Home  »  Respectfully Quoted  »  Joseph Heller (1923–99)

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1179
AUTHOR: Joseph Heller (1923–99)
QUOTATION: 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.
ATTRIBUTION: JOSEPH HELLER, Catch-22, chapter 5, p. 46 (1961). A more succinct definition of Catch-22 comes from Jacob Brackman’s review of the film, Catch-22: “If you’re crazy, they have to take you out of combat, but the catch is you have to ask them, and if you’re trying to get out of combat then you can’t be crazy.”—A Catch-22 Casebook, ed. Frederick Kiley and Walter McDonald, p. 363 (1973). The review originally appeared in Esquire, September 1970.
SUBJECTS: Military affairs