Student Notes: Catch-22 – Book by Joseph Heller

catch 22 book notes

Student Notes – Catch-22 by Joseph Heller


Catch-22, written by Joseph Heller and published in 1961, is a satirical novel set during World War II. The book offers a darkly humorous critique of bureaucracy, war, and the absurdities of human nature. This set of student notes provides a comprehensive overview of the key elements, themes, and characters in Catch-22, along with analysis and discussion points for further exploration and understanding.


  • World War II: The novel takes place primarily in the Mediterranean theater of the war, focusing on the experiences of a group of American bomber pilots stationed on the fictional island of Pianosa.


  • Yossarian: The protagonist and a bombardier who is determined to preserve his own life by any means necessary.
  • Colonel Cathcart: The ambitious commanding officer who continuously raises the number of required missions to gain personal recognition.
  • Milo Minderbinder: A capitalist and black marketeer who manipulates the war economy for his own gain.
  • Doc Daneeka: The squadron’s physician, who struggles with his own sense of morality within the military bureaucracy.
  • Major Major Major Major: An eccentric officer who becomes squadron commander due to his unfortunate name.

Plot Summary:

  • The novel follows the experiences of Yossarian and his fellow airmen as they navigate the absurdities of military life and the catch-22, a paradoxical bureaucratic rule that traps them in a never-ending cycle.
  • Yossarian’s attempts to avoid dangerous missions and the increasing desperation of his quest to be declared insane and sent home.
  • The dark humor and satire woven throughout the novel, highlighting the nonsensical nature of war and the irrationality of authority.
  • Themes: Absurdity of War, Bureaucracy and Dehumanization, Morality and Sanity, Loyalty and Self-Preservation.

Key Themes and Satirical Devices:

  • Absurdity of War: Heller uses satire to expose the irrationality and senselessness of war, depicting the futility and dehumanizing effects on the characters.
  • Bureaucracy and Dehumanization: The novel satirizes the military bureaucracy, illustrating how rules and regulations can strip individuals of their humanity and lead to absurd outcomes.
  • Catch-22: The paradoxical rule that no one can be declared insane if they are aware of their own insanity, creating a circular logic that traps the characters in a never-ending cycle.
  • Morality and Sanity: Heller explores the moral dilemmas faced by the characters and the fine line between sanity and insanity in the context of war.
  • Loyalty and Self-Preservation: The tension between loyalty to the group and the instinct for self-preservation is a recurring theme, as characters grapple with the conflicting demands of duty and survival.

Analysis and Discussion Points:

  • Analyze the character of Yossarian, exploring his transformation and the effects of the war on his psyche.
  • Discuss the role of satire in the novel, examining how Heller uses humor and irony to criticize war and bureaucracy.
  • Explore the concept of Catch-22 and its significance, discussing its impact on the characters and the larger themes of the novel.
  • Examine the portrayal of female characters in Catch-22, considering their roles and how they navigate the male-dominated military environment.
  • Reflect on the novel’s relevance to contemporary society, considering its exploration of the absurdities of bureaucracy and the dehumanizing effects of war.


Catch-22 is a classic satirical novel that masterfully exposes the absurdities and contradictions of war and bureaucracy. Joseph Heller’s dark humor and sharp wit provide a scathing critique of human nature and the illogical systems that govern society. By engaging with the student notes provided, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the novel’s themes, characters, and satirical devices, fostering critical thinking and stimulating insightful discussions about the inherent contradictions and absurdities of the human condition.

Get Paperback or Kindle version of the book <–

Catch-22 book summary