Catch-22 Quotes

Lines from Joseph Heller's Famous Anti-War Novel

Catch-22
Catch-22. Simon & Schuster

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, is a famous anti-war novel. Even if you've never read the book, you've likely heard about its premise. The title of the book refers to a situation where no matter what choice you make the outcome will be bad. The concept has been widely referred to in popular culture.  

Here are a few quotes from the novel to refresh your memory, to give you a taste for this classic, or just for you to enjoy the language and lines of Joseph Heller's famous work.

  • "an unreasonable belief that everybody around him was crazy, a homicidal impulse to machine-gun strangers, retrospective falsification, an unfounded suspicion that people hated him and were conspiring to kill him." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 2
  • "He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 3
  • "You're inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 4 
  • "Fortunately, just when things were blackest, the war broke out." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 5
  • "There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to, but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. 'That's some catch, that catch-22,' he observed. 'It's the best there is,' Doc Daneeka agreed." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 5 
  • "'Catch-22...says you've always got to do what your commanding officer tells you to.' 'But Twenty-seventh Air Force says I can go home with forty missions.' 'But they don't say you have to go home. And regulations do say you have to obey every order. That's the catch. Even if the colonel were disobeying a Twenty-seventh Air Force order by making you fly more missions, you'd still have to fly them, or you'd be guilty of disobeying an order of his. And then the Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters would really jump on you."  - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 6 
  • "History did not demand Yossarian's premature demise, justice could be satisfied without it, progress did not hinge upon it, victory did not depend on it. That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance. But that was war. Just about all he could find in its favor was that it paid well and liberated children from the pernicious influence of their parents."  - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 8 
  • "Clevinger was a troublemaker and a wise guy. Lieutenant Scheisskopf knew that Clevinger might cause even more trouble if he wasn't watched. Yesterday it was the cadet officers; tomorrow it might be the world. Clevinger had a mind, and Lieutenant Scheisskopf had noticed that people with minds tended to get pretty smart at times. Such men were dangerous, and even the new cadet officers whom Clevinger had helped into office were eager to give damning testimony against him. The case against Clevinger was open and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge him with. - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 8
  • "I'll tell you what justice is. Justice is a knee in the gut from the floor on the chin at night sneaky with a knife brought up down on the magazine of a battleship sandbagged underhanded in the dark without a word of warning."  - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 8  
  • "Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. " - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 9   
  • "With a little ingenuity and vision, he had made it all but impossible for anyone in the squadron to talk to him, which was just fine with everyone, he noticed, since no one wanted to talk to him anyway." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 9  
  • "Major Major never sees anyone in his office while he's in his office. " - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 10  
  • "Open your eyes, Clevinger. It doesn't make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 12 
  • "'The enemy,' retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, 'is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart. And don't you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 12  
  • "Yossarian sidled up drunkenly to Colonel Korn at the officers' club one night to kid with him about the new Lepage gun that the Germans had moved in. 'What Lepage gun?' colonel Korn inquired with curiosity. 'The new three hundred and forty four millimeter Lepage glue gun,' Yossarian answered. 'It glues a whole formation of planes together in mid-air.'"- Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 12  
  • "You know, that might be the answer - to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That's a trick that never seems to fail." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 13
  • "Yossarian's heart sank. Something was terribly wrong if everything was all right and they had no excuse for turning back." - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 12  
  • "There was a much lower death rate inside the hospital than outside the hospital, and a much healthier death rate. Few people died unnecessarily. People knew a lot more about dying inside the hospital and made a much neater, more orderly job of it. They couldn't dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her behave. They had taught her manners. They couldn't keep death out, but while she was in she had to act like a lady. People gave up the ghost with delicacy and taste inside the hospital. There was none of that crude, ugly ostentation about dying that was so common outside the hospital. They did not blow up in mid-air like Kraft or the dead man in Yossarian's tent, or freeze to death in the blazing summertime the way Snowden had frozen to death after spilling his secret to Yossarian in the back of the plane. - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 17  
  • "'Don't tell me God works in mysterious ways,' Yossarian continued, hurtling on over her objection. 'There's nothing so mysterious about it. He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else He's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about - a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?'"  - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 18 
  • "'Pain?' Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife pounced upon the word victoriously. 'Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.'" - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 18 
  • "He had failed miserably, had choked up once again in the face of opposition from a stronger personality. It was a familiar, ignominious experience, and his opinion of himself was low. " - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 20 
  • And looking very superior, he tossed down on the table a photostatic copy of a piece of V mail in which everything but the salutation "Dear Mary" had been blocked out and on which the censoring officer had written, "I long for you tragically. R. O. Shipman, Chaplain, U.S. Army."-Joseph Heller, Catch-22 Ch. 36
  • "Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian's fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them."-Joseph Heller, Catch-22 Ch. 39 
  • Here was God's plenty, all right, he thought bitterly as he stared - liver, lungs, kidneys, ribs, stomach and bits of the stewed tomatoes that Snowden had eaten that day for lunch... He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden's secret. Ripeness was all."-Joseph Heller, Catch-22 Ch. 41 
  • "Yossarian, they can prepare as many official reports as they want and choose whichever ones they need on any given occasion. Didn't you know that?" -Joseph Heller, Catch-22 Ch. 42 
  • "When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don't see heaven, or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and human tragedy".  -Joseph Heller, Catch-22 Ch. 42 
  • "Run away to Sweden, Yossarian. And I'll stay here and persevere. Yes. I'll persevere. I'll nag and badger Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn every time I see them. I'm not afraid." -  Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Ch. 42

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