Catch-22 is one of the most poorly constructed, and distasteful books Ive ever read. Its order of events, or lack of order, becomes clear after the very first chapter. In fact It doesnt even seem to have been written; instead it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper (Stern 50). By the middle of the book it seems every character in the book has lost any sense of morality they may have seemed to have. The novel gasps for want of craft and sensibility (Stern 50).
It seems to me that the only way to keep track of the order of events throughout the book is to pay attention to how many missions Colonel Cathcart has assigned. Immediately, even after the first chapter, chronological order is not followed. According to The Structure of Joseph Hellers Catch-22 by Jan Solomon the order of events seemed to follow two different time lines. The first, of course, was that of Yossarian. Yossarians time line follows his psychological perception of events (Potts 20).
The other time line that appears in the book, according to Solomon, is that of Milo Minderbinder. Even this interpretation of the book having an order of events has a couple flaws in it. The biggest is that Milo and Yossarian are mentioned together in the book before they are introduced later in the book. The most apparent event that came to mind, was that they appeared together at Snowdens funeral in the tree before they were introduced later in the book, which is actually earlier in time.
The book shows how personal morals are destroyed when faced with the thought of not being there the next day. Many early reviewers complained that the novel had no moral center (Potts 67). The women in the book take the hardest hit. The names Heller gives to the women, if he gives them a name at all, clearly states how they are portrayed, such as; Natelys Whore, Nurse Duckett, and Dori Duz. Although Scheisskopf’s wife and Luciana dont have suggestive names, they are portrayed like the other women as well. An example of how offensive the women were in the book would be when Scheisskopfs wife and Dori Duz slept with all the men stationed in the United States under Lieutenant Scheisskopf.
The men in the book, however, are just as bad as the women. Colonel Cathcart shows how he is driven with greed and selfish-ambition. He lives in the hills to start rumors of orgies, in order to help get himself promoted to general. However, he was doing nothing of the sort and the colonel was certainly not going to waste his time and energy making love to beautiful women unless there was something in it for him (Heller 208). This clearly shows how Heller makes high ranking military personnel the most corrupt of all characters in the book. Colonel Cathcart also raised missions and has the chaplain lead prayers before missions for the sole purpose of getting recognition from commanding officers in hopes of becoming a general.
Catch-22 is written with poor structure, in very poor taste, and has no moral value towards women, military officials, or conduct of war. It suggests all virtue and order of conduct is lost in war. The book seemed to be a free-for-all of selfishness and greed.
Heller, Catch-22 208
Potts, Antiheroic Antinovel 67,20
Solomon, Structure of Hellers Catch-22 123
Stern, New York Times Book Review, 22 October 1961, 50. Whitney Balliet, New Yorker, 9 December 1961, 247