These Catch-22 quotes can remind us of the importance of maintaining our smile in the face of tragedy.
War is horrific, and it’s also how humanity has solved its disagreements since we can remember. Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 is effective because it uses satirical comedy to inform the reader of the horrors of war. It is often said that comedy is a genius art because it is one of the ways humans can express the depth of certain experiences.
To collectively laugh at pain is where true empathy and understanding can occur. Heller does this for the reader through eccentric personas like the protagonist Captain John Yossarian and other colorful characters who occupy the squadron hospital.
The premise of the novel is as humorous as it is disturbing. Heller is able to convey the brutal and tragic side of combat while helping the reader keep a smile.
Don’t forget to also check out these Lolita quotes from the controversial novel.
Catch-22 Quotes on Mental Health
1. “Insanity is contagious.” – Joseph Heller
2. “I’ll bet I can name two things to be miserable about for everyone you can name to be thankful for.”- Joseph Heller
3. “Now you’ve given them hope, and they’re unhappy. So the blame is all yours.” – Joseph Heller
4. “You have deep-seated survival anxieties. And you don’t like bigots, bullies, snobs, or hypocrites. Subconsciously there are many people you hate.” – Joseph Heller
5. “Consciously, sir, consciously,” Yossarian corrected in an effort to help. “I hate them consciously.” – Joseph Heller
6. “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
7. “He was – Crazy!” Clevinger interrupted, shrieking. “That’s what you are! Crazy!” – Joseph Heller
8. “You’re antagonistic to the idea of being robbed, exploited, degraded, humiliated, or deceived. Misery depresses you. Ignorance depresses you. Persecution depresses you. Violence depresses you. Corruption depresses you. You know, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re a manic-depressive!” – Joseph Heller
9. “From now on I’m thinking only of me.”Major Danby replied indulgently with a superior smile: “But, Yossarian, suppose everyone felt that way.” “Then,” said Yossarian, “I’d certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn’t I?” – Joseph Heller
10. “He made so many people uneasy. Everyone was always very friendly toward him, and no one was ever very nice; everyone spoke to him, and no one ever said anything.” – Joseph Heller
11. “Immense. I’m a real slam-bang, honest-to-goodness, three-fisted humdinger. I’m a bona fide Supraman.”
“Superman?” Clevinger cried. “Superman?”
Supraman,” Yossarian corrected.” – Joseph Heller
Catch-22 Quotes on Communism and Surveillance
12. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” – Joseph Heller
13. “Why are they going to disappear him?’
I don’t know.’
It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t even good grammar.” – Joseph Heller
14. “Yossarian – the very sight of the name made Colonel Cathcart shudder. There were so many esses in it. It just had to be subversive. It was like the word “subversive” itself. It was like “seditious” and “insidious” too, and like “socialist,” “suspicious,” “fascist” and “Communist.” It was an odious, alien, distasteful name, a name that just did not inspire confidence.” – Joseph Heller
Catch-22 Quotes on God
15. Why in the world did He ever create pain?” – Joseph Heller
16. “There’s nothing mysterious about it, He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else He’s forgotten all about us.” – Joseph Heller
17. “And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued, hurtling on over her objection. “There’s nothing so mysterious about it.” – Joseph Heller
18. “That’s the kind of God you people talk about, a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed.” – Joseph Heller
19. “Haven’t you got anything humorous that stays away from waters and valleys and God? I’d like to keep away from the subject of religion altogether if we can.” – Joseph Heller
20. “What the hell are you getting so upset about?” he asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. “I thought you didn’t believe in God.” – Joseph Heller
21. “The chaplain was apologetic. “I’m sorry, sir, but just about all the prayers I know are rather somber in tone and make at least some passing reference to God.” – Joseph Heller
22. “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?” – Joseph Heller
23. “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?” – Joseph Heller
24. “But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.” – Joseph Heller
Catch-22 Quotes on Battle
25. “Be glad you’re even alive. Be furious you’re going to die.” – Joseph Heller
26. “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
27. “Yossarian marveled that children could suffer such barbaric sacrifice without evincing the slightest hint of fear or pain.” – Joseph Heller
28. “You have a morbid aversion to dying. You probably resent the fact that you’re at war and might get your head blown off any second.” – Joseph Heller
29. “They’re trying to kill me,” Yossarian told him calmly.
No one’s trying to kill you,” Clevinger cried.
Then why are they shooting at me?” Yossarian asked.
They’re shooting at everyone,” Clevinger answered. “They’re trying to kill everyone.”
And what difference does that make?” – Joseph Heller
30. “Where were you born?”
“On a battlefield,” [Yossarian] answered.
“No, no. In what state were you born?”
“In a state of innocence.” – Joseph Heller
31. “He took for granted that they did submit so stoically. If not, he reasoned, the custom would certainly have died, for no craving for wealth or immortality could be so great, he felt, as to subsist on the sorrow of children.” – Joseph Heller
32. “Yossarian saw it clearly in all its spinning reasonableness. There was an elliptical precision about its perfect pairs of parts that was graceful and shocking, like good modern art, and at times Yossarian wasn’t quite sure that he saw it at all, just the way he was never quite sure about good modern art…” – Joseph Heller
33. That’s a horrible dream!” Major Sanderson cried. “It’s filled with pain and mutilation and death. I’m sure you had it just to spite me. You know, I’m not even sure you belong in the Army, with a disgusting dream like that.” – Joseph Heller
Catch-22 Quotes on Politics
34. “What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can’t all be worth dying for.” – Joseph Heller
35. “The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.” – Joseph Heller
36. “The frog is almost five hundred million years old. Could you really say with much certainty that America, with all its strength and prosperity, with its fighting man that is second to none, and with its standard of living that is highest in the world, will last as long as…the frog? ” –Joseph Heller
Catch-22 Quotes on Inspiration
37. “…[A]nything worth dying for … is certainly worth living for.” – Joseph Heller
38. “He was a self-made man who owed his lack of success to nobody.” – Joseph Heller
39. “Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.” – Joseph Heller
40. “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 every human tragedy.” – Joseph Heller
Catch-22 Quotes on Life and Death
41. “Well, he died. You don’t get any older than that.” – Joseph Heller
42. “All you’ve got to do is lie there a few minutes and die a little.” – Joseph Heller
43. “Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it’s to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?” – Joseph Heller
44. “You’re inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age?” – Joseph Heller
45. “Do you know how long a year takes when it’s going away?’ Dunbar repeated to Clevinger. ‘This long.’ He snapped his fingers. ‘A second ago you were stepping into college with your lungs full of fresh air. Today you’re an old man.” – Joseph Heller
46. “A half minute before that you were stepping into high school, and an unhooked brassiere was as close as you ever hoped to get to Paradise.” – Joseph Heller
47. “Because it’s better to die on one’s feet that+n live on one’s knees,” Nately retorted with triumphant and lofty conviction. “I guess you’ve heard that saying before.” – Joseph Heller
48. “Yes, I certainly have,” mused the treacherous old man, smiling again. “But I’m afraid you have it backward. It is better to live on one’s feet than die on one’s knees.” – Joseph Heller
49. What could you do with a man who looked you squarely in the eye and said he would rather die than be killed in combat, a man who was at least as mature and intelligent as you were and who you had to pretend was not? What could you say to him?” – Joseph Heller
Catch-22 Quotes on Hate
50. “As far back as Yossarian could recall, he explained to Clevinger with a patient smile, somebody was always hatching a plot to kill him. There were people who cared for him and people who didn’t, and those who hated him were out to get him.” – Joseph Heller
51. “They hated him because he was Assyrian. But they couldn’t touch him, he told Clevinger, because he had a sound mind in a pure body and was as strong as an ox.” – Joseph Heller
What did you learn from these Catch-22 quotes?
Catch-22 was a banned book for some time. Why? Well, the novel’s premise is funny; a group of injured soldiers in a military hospital during World War II who are asked in their downtime to edit and censor letters written by soldiers on the battlefield to their families back home in the United States.
The novel is set in the 1950s and it addresses the Mccarthy era of American history where people were severely repressed. People were accused of being Communists in a witch hunt that had devastating effects across the country. People were blacklisted, jailed, harassed and killed.
Those who refused to sign oaths swearing their allegiance to America and completely denouncing communism were given prison sentences. Heller did an excellent job revealing the dark and light sides of the human experience even during conflict times. Reading Catch-22 will no doubt help you remember some reasons to smile when things get tough.
What’s your biggest takeaway from these Catch-22 quotes and lines? Do you have any other favorite quotes to add? Let us know in the comment section below.
November 25, 2021 7:00 AM EST