“Then there was the educated Texan from Texas who looked like someone in Technicolor and felt, patriotically, that people of means – decent folk – should be given more votes than drifters, whores, criminals, degenerates, atheists and indecent folk – people without means.”

“Dunbar was lying motionless on his back again with his eyes staring up at the ceiling like a doll’s.  He was working hard at increasing his life span.  He did it by cultivating boredom.  Dunbar was working so hard at increasing his life span that Yossarian thought he was dead.”

“The colonel dwelt in a vortex of specialists who were still specializing in trying to determine what was troubling him.  They hurled lights in his eyes to see if he could see, rammed needles into nerves to hear if he could feel.  There was a urologist for his urine, a lymphologist for his lymph, an endocrinologist for his endocrines, a psychologist for his psyche, a dermatologist for his derma; there was a pathologist for his pathos, a cystologist for his cysts, and a bald and pedantic cetologist from the zoology department at Harvard who had been shanghaied ruthlessly into the Medical Corps by a faulty anode in an I.B.M. machine and spent his sessions with the dying colonel trying to discuss Moby Dick with him.”

“But Yossarian knew he was right, because, as he explained to Clevinger, to the best of his knowledge he had never been wrong.  Everywhere he looked was a nut, and it was all a sensible young gentleman like himself could do to maintain his perspective amid so much madness.  And it was urgent that he did, for he knew his life was in peril.”

“Yossarian was a lead bombardier who had been demoted because he no longer gave a damn whether he missed or not.  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.”

“Doc Daneeka was a very neat, clean man whose idea of a good time was to sulk.”

“Captain Black knew he was a subversive because he wore eyeglasses and used words like panacea and utopia, and because he disapproved of Adolf Hitler, who had done such a great job of combating un-American activities in Germany.”

“Group Headquarters was alarmed, for there was no telling what people might find out once they felt free to ask whatever questions they wanted to.”

“You wouldn’t believe it, Yossarian,” he ruminated, raising his voice deliberately to bait Doc Daneeka, “but this used to be a pretty good country to live in before they loused it up with their goddam piety.”

“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.”

“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.”

“She was a plump, pink, sluggish girl who read good books and kept urging Yossarian not to be so bourgeois without the r.”

“One day he had stumbled while marching to class; the next day he was formally charged with “breaking ranks while in formation, felonious assault, indiscriminate behavior, mopery, high treason, provoking, being a smart guy, listening to classical music, and so on.”

“In between these two low points of his birth and his success lay thirty-one dismal years of loneliness and frustration.  Major Major had been born too late and too mediocre.  Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.  With Major Major it had been all three.”

“He advocated thrift  and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down.”

“Major Major had lied, and it was good.  He was not really surprised that it was good, for he had observed that people who did lie were, on the whole, more resourceful and ambitious and successful than people who did not lie.”

“Sergeant Towser ran the squadron because there was no one else in the squadron to run it.  He had no interest in war or advancement.  He was interested in shards and Hepplewhite furniture.”

“Major___de Coverley was a splendid, awe-inspiring, grave old man with a massive leonine head and an angry shock of wild white hair that raged like a blizzard around his stern, patriarchal face.  His duties as squadron executive officer did consist entirely, as both Doc Daneeka and Major Major had conjectured, of pitching horseshoes, kidnapping Italian laborers, and renting apartments for the enlisted men and officers to use on rest leaves, and he excelled at all three.”

“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.”

“They couldn’t dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her behave.”

“Just once I’d like to see all these things sort of straightened out, with each person getting exactly what he deserves.  It might give me some confidence in this universe.”

“Yossarian owned his good health to exercise, fresh air, team-work and good sportsmanship; it was to get away from them all that he had first discovered the hospital.”

“And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,”  Youssarian continued, hurling 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.”

“I thought you don’t believe in God?”
“I don’t,” she sobbed, bursting violently into tears.  “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.”

“It was one thing to maintain liaison with the Lord, and they were all in favor of that; it was something else, though to have Him hanging around twenty-four hours a day.”

“The name of the man who had stood naked in ranks that day to receive his Distinguished Flying Cross from General Dreedle had also been – Yossarian!  And now it was a man named Yossarian who was threatening to make trouble over the sixty missions he had just ordered the men in his group to fly.  Colonel Cathcart wondered gloomily if it was the same Yossarian.”

“Boy, we used to have fun in that fraternity house,” he recalled peacefully, his corpulent cheeks aglow with the jovial, rubicund warmth of nostalgic recollection.  “We used to ostracize everyone, even each other.”

“The real trick lies in losing wars, in knowing which wars can be lost.”

“Everybody but Yossarian thought Milo was a jerk, first for volunteering for the job of mess officer and next for taking it so seriously.  Yossarian also thought that Milo was a jerk; but he also knew that Milo was a genius.”

“Frankly I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry.  If we pay the government everything we owe it, we’ll only be encouraging government control and discouraging other individuals from bombing their own men and planes.  We’ll be taking away their incentive.”

Was there a single true faith, or life after death?  How many angels could dance on the head of a pin, and with what matters did God occupy himself in all the infinite eons before the Creation?  Why was it necessary to put a protective seal on the brow of Cain if there were no other people to protect him from?  Did Adam and Eve produce daughters?  These were the great, complex questions of ontology that tormented him.”

“…the chaplain was ready now to capitulate to despair entirely but was restrained by the memory of his wife, whom he loved and missed so pathetically with such sensual and exalted ardor, and by the lifelong trust he had placed in the wisdom and justice of an immortal, omnipotent, omniscient, humane, universal, anthropomorphic, English-speaking, Anglo-Saxon, pro-American God, which had begun to waver.  So many things were testing his faith.”

“You have deep-seated survival anxieties.  And you don’t like bigots, bullies, snobs or hypocrites.  Subconsciously there are many people you hate.”
“Consciously, sir, consciously,” Yossarian corrected in an effort to help.  “I hate them consciously.”
“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.  Slums depress you.  Greed depresses you.  Crime depresses you.  Corruption depresses you.  You know, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re a manic-depressive!”

“General Peckem thought of himself as aesthetic and intellectual.  When people disagreed with him, he urged them to be objective.”

“I don’t know anything about writing,” Colonol Scheisskoph retorted sullenly.
“Well don’t let that trouble you,” General Peckem continued with a careless flick of his wrist.  “Just pass the work I assign you along to somebody else and trust to luck.  We call that delegation of responsibility.”

“…The moment he saw them, Yossarian knew they were impossible…They were obtuse; their morale was good.  They were glad that the war had lasted long enough for them to find out what combat was really like.  They were halfway through unpacking when Yossarian threw them out.”

“…They reminded him of Donald Duck’s nephews…He could not make them understand that he was a crotchety old fogey of twenty-eight, that he belonged to another generation, another era, another world, that having a good time bored him and was not worth the effort, and that they bored him, too.”

“Twelve men killed meant twelve more form letters of condolence that could be mailed in one bunch to the next of kin over Colonel Cathcart’s signature, giving Sergeant Whitcomb hope of getting an article on Colonel Cathcart into The Saturday Evening Post in time for Easter.”

“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.”

“The night was filled with horrors, and he thought he knew how Christ must have felt as he walked through the world, like a psychiatrist through a ward full of nuts, like a victim through a prison full of thieves.  What a welcome sight a leper must have been!”

“I really do appreciate you a bit.  You’re an intelligent person of great moral character who has taken a very courageous stand.  I’m an intelligent person with no moral character at all, so I’m in an ideal position to appreciate it.”

“God bless it.”  Yossarian laughed.  “I wouldn’t want to live without strong misgivings.  Right, Chaplain?”

 

copyright 1955, 1961 Joseph Heller
Author bio:  https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Heller
photo:  Simon & Schuster

Advertisements