29 Catch-22 Facts: Things You Might Not Know About The Book

Ritwik Bhuyan
Mar 20, 2023 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Mar 02, 2023
Fact-checked by Shadiya Ahammad
Catch 22 book by Joseph Heller.

'Catch-22' is one of the most beloved novels of its time and was authored by Joseph Heller.

When Joseph Heller got the idea for the novel, he was an advertising copywriter. After his creative epiphany, he wrote the entire first chapter of the novel by hand.

Joseph Heller submitted the first chapter of the original book to New World Writing magazine through a literary agent. It took a year for Joseph Heller to complete the second chapter.

The original title of the book was actually 'Catch-18'. But was later changed to 'Catch-22' after the request of the publisher. A lot of people consider the book an anti-war novel.

However, Joseph Heller once said that some men, along with him, considered World War II a noble war. The book was not a best-seller in the US, but it did well in the UK since its initial publication.

There was also a 1970 movie based on the book, which starred Martin Balsam, Alan Arkin, Orson Welles, Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel, and many more. Buck Henry wrote the screenplay, and Mike Nichols directed the movie.

The movie was financed by Paramount Pictures and produced by Filmways. Martin Balsam is also the father of Talia Balsam, the ex-wife of George Clooney (who made a miniseries remake of the book).

Synopsis And Style

Learn some facts about the style and synopsis of the book.

The story of this novel can be divided into parts and follows a non-linear narration.

The first part of the novel is between chapters 1 and 11. These chapters tell the story of the characters in chronological order, and the time frame was set in 1944.

The second part (chapters 12-20) focuses on the siege of Bologna. The third part (chapters 21-25) goes back to the year 1944, and the fourth part (chapters 26-28) goes back to the beginnings and growth of Milo's syndicate. The fifth part (chapters 28-32) returns to the present and carries on the tone of the other chapters.

The last part (chapters 32 and later) stays in the present. However, it is much darker and focuses on the brutal nature of life and war.

The readers are stopped from experiencing the full horror of the story at first.

However, in the last section, everything becomes clear and is open for the readers to experience.

The central horror in the story starts with the assault on the Italian mountain village. The other chapters later involve disappearance in combat, despair, disappearance by the army, or death of most of the friends of Yossarian (including Nately, Dobbs, Kid Sampson, and Hungry Joe). 

All of the details of Snowden's death are revealed in Chapter 41.

However, the novel ends positively as Yossarian learns about Orr's escape to Sweden and pledges to follow Orr there.

There are different points of view in the novel. It helps the reader learn about the events from various iterations.

The story's events don't happen in chronological order. The reader is given the impression that they are familiar with them, though. The reader must put all the puzzle pieces together to create the right timeline later. To add comic relief, several phrases, words, and queries are repeated.

There is a lot of repetitive and circular prose in 'Catch-22'. To give their acts and ideas a sense of security, some characters engage in circular reasoning. The paradox is Joseph Heller's primary literary device.

There is logical irrationality in the book.

The Chaplain and Yossarian are two notable characters in the book. All of the mentioned characters are described appropriately. There are considerably fewer supporting characters. The lack of heroes in the book reinforces the assertion that there are only victims in war and no heroes.

Although the book might seem random sometimes, 'Catch-22' is highly structured. Free association is evident here. Unexpected connections connect the ideas in the story.


Here are the themes used in the novel.

The first is the paradox. Yossarian thinks his commanding officers are out to get him, making him fear them more than the Germans trying to end him.

The only reason Yossarian is skeptical about his commanders is that Colonel Cathcart increases the required combat missions before a soldier returns home as he flies more missions. As Yossarian reached his number for the required assignments, the colonel raised the number.

He gets upset for not being about to go home ever. He becomes delighted when he is sent to the hospital for an illness that seems like jaundice.

The next theme is tragedy and farce. Intentional and unintentional miscommunication is responsible for all the farce in the book. It often leads to tragic endings. Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen sabotages Cathcart's correspondence as the latter wants to become a general.

The next theme is theodicy. Yossarian refutes the idea that God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing. The book and the one who narrates believe God is not evil but incompetent. Yossarian mentions in chapter 18 that this version of God made the war and the failures of human society and life.

The last theme is anti-capitalism. None of the Germans appear in the tale as enemy combatants, even when they are the enemies of the military.

There is only one appearance of German personnel in the book. These personnel act as pilots under Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer of the squadron, who are present to bomb the American encampment on Pianosa. This shows a tension between today's economic machine and the traditional aim for violence.

This generates violence as a means to profit and is independent of ideological and geographical constraints. It makes a military-industrial complex.


This is one of the most popular novels made concerning histories of the war

Here are some of the characters in the story.

There are many important characters in the book. Some characters play an essential part but are not as significant.

Yossarian is one of the primary characters in the book. Captain John Yossarian is present in both 'Catch-22' and the sequel 'Closing Time'.

He is the protagonist of both novels. Yossarian is portrayed as a 28-year-old Captain in the first book. He later becomes a Major.

He is also the bombardier (North American B-25 Mitchell) in the Army Air Corps' 256th Bombardment Squadron. He is on Pianosa, located off the Italian mainland during World War II.

The experiences of Heller create all the stories based on the character. Heller was a bombardier in the Air Corps and stationed on an island near the Italian coast during the war. Joseph Heller's book says Yossarian is a broad, tall, Assyrian man who starts rumors or creates events to avoid the battle.

There have been many events that support this claim. He accepted an award without wearing any clothes, poisoned the mess hall using bath soap, and moved the bombing line to make his squadron not fly.

Chaplain Tappman is an Anabaptist minister from Wisconsin. The naive minister from Kenosha is also known as R.O. Shipman in some newer book prints.

He doesn't like authority and is scared throughout the book by Corporal Whitcomb, his manipulative, rude, atheist assistant. He is terrified by others' cruelty.

He is a sensitive, gentle, and kind man who worries about his children and wife at home. He is shown as a 32-year-old man with brown eyes, tan hair, and a pale, narrow face. Tappman's sister works as a Master Sergeant in the Marines.

Colonel Cathcart is a full colonel. Chuck Cathcart works at the US Army Air Corps base on the island of Pianosa and is a group commander. He wants to become a general at any cost.

He does everything to keep his superiors happy. He raises the number of missions the personnel has to fly regularly. This is the number the men need to complete a tour of duty.

Chuck is a 36-year-old man with a beefy and tall build. He has pale skin and short grayish curly hair.

He doesn't have a lot of self-confidence. He keeps comparing himself to others and doesn't find the desired ending. He also likes to be thought of as highly masculine, as he is insecure most of the time.

Lieutenant Nately, Doctor Daneeka, Orr, Milo Minderbinder, Snowden, Captain Aardvaark, Colonel Korn, Major Major Major Major, and Lieutenant Scheisskopf are some of the other main characters of Joseph Heller's novel. Scheisskopf later became Colonel and General at the end.

There are other characters like Appleby, Colonel Cargill, Captain Black, Clevinger, Nurse Cramer, Lieutenant Coombs, Major Danby, Mrs. Daneeka, Major —— de Coverley, General Dreedle, Nurse Duckett, Dobbs, Dunbar, Dori Duz, Major Duluth, Giuseppe, Captain Flume, and many more.

There are also some characters whose names are not known or mentioned.

The character of Major Major was written as an ex-English teacher from Vermont. It was written as a distaste for Henry James.

Historical context

Learn how the book has a lot of historical context in it.

Joseph Heller's experience in World War II created the idea of 'Catch-22'.

Yossarian and all the other bomber crew felt a lot of feelings during the war. These were all based directly on the problems the author suffered during duty. From May 1944 to October 1944, Joseph Heller flew bombing missions of over 60.

Heller made it out of World War II. However, he only started writing about it later, in 1953. The book has a lot of references to post-war stories like loyalty oaths and IBM computers. The war made Heller a funny, tortured, and peculiar human being.

After the book was published in 1961, the book became quite famous among teenagers during that period. 'Catch-22' was perfect for young people to find their feelings for the Vietnam War. There was a rumor during those times that all students take a copy of 'Catch-22' when they go to college.

There was a cult following for the book. Over eight million copies of the book were sold just in the US. John W. Aldridge celebrated the 25th anniversary of 'Catch-22' by publishing a piece in 'The New York Times' in 1986.


How much of Catch-22 is true?
It is based on actual events that Heller and many others felt during the war.

What was the Catch-22 rule?
It means an impossible situation.

Where did the phrase Catch-22 come from?
The phrase means a problematic situation where the remedy of the problem is not possible as it is also the cause of the problem,

When was Catch-22 published?
It was published on November 10, 1961.

How long is 'Catch-22'?
It is 453 pages long.

How many pages is 'Catch-22'?
The book is made up of 453 pages. The book's original manuscript is at Brandeis University, as Heller donated it to the university.

What is the book Catch-22 about?
The book follows Captain Yossarian and his attempts to stay alive during World War II.

What does the term Catch-22 mean?
The phrase means a problematic situation where the remedy of the problem is not possible as it is also the cause of the problem,

What is the origin of Catch-22?
Joseph heller made the name 'Catch-22'.

Is Catch-22 a comedy or a tragedy?
It is ultimately a tragedy but uses comedy and humor as a narrative mechanism.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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Fact-checked by Shadiya Ahammad

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in India and World Literature

Shadiya Ahammad picture

Shadiya AhammadBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in India and World Literature

A skilled writer and content creator with a postgraduate degree in English literature from the University of Calicut, Shadiya has also completed a Master of Arts in World Literature from Widya Dharma University and studied English Language and Literature at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. With her educational background and four years of experience in content writing, Shadiya has developed excellent research, communication, and writing skills, which she brings to her work every day. Her passion for language extends beyond her professional work, as she enjoys studying Arabic and Spanish in her free time.

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