It’s May 1st, and the Writer’s Almanac notes that it’s the birthday of Joseph Heller. To mark the occasion, and as a public service, I give you the original “Catch-22”:

Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. “Is Orr crazy?”

“He sure is,” Doc Daneeka said.

“Can you ground him?”

“I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That’s part of the rule.”

“Then why doesn’t he ask you to?”

“Because he’s crazy,” Doc Daneeka said. “He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he’s had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to.”

“That’s all he has to do to be grounded?”

“That’s all. Let him ask me.”

“And then you can ground him?” Yossarian asked.

“No. Then I can’t ground him.”

“You mean there’s a catch?”

“Sure there’s a catch,” Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”

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.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

One Response to “Catch-22”

  1. Steve Mohyla Says:

    It was the bane of my 8th Grade English class when we had a free reading period and I had Catch-22 with me. I would read passages that would make me laugh so hard I would be short of breath and tears would come to my eyes. I would close the book holding my place with my finger until I recovered. When I started reading again if I accidentally reread the passage I would collapse in laughter again.

    A great novel and a geat concept of bureacratic frustration that has stood the test of time.

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