Catch 22

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller has been an enormously influential book for my understanding, enjoyment and appreciation of the postmodern novel.   Its use of temporal distortion, satire and black humour are cleverly used to highlight Heller’s purpose which is to protest the modern social order. It is this temporal distortion and excessive use of repetition which has caused my interest in the development of postmodern techniques and ideas to be engaged.
Critics of the text argue that it is apparently formless. Norman Mailer has said that ‘one could take one hundred pages from the middle of Catch 22 and not even the author would be certain they were gone.’ Heller of course defends this apparent lack of structure claiming it to be ‘constructed almost meticulously’: he has deliberately given the book an appearance of formlessness in order to best get his ideas across. The apparent chaos of the repetitions and temporal distortions reflect the lack of communication and the failure of the modern bureaucratic state to take moral responsibility for its collective actions – the result of which is injustice, hypocrisy and a nightmarish brutality and loss of individuality.
When the novel opens and Yossarian is in hospital, all the important raids have actually occurred – Ferrara, Orvieto, Bologna and Avignon. This means that Yossarian has already flown over the bridge at Ferrara twice; that Milo Minderbinder has already established M &M Enterprises; that Snowden has already died over Avignon and that Yossarian has already stood naked in formation to receive a medal for his heroism at Ferrara. These episodes are relayed through the technique of temporal distortion: in a jumbled series of flashbacks we are given glimpses of past events in an absurdly funny manner. The satirical tone with which bizarre incidents are first related in the novel are hilarious: the CID attempts to locate Washington Irving, Major Major’s use of disguise   to be accepted and his refusal to meet with any...