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Free Study Guide-Catch-22 by Joseph Heller-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is set against the background of World War II. The American forces came to the aid of the Allies--England, France, and Russia--after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941. Ranged against them were the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The time period of the novel is roughly 1942-45.

The geographical locale of Catch-22 is the island of Pianosa which lies eight miles south of Elba, off the Italian coast. But as Heller notes in the preface, the setting is fictitious. There was no real American base on Pianosa during the war, the island being too small. The fictitious air force base at Pianosa is a microcosm of the world at large. Between bombing missions, the airmen make frequent trips to enjoy the pleasures of Rome.

There are brief references also to Yossarian’s training at the American armed forces base in Santa Ana, California. Several key episodes are set in the army hospital at Pianosa. This hospital set-up is associated positively with escape from the bombing missions, and negatively with various types of illness and insanity. At another, somewhat less-obvious level, the action of the novel unfolds largely in the mind of its central character, Yossarian. Like Orr before him, Yossarian aims to escape to Sweden, a haven of peace, freedom, and neutrality during the nightmarish years of World War II.

Some of the action takes place in Yossarian’s airplane during missions over Italy. Milo Minderbinder’s business deals take him to the Middle East, North Africa (especially Egypt), and some cities in Mediterranean Europe.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Colonel Cathcart

The successor to Major Duluth as the Squadron commander. He constantly increases the number of missions that his men must fly.


Doc Daneeka

The chief medical officer at the Pianosa air base. He is mortally afraid of flying. He is taken for dead, although he is actually alive, because the records show that he was in McWatt's plane when it crashed.

"Hungry" Joe

Earns his nickname due to his voracious appetite for both food and sex. He suffers from nerve-wracking nightmares that not only disturb his own peace of mind but also that of his colleagues at the air base.

McWatt

A dare-devil pilot who loves to show off his acrobatic skills as an airman. He accidentally kills Kid Sampson and then commits suicide by crashing his plane into a mountain.

Major Major

Rises to the position of a Major chiefly due to an error committed by an IBM computer. He reads his name as his rank. He becomes squadron commander and jumps out of his office window to avoid meeting the men who come to see him.

Milo Minderbinder

An ace profiteer from the war, although only a Mess Sergeant. He signs a contract with the Germans to bomb his own American Squadron, and runs a mind-boggling maze of black-market operations that spans five continents.

Nately

A young airman and Yossarian’s friend who was born in a very rich family. He has a flagrant affair with a prostitute in Rome and dies during the mission to La Spezia.

Chaplain A.T.Tappman

The kind and compassionate clergyman who is Yossarian’s friend . He helps Yossarian prepare for his escape to Sweden.

Captain John Yossarian

A bombardier with the 256th Squadron stationed in Pianosa and is the central figure of Catch-22. He feigns illness and insanity to avoid flying more missions, before openly protesting against the authorities. He finally attempts to escape to Sweden.

Minor Characters

Aarfy

The chief navigator on Yossarian’s plane. He is a rather ruthless person, as he kills Michaela, the maid, while on a pleasure-trip to Rome.

Appleby

Plays a good game of Ping-Pong which arouses Orr’s jealousy. The men refer to Apple by as having flies in his eyes.

Captain Black

Intelligence officer of the 256th squadron. He begins the Loyalty Oath Crusade.

Clevinger

The one who conducts the educational sessions. He dies on the mission to Parma.

Major de Coverley

A man of Jehovian demeanor who puts an end to Captain Black’s Loyalty Oath Crusade. After each Allied victory, he rushes to the captured city and rents apartments for the American Officers.

Major Danby

The operations officer for the squadron. He almost gets himself shot when he moans during a briefing session.

Dobbs

The co-pilot of Yossarian’s plane. He plans to assassinate Colonel Cathcart.

General Dreedle

Wing Commander of the 256th squadron.

Nurse Duckett

A nurse at the hospital in Pianosa who has an affair with Yossarian.

Dunbar

Yossarian’s companion in the hospital ward who "disappears" in Chapter 34.

Dori Duz

A promiscuous woman who has affairs with Scheisskopf and Yossarian.

Captain Flume

The Public Relations Officer of the 256th squadron. He is afraid that Chief White Halfoat will slit his throat, so he hides in the woods.

Gus and Wes

The two medical assistants of Doctor Daneeka who paint patients’ gums and toes purple.

Chief White Halfoat

An American-Indian. He punches Colonel Moodus in the nose and threatens to kill Captain Flume. He dies of pneumonia.

Captain Havermeyer

The lead bombardier who never takes evasive action and never misses a target. He shoots field mice at night.

Huple

The youngest pilot at the base. His cat was discovered on the face of Hungry Joe, at the time of Hungry Joe’s death.

Colonel Korn

The assistant to Colonel Cathcart. He tries to make an "odious deal" with Yossarian.

Kraft

The pilot who is killed on the second run during the mission to Ferrara.

Luciana

The Italian girl whom Yossarian meets at the officer’s Club in Rome and to whom Yossarian proposes marriage.

Colonel Moodus

General’s Dreedle’s son-in-law who yearns for the General’s nurse. General Dreedle treats him with little respect.

Mudd

A pilot who dies when on his first mission. His personal effects are left in Yossarian’s tent. He is "the dead man" in Yossarian’s tent.

Orr

A pilot who often ditches his plane at sea and is rescued. He finally escapes to Sweden.

General Peckem

In charge of the Squadron’s special operations. He dreams of taking over command of the squadron from General Dreedle.

Kid Sampson

One of the pilots with whom Yossarian flies. He is killed in an accident when he is cut into two by a propeller on McWatt's low- flying plane.

Major Sanderson

The psychiatrist at the hospital who certifies that Yossarian is insane. He suffers from feelings of inadequacy.


Lieutenant Scheisskopf

Yossarian’s commanding officer in California. He is excessively fond of parades. He is made lieutenant general after he is sent to the front.

Mrs.Scheisskopf

Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife. She sleeps with all the men in her husband’s squadron, including Yossarian.

The Soldier in White

A strange sight at the hospital as he is completely swathed in bandages. He turns out to be Lieutenant Schmulker who has suffered serious burns.

Snowden

The gunner on Yossarian’s plane. His grotesque death during the mission to Avignon shocks Yossarian and haunts him throughout the novel.

Corporal Whitcomb

Works as an assistant to the chaplain. He is responsible for preparing the format of the condolence letters and even helps the C.I.D men investigate the chaplain.

ex-PFC. Wintergreen

Responsible for sorting mail at 27th Air Force Headquarters. He is later demoted for virtually running the air base by sending self-prepared memoranda and intercepting important messages.

The two C.I.D (Criminal Investigation Department) men

Sent to Pianosa to find out who has been tampering with the personal letters of the soldiers and official documents.

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