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.
This novel is about the absurdity and self-perpetuating insanity of bureaucracies, particularly military bureaucracies. It’s a comedic attack on the rules that such organizations make and self-centred people who make them. It’s also a surprisingly moving and powerful anti-war novel, one that questions the foundations of patriotism and obedience that lead soldiers to fight. It does this set, not in Korea or another unpopular war, but in the heart of World War II.