19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A satirical masterpiece, 23 Jun 2004
I recommend this novel as a magnificent satire on warfare and the human condition. Set in the Second World War in allied-conquered Italy, it contrives to be hilarious and tragic simultaneously. The hero of the novel, Yossarian, is an individual not afraid to declare his hatred for war and the novel is constructed around his many attempts to be allowed home. It demonstrates the pointlessness of war and the suffering of the pilots who flew bombing missions. It is, however, tremendously funny as each and every character is ridiculed. Heller satirises capitalism and commercialism through his entrepreneurial character Milo and this particular aspect of the book is incredibly funny in a gallows humour way. The novel is about madness, and the entrapment of everyone in the title of the work, Catch-22. One example of the many in the novel; Yossarian does not want to fly any more missions, but the only way he can get out of them is to be declared insane. Yet if he declares himself insane, the generals will know he is sane for wanting to get out of the missions in the first place, since only a mad person would want to fly the missions! It does not sensitively explore human relationships in warfare as Birdsong does but does well exhibit the weakness and selfishness of humans in times of adversity. War is not about comradeship, but survival of the fittest. Heller writes with incredible insight into the human condition, and his experience of serving as a bombardier in the war obviously has immensely influenced him. Although the context is the Second World War, what it has to say about the incompetence of leaders and the futility of war is relevant to any conflict. The novel is not particularly compassionate, is graphic, and does not refrain from heavy criticism of those who forced Yossarian into war and continued the conflict. Heller is to be applauded for such a controversial work since it was written not long after the war and first published in 1961. It is an anti-war novel like All Quiet on The Western Front but is much more like George Orwell's 1984 or Animal Farm in its satirical style. Much of his writing may outrage some readers, but if you want to read a satirical masterpiece set in a time of conflict, there is nothing better and if proof is needed of its popularity, it was voted well into Britain's top 21 books last year.