doubt that Snowden's death had a great impact on Yossarian, but many factors led to his decision to desert. You need to consider Yossarian's alternatives first, and why each failed or was unacceptable: a request to be sent home at the number of missions other squadrons had to fly; getting the number reduced; goldbricking in the hospital; being grounded as insane; flying milk runs only; accepting Cathcart's and Korn's hero deal. You may also wish to consider other elements of Yossarian's reasoning, such as the argument from his talks with Clevinger- men must die in a war, but it doesn't matter which particular men do the dying. As you examine these elements, you will see that Snowden's death served as a grim reminder of the probable result of flying more missions, but not as the cause of Yossarian's decision.


  1. C
  2. A
  3. B
  4. B
  5. A
  6. B
  7. C
  8. A
  9. B
  10. A

11. You are being asked to look at these seven characters not as individual people, but as representative of something else- perhaps whole groups of people, perhaps abstract ideas. Since you need use only three of them, choose the ones that seem clearest to you. Most people see Milo Minderbinder as representing unethical business practices, for example, or unethical businessmen. Chief White Halfoat might stand for all American Indians, or, in this novel, as an ironic symbol of all that the Allies are fighting against- herding people into camps, treaty-breaking, and so on. De Coverley, who is described as even looking like the Greek god Zeus, could symbolize a God who is at first kindly, but then deserts his people, leaving them on their own. Major Major, Black, and Havermeyer can be taken, in order, as symbols of people promoted beyond their talents, fanatical patriots, and single-minded militarists. Use the three characters whose roles you see most clearly. In your answer, add explanatory examples for each, making clear the correctness of your interpretation.

12. This question is similar to the one on whether or not Snowden caused Yossarian to desert. The focus this time, however, is on the nature of courage and cowardice. Once you have mentally defined these terms, you can think about Yossarian. Courage, for example, is defined as strength to withstand danger or difficulty, and cowardice is the lack of such strength. Has Yossarian, in the past, shown inability to deal with danger? What has been his overall pattern? Does a decision to desert avoid danger or difficulty, or does it demand just as much strength as accepting Cathcart's and Korn's deal? When you have answered these questions in your own mind, write a topic sentence that states whether Yossarian's decision was an act of courage or cowardice. Then define the word and go on, giving supportive examples derived from your answers to these questions.

13. You could speak about the chaplain's motivation on more than one level. One level is theological. By the time of the interrogation when he recognizes one Washington Irving signature as Yossarian's, he has given a great deal of thought to deja vu and his own sense of repeating an earlier pattern from history. He has also noticed mysterious events which have, for him, a religious significance, such as Flume's sounding like John the Baptist, a prophetic "voice in the wilderness" announcing the coming of Christ. At this level, the chaplain is acting as a Christ-like figure- one who suffers willingly for the sins of others. On another level, you might find the chaplain's motivation in friendship. He has been tricked, reviled, and generally abused by Corporal Whitcomb, the C.I.D. men, Colonel Cathcart, and Colonel Korn. But Yossarian has taken him seriously and treated him simply as a man, and the chaplain has come to admire Yossarian deeply.

14. You might approach it this way: In earlier chapters the war was still something of a game to Yossarian. He could deal with it playfully, having Snark put soap in the men's food or moving a bomb line to postpone a mission. He could talk about Switzerland and Sweden as good places to go to get out of fighting, but without considering the notion seriously. He could check into the hospital to make passes at the nurses and play with enlisted men's letters home. By the end of the novel, however, things have changed. Goldbricking won't work because he can be required to go so far as to fool a dead man's family. Missions can't be delayed forever. Worst of all, his friends are dying, and they are dying horribly- not to win the war, however, but for the insane purpose of helping a colonel become a general. It's only a matter of time till death overtakes Yossarian. He has already been wounded in the leg. His attention focuses on one overriding goal- how to end the madness for himself, personally, since the Air Force won't do it for him. In keeping with this single-minded focus, he attends relentlessly to the "now", taking no more playful side excursions.

15. For much of the novel, the beach, the apartments in Rome, and the hospitals serve as places of rest or recreation. Cite an example which shows the use of each for this purpose. It is also true, however, that all three become places of darkness and death. The most gruesome example for the beach is Kid Sampson's death, followed by McWatt's. In Rome, military police empty the apartments, and Aarfy cold-bloodedly murders one of the women who previously entertained the men. At the hospitals, minor complaints such as colds and imaginary liver disease give way to genuinely life-threatening wounds. Considering both ideas- these places as representing play and death- you could say that all three serve as metaphors or symbols for the entire novel. Like the novel as a whole, all three take you from comedy to tragedy.

[Catch-22 Contents]


    1. How does Colonel Cathcart's desire to become a general affect the course of the plot?
    2. Is Yossarian an "Everyman" or is he totally individual?
    3. Is Yossarian an anti-hero or a new kind of hero?
    4. Which of the women in this novel are stereotypes? Are some of them fully rounded individuals?
    5. What is the significance of the soldier(s) in white?
    6. Did Yossarian make the right decision at the end of the novel? Why were his alternatives unacceptable to him?
    7. How does the rivalry between Generals Dreedle and Peckem affect the squadron?
    1. Trace the development of M & M Enterprises.
    2. Why do you think the phrase "Catch-22" has become part of the English language?
    3. How does the medical profession fare in this novel?
    1. How does the chaplain's attempt to understand deja vu help the reader understand the novel?
    2. Which scenes of Catch-22 sharply satirize elements of the McCarthy hunt for Communists during the 1950s?
    3. Is Catch-22 a surrealist novel? Explain.
    4. Does Catch-22 use black humor? Give examples.
    1. What is the significance of Snowden's death?
    2. Yossarian observes Snowden's funeral from a tree. He is naked, he refers to the tree as the tree of knowledge, and Milo offers him something to eat. What is the significance of these elements?
    1. How does Catch-22 compare with Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) on the theme of sanity and insanity?
    2. Compare Catch-22 with another famous American novel set during World War II such as A Bell for Adano (1944) by John Hersey, The Naked and the Dead (1948) by Norman Mailer, From Here to Eternity (1951) by James Jones, or Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) by Kurt Vonnegut.
    3. Locate Randall Jarrell's short poem, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner." How does it relate to Catch-22?
    4. Does the motion picture "M*A*S*H" (1970) or the television series "M*A*S*H" borrow themes, characters, and events from Catch-22? Describe them.
[Catch-22 Contents]


AWOL, awol
Term coined in 1919 from letters in absent without leave.

Bomber crew member who uses the bomb sight, releases the bombs, and directs evasive action away from the target.

Lowest rank for an enlisted man in the U.S. Army.

Italian national police.

Paradoxical rule created by Joseph Heller. A problem for which the situation itself denies the only solution; a hidden difficulty or means of entrapment; or a policy whose effect is the opposite of what was intended. The phrase is now an entry in English dictionaries.

Military trial.

Separation from military service.

French for "spirit of the body." It means enthusiastic unity or high morale among the members of a group.

Antiaircraft guns or the shells they fire.

Soldier who avoids duty.

Bomber setting the flight path for a group of bombers on a mission together.

A military meal or the people who eat together.

Officer in charge of feeding the troops.

Bombing mission on which no antiaircraft fire is anticipated.

Bombing flight.

Military police.

Crew member who directs the plane to the target.

Warrant officer who supervises stores of ammunition, or the airman who operates one of the guns in a bomber.

An Air Force unit higher than a Flight and lower than a Group.

Airman who operates a gun in the rear of a bomber.

A member of the Women's Army Corps.

The largest department of the U.S. federal government, supervising Army, Air Force, and Navy. Reorganized in 1949 as the Department of Defense.

One of the bombers following a lead plane.

THE STORY, continued

ECC [Catch-22 Contents] []

© Copyright 1985 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.

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