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Free Study Guide-Catch-22 by Joseph Heller-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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PLOT ANALYSIS (Structure)

When Heller began his writing career in the late 1940s, he turned his back on traditional methods of story-telling. He seemed to resent the "realism" of the conventional mode of fiction with its rational structure, its assumptions of continuity in plot, situation, and character, and its neat attempts to draw well-defined resolutions. His own experience as an airman in World War II caused him to distrust the cause-and effect relation of surface reality as something merely superficial which captured only outer reality. So in his fiction, Heller developed a structure and style that suited the absurdities in public and private life that he observed around him.

The dislocation of episodic continuity serves a dual purpose. Some of the events are juxtaposed not on the basis of chronology but randomly so as to highlight their inter-relationship and to emphasize certain ironic contrasts.


Besides, the episodes of the novel are so structured as to create a gradually increasing tension through the sinister events represented in them. Heller gives us several accounts, scattered over various chapters, of the catastrophic events in Yossarianís plane leading up to a death. Each attempt at narrating the gory details serves to intensify the traumatic impact it has on the morale and psyche of Yossarian.

The overall time structure of the novel does acquire some chronological continuity through the intermittent repetition of certain crucial incidents. Recurrent references include the monumental growth of Minderbinderís black-market operations, the death of Snowden, Cathcartís raising of the number of missions, and Orrís repeated ditching of his planes at sea.

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