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Introduction 1
1. Black humor and Catch-22 1
1.1 Black Humor 2
1.1.1 Black humor and Its Philosophical Base 2
1.1.2 Absurdity—The Core of Black Humor 2
1.2 Catch-22  2
1.2.1 Explanation of the Title and the Author 3
1.2.2 A Representative Works of Black Humor 3
2. The Absurdity in Characterization 4
2.1 The Central Figure--Yossarian 4
2.2 Some Other Enlisted Men 4
2.2.1 The Upper Officers’ Absurd Behavior 5
2.2.2 The Strange Soldiers 5
3. The Absurdity in Language 6
3.1 The Linguistic Feature of Catch-22 6
3.1.1 Contradictory and Ambiguous Sentences 7
3.1.2 Repeated and Irrelevant Sentences 7
3.2 The Impotence of Language  8
4. The Absurdity in Society 8
4.1 Social Loss of Religious Faith 8
4.2 Social Remarkable Reliance on Rules ,Forms and Papers 9
5. Conclusion 10

Joseph Heller is best known as the author of Catch-22, a celebrated antiwar novel that made an enduring contribution to popular parlance. The black humor novel, which centers on the antihero Yossarian, draws upon Heller's own experience as a bomber pilot in World War II to provide a satiric look at war, bureaucracy, and the maddening logic or lack of logic. It received mixed reviews upon publication in 1961, but soared in popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s as its themes found a receptive audience in the Vietnam War era. Critical acclaim grew as well for his use of irony and black humor, Heller was often grouped with authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, and Philip Roth.
The story has its setting in the Air Force during the war, every event occurred is so absurd that even people in it is an absurd joke. But apart from that, the real theme is the dehumanization of all contemporary institutions, the absurd and corrupt bureaucracy and the alienation of individuals existing in the war. Through black humor, especially the satiric portrait of the society and people in it, the author successfully depicts an absurd world right before readers. It is a book with a unique blend of laughter and horror, exceedingly complex in style and meaning. And the most striking achievement is that the title of the book—Catch-22—has gained acceptance into the language and is now listed in the dictionary. The phrase is used to express the frustration of encountering absurd bureaucratic obstacles. And in our daily life, it means a dilemma, an absurd situation that you could not abandon.

1. Black Humor and Catch 22
1.1 Black Humor
The description of black humor in the Columbia Encyclopedia is as follows: black humor, in literature, drama, and film, means grotesque or morbid humor used to express the absurdity, insensitivity, paradox, and cruelty of the modern world. Ordinary characters or situations are usually exaggerated far beyond the limits of normal satire or irony. Absurdity is the core of black humor.
The word “Black Humor” was first created and implied by French pre-modernism poet and critic Andre Breton in the 1920s. But as a special kind of literary form, “Black Humor” did not become noticeable and was not taken seriously in the USA until the 1960s. In 1965, American novelist and critic B. J. Friedman published an anthology named Black Humor consisting of 12 novels written by 12 authors respectively. In this book, the authors like Joseph Heller, John Barth and so on were included. Black humor is a sub-genre of comedy and satire where topics and events that are usually treated seriously (death, mass murder, suicide, domestic violence, disease, insanity, fear, drug abuse, rape, war terrorism, etc) are treated in a humorous or satirical manner(It is a kind of humor that first makes you laugh, but after a few minutes of thinking, you may feel disappointed, desperate and horrified).
1.1.1 Black humor and Its Philosophical Base
Black humor has its literary origin and exerts influence on society. The literary origin is existentialism. Holding that there are no accepted bases to explain the mysteries of human existence and that the world is absurd while life is full of pain, existentialism brings anguish to the individual as one recognizes the futility of attempting to live in an absurd world. As to the society, part of the reason is the chaotic state of America in the 1960s. After the war against North Korea and then Vietnam, the society was in turbulence. People were unsatisfied with everything around them but there was no way out. Therefore, they felt angry while at the same time indifferent to everything. What’s more, American’s born sense of humor and the influence that Jack London and Mark Twain exerted all contributed to the creation of the literary trend--Black Humor.
1.1.2 Absurdity—the Core of Black Humor
The characters and events in the book all come from reality, but through extreme exaggeration, they are presented as something absurd. Examples can be found in Captain Black’s “Glorious Loyalty Oath”. Soldiers are requested to sign loyalty oaths before they can eat, but they are not forced to sign loyalty oaths because they are always free not to eat. The official reasons that Major Major must be a communist because he has not signed a loyalty oath, but he is not allowed to sign a loyalty oath because Captain Black won’t let him. This kind of thinking permeates the novel, even in setting outside the official grasp of catch-22. Luciana won’t marry Yossarian because he is crazy, and she knows he is crazy because he wants to marry her. If he did not want to marry her, he would not be crazy.
The core of Black Humor is the description of the absurdity of the world: the society is ridiculous; these eccentric characters put up absurd, crazy and also confused comedies one after another; the language is senseless and full of paradox, all of which help readers have a good picture of absurdity art while at the same time fully understand black humor.
1.2 Catch-22
Catch 22 is a general critique of bureaucratic operation and reasoning. Resulting from its specific use in the book, the phrase "Catch-22" commonly means "a no-win situation" or "a double bind" of any type. In the book, "Catch-22" is a military rule defined in various ways. It stands as a symbol for relations of power, relations that exist even if they are not put down in writing, and it is these relations that are responsible for the misery and senseless death of millions and millions of people. The first time this law shows up is when Yossarian discovers that it is possible to be discharged from military service because of insanity. Always looking for a way out, Yossarian claims that he is insane, only to find that by claiming he is insane he has proved he or she is obviously sane—since any sane person would claim insanity in order to avoid flying bombing missions. Elsewhere, Catch-22 is defined as a law that is illegal to read. Ironically, the place where it is written that it is illegal is in Catch-22 itself. It is yet again defined as the law that the enemy is allowed to do anything that one cannot keep him from doing. In short, Catch-22 is a paradoxical, circular reasoning that catches its victim in its illogic and serves those who have made the law. Catch -22 can be found in the novel not only where it is explicitly defined but also throughout the characters’ stories, which are full of catches.
1.2.1 Explanation of the Title and the Author
The title "Catch-22," is a reference to a bureaucratic catch, which embodies multiple illogical and immoral reasonings seen throughout the book and which itself is an absurd joke: namely, that bureaucratic nonsense has gotten to such a high level that even the catches are codified with numbers. The name of this catch, since it embodies much of what Heller points out as wrong, is a perfect title for the novel.
Joesph Heller was born in Brooklyn in 1923 and grew up on Coney Island. At the outbreak of World War II, he worked first in a navy yard and then was enlisted in the U.S. Air Forces, being trained at bases in South Carolina before flying sixty missions as bombardier in B-25s in North Africa and Italy. After the War, he went through college and graduate study at the University of Southern California, New York University (B.A. 1948), Columbia (M.A. 1949), and Oxford (Fulbright Scholar, 1949-50). During this time he began to publish short fiction. Two years of teaching composition at Penn State followed till in 1952 he returned to New York as a writer in advertising and promotions for Time, Look, and McCall's. Hunched at his Time desk one morning in 1953, Heller wrote out the first section of "Catch 18," the start of his war novel Catch-22 (1961). The extraordinary and sustained impact of that novel, both  critics and readers comment, was only the beginning of a literary career that now encompasses eight major books as well as stage plays, screenplays, short stories, articles and reviews.
1.2.2 A Representative Work of Black Humor
The novel Catch-22 is a representative one of Black Humor. For it is since the publication of this book, this literary trend came into being. And it is after the publication that Heller as a professional writer is remembered by the world. This works is called the epic of the 1960s. It shows a systematic society in organized chaos. The society simply obeys the grotesque logic of “Catch-22”. Through the symbol of “Catch-22”, we know the nature of war, the American society and its bureaucratic absurdity, grotesqueness and insanity. The great success of Catch-22 lies in representing a rich reservoir of insight on many of the major issues of the novel. It has been proved that the significance of the novel is not confined to the issues of war, and that the theme is the absurdity of a disordered universe, a universe in which fantasy and the grotesque are indistinguishable (BloomHarold. 2007). Catch-22 goes beyond just capturing the form of absurdity; it moves toward a metaphysical statement about reality and truth in the contemporary world.

2. The Absurdity in Characterization
2.1 The Central Figure--Yossarian
Throughout the novel, Yossarian's main concern is the idea that people are trying to kill him, either directly (by attacking his plane) or indirectly (by forcing him to fly missions). His suspicion becomes sure when he discovers that, because of Air Force red tape, he cannot leave. He is unable to fly the required number of missions to be discharged from duty because his superiors keep increasing the number of required missions. Additionally, he cannot leave by pretending to be insane because his superiors notice his desire to get out of flying as a sign of perfect sanity. Therefore, Yossarian boycotts flying missions as much as possible, either through feigning or inventing an excuse to return to the base.
Yossarian's situation stands from the fact that Yossarian cannot get out of flying missions due to insanity. Because Catch-22 stipulates that "a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that are real and immediate is the process of a rational mind." Only the people who try to get out of flying missions are the sane ones: those who continue to fly are insane, and thus can be grounded if only they ask. However, once they ask, this concern for their well-being immediately means they are sane and must continue flying. The message is found in Yossarian's response to this - ultimately in his desertion and refusal to fly. He realizes that war is something conducted on all levels, from general to private, by insane people, and "it was all a sensible young gentleman like himself could do to maintain his perspective amid so much madness." (Joseph Heller. 1961),he notion that a war is somehow different from that of thousands of individual murderous rampages is challenged by Yossarian's character, who reasons that people must be insane to take part in a war.
2.2 Some Other Enlisted Men
In the novel, the author deals with more than seventy characters. Apart from Yossarian, other enlisted men have become, to some extent, mad, showing morbidity in actions and personalities. The characters in the novel can be classified into two groups—the Upper Officers and the ordinary soldiers. The Upper Officers control catch-22, and are absolutely deaf to any attempts the men make to reason with them logically. The ordinary soldiers become insignificant individuals under Catch-22, wherein they are forced to engage in flying missions without any regard for their welfare and safety. Similarly, the solder in white is treated like a liability rather than a person who has sacrificed a great deal for his country.
2.2.1 The Upper Officers’ Absurd Behavior
In the novel, we can roughly divide the officers into three sections: military, business and medical. Let’s first look at the military officers: The two generals in charge of their theater in Europe are General Dreedle, a cynical individual, knowing others desire his position and being unable to do anything about it, meanwhile wishing nothing more than to cause trouble for his son-in-law, and General Peckem, who is intent on gaining control of all the forces in the western hemisphere by sending out memos. Colonel Cathcart is a group commander and is obsessed with becoming a general, he does whatever it takes to please his superiors—in particular, by repeatedly raising the number of missions the men have to fly to complete a tour of duty. He is also interested in religion as a tool for his own advancement. When Chapter 21 reveals that he does not have a chance of becoming a general, his arbitrary increase of the number of missions his men must fly is even more pointless. Lieutanaut Scheisskopf is constantly thinking about new schemes to help try and win the parade. He reads books on marching and uses chocolate soldiers or plastic cowboys to act out his maneuvers. They share one thing in common, that is, they care nothing about their soldiers. Major Major, however, stands in contrast to the other authority figures in the book who use their power and bureaucratic system and the law of Catch-22 to maintain or try to increase their power over others. Major Major's character shows how an indifferent bureaucratic system can award a position of authority to someone who, being unwilling or unable to handle the position, can only fulfill his responsibilities by hiding from them:No one is allowed to see him when he is in the office.
Milo is the mess officer and he becomes obsessed with expanding mess operations and trading goods for the profits of the syndicate. Milo is a satire of the modern businessman, as he has no allegiance to any country, person or principle unless it pays him. At one point Milo even orders his fleet of aircraft to attack the American base where he lives, killing many American soldiers. As to the medical officer, Doc Daneeka's main motivation throughout is for his own welfare, whether that be making money or protecting his own life. He generally forgets his moral duty as a physician .He is supposed to supervise Gus and Wes who run the medical tent. Even though the way they run the tent is strikingly absurd: all those reporting on sick call with temperatures below 102 had their gums and toes painted with gentian violet solution and were given a laxative to throw away into the bushes. All those reporting on a sick call with temperatures of exactly 102 were asked to return in an hour to have their temperatures taken again, Doc Daneeka generally shows little care.
2.2.2 The Strange Soldiers
Since there are too many soldiers and they all behave in an awkward way, we can divide them into two types: death and sudden disappearances. McWatt, Kid Sampson, Dobbs, Nately, Chief White Halfoat and Hungry Joe all die in the novel. McWatt is probably the craziest combat man of them all, because he is perfectly sane and still does not mind the war. He commits suicide by crashing his plane into a mountain after he accidentally kills the character Kid Sampson by cutting him in half with the propellers of his plane. Dobbs, a co-pilot, seizes the control from Huple during the mission to Avignon, the same mission on which Sweden dies. Nately is often filled with American optimism, shown by his desire to marry his whore and send her kid sister to a respected U.S. college. However, he is killed on a pointless mission when Dobbs flies his plane into Nately's. Chief White Halfoat is a heavy whiskey drinker who terrifies Captain Flume, beats up Colonel Moodus, and vows to die of pneumonia, which, in the end, he does. The behavior of Hungry Joe is very peculiar in the aspect that, in the times when he is sure about a negative development of events, he behaves normal and calm. In times when he is in a positive position, but with the chance of negative change, he behaves like a madman.
Orr attempts to escape the war in two main ways. His first goal is to get a whore to knock him unconscious, so that he can be grounded. When this fails, Orr plans to crash land in the sea and make his way to a neutral country where he can wait out the war. Orr practices this second goal by getting shot down every mission he flies, and so becomes an expert in crash landings, without losing a single crewman. Then he manages to escape to Sweden, disappearing in the combat. Coverley goes missing after learning of the liberation of Bologna, which is actually yet to be liberated, as it is Yossarian who has moved the ‘’bomb line’’ on the mission map to try to avoid the mission. It symbolizes with insane glee how much idealism can ultimately be one's tragic flaw, leading to a downfall. When the mysterious Soldier in White dies, Dunbar accuses the Texan of murder. Though Dunbar, like all the other patients, finds the Soldier in White disconcerting, it is not until the Soldier in White reappears in the hospital during a later admission that Dunbar snaps. He claims that there is nobody inside the Soldier in White and tries to peer inside the soldier's bandaged mouth. This causes chaos on the ward, and results in Dunbar getting "disappeared" in order to preserve morale in the squadron and prevent further disruptions. We can image in a world defined by bureaucracy and violence, soldiers are only inhuman resources in the eyes of their blindly ambitious superior officers. Their death or disappearances are only their own things.

3. The Absurdity in Language
3.1 The Linguistic Feature of Catch-22
The language of Catch-22 is a special kind of language that differs from the language of traditional novels and the language of humor. There is a common point between the language of Catch-22 and traditional humorous language: it often conveys more than what is said besides the cause of laughter. The author uses unique language to convey the theme and achieve perfect effect. In this irrational world, the language is no longer used for communication and expression of thought, but for making people more confused. Heller uses a lot of self-contradictory, vague, complex and repeated sentences in the novel so as to achieve strong effect, deepening the fear and sense of loss for people who live in this absurd world.
3.1.1 Contradictory and Ambiguous Sentences
Firstly, Heller replaces some words to make it contradictory in the same sentence, thus creating a lot of unexpected, incomprehensible self-contradictory sentences. Examples are as follows: "Nately originally worse comes from a good family" (Chapter 1); "Doc Daneeka is a friend of Yossarian and tried his best not to do anything to help him "(Chapter 4); " Dunbar liked Clevinger because Clevinger annoyed him and made the time go slow"(Chapter 2); "The captain was a good chess player, and the games were always interesting. Yossarian had stopped playing chess with him because the games were so interesting they were foolish" (Chapter 1); Mcwatt was the craziest combat man of them all probably; because he was perfectly sane and still did not mind the war"(Chapter 7). All of these sentences are contrary to common sense, illogical, and by using this kind of technique; Heller means to present a world with wrong values. Secondly, Heller deliberately creates some vague expressions. He makes readers feel that he goes all out to make it clear but his effort seems in vain. For instance, every week, Nately goes to the officer’s club which Yossarian does not participate in the construction. In the novel, such negative sentences are many, and sometimes even a sentence in double or even triple illogical negative. One example is: when Yossarian thinks everyone is trying to kill him, he says that "If this is not interesting, then there are many things not more interesting than this." Usually traditional writers try to clear the brain of thought, but Heller, on the contrary, intends to create such sentences to disturb readers’ thinking, and make them feel the absurdity of the world deeply.
3.1.2 Repeated and Irrelevant Sentences
In order to portray the absurd world and people in it, the author also uses a lot of complex sentences which contain many subordinate clauses and phrases. What’s weird is that the clause is either irrelevant or stray from the subject. One example is --"McWatt wore fleecy bedroom slippers with his red pajamas and slept between freshly pressed colored bed sheets like the one Milo had retrieved half of for him from the grinning thief with the sweet tooth in exchange for none of the pitted dates Milo had borrowed from Yossarian ". Readers cannot identify the logic structure in the novel, and of course have a hard time grasping its meaning. The author usually adds new clauses, which are always trying to explain or compliment something, but it always results in the opposite. Readers are much more confused by the obscure language. And there are many repeated sentences to express characters’ nonsense communication. For instance in Chapter 1, when the chaplain comes to see Yossarian:
"That's good," said the chaplain.
"Yes," Yossarian said. "Yes, that is good."
"I meant to come around sooner," the chaplain said, "but I really haven't been well."
"That's too bad," Yossarian said.
"Just a head cold," the chaplain added quickly.
"I've got a fever of a hundred and one," Yossarian added just as quickly.
"That's too bad," said the chaplain.
"Yes," Yossarian agreed. "Yes, that is too bad."
3.2 The Impotence of Language
In the first chapter, Yossarian randomly deletes words from the letters that he is required to censor while he is in the hospital. At first, the act seems terrible: the letters are the men’s only way of communicating with their loved ones at home, and Yossarian is destroying that kind of communication. As we understand more about Yossarian’s world, however, we see that the military bureaucracy has taken all the communicative power out of language. The contrast between the actual fighting and the ridiculas bureaucracy that controls it is one of the absurd aspect in Catch-22.As Snowden dies in the back of plane, all that Yossarian can think of to say is ‘‘there, there,’’ over and over again. He knows that his words have no power to comfort Snowden, but he does not know what else to do. Faced with the realities of death and the absurdity of its circumstances, language seems unable to communicate any kind of comfort and reassurance. Chaplain Tappman is summoned to a cellar without due process or any explanation of charges, the chaplain is interrogated in a harsh and arbitrary manner. Eventually, he learns that he is suspected of signing a hospital letter, which Yossarian forged as a joke, and stealing a plum tomato that Colonel Cathcart actually gave him. When he claims that he is not guilty, he is asked, “Then why would we be questioning you if you weren’t guilty?” Tappman is assumed to be guilty since he is not allowed even to reason for himself. Before the absolute power of the bureaucracy, one’s language makes no sense.
While language has no power to comfort in the novel, it does have the power to circumvent logic and trap the Squadron in an inescapable prison of bureaucracy. Catch-22 is nothing but a bunch of words strung together to circumvent logic and keep soldiers flying their missions. It even contains a clause that makes it illegal to read Catch-22, demonstrating how absolutely and undeniably powerful the concept of Catch-22 is. Yossarian knows that since it is nothing but words, Catch-22 does not exist, but within the framework of the bureaucratic military, he has no choice but to accept the illogical prison in which these words place him.

4. The Absurdity in Society
4.1 Social Loss of Religious Faith
We all know that America is a country that thinks highly of religious faith. But in the novel, even the chaplain begins to doubt his faith in God in the end. The contrast between chaplain and his assistant, the atheist Coporal Whitecomb, further develops this paradox. The chaplain, who does believe in God, has a very quiet manner as he ministers to the men in the squadron, which does not turn many men toward religion. Coporal Whitecomb, on the other hand, wants to enter into a full-scale religious campaign, which would include revivals and form letters sent from the chaplain to the families of men killed in combat. Part of the reason for the chaplain’s disillusionment is the manner in which Colonel Cathcart constantly tries to use the outward manifestations of religion to further his own ambition. The author’s treatment of the subject of God is most focused in the Thanksgiving discussion between Yossarian and Scheisskopf’s wife. Both are atheists: Mrs.Scheisskopf does not believe in a just and loving God, whereas the God in whom Yossarian does not believe is a bumbling fool. Yossirian points out that no truly good God would have created things like phlegm and tooth decay, let alone something as terrible as human suffering and pain. Yossarian has experienced so many terrible things that he cannot believe in a God who would create such a wild array of options when it comes to pain and death. But the loss of faith in God does not mean a world without morals for the characters. Instead, it means a world in which each man has to make his own morals—as Yossarian does when he chooses to desert the army rather than betray his squadron.
4.2 Social Remarkable Reliance on Rules, Forms and Papers
There are three events that well illustrate the absurd reliance on rules, forms and papers. The story of the dead man in Yossarian’s tent is grimly ironic. The distorted logic of the Army explains its mystery. Upon arrival at the squadron, a replacement pilot named Lieutenant Mudd initially entered the operations tent, looking for the orderly tent where he planned to check in. Because the squadron was temporarily short of men, the lieutenant was immediately sent on a bombing mission. He was killed within two hours of his arrival. Because the lieutenant never officially signed in, the military’s position was that he was never there. They could not be processed because the young officer and thus his possessions never officially arrived. No one would admit that he ever existed despite the fact that his dead body was in Yossarian's tent. Then comes Doc Daneeka, because his name is on the dead list, Gus and Wes pronounce Doc Daneeka dead at the medical tent against the obvious fact that he is standing alive in front of them. They both serve as poor examples of people's reliance on the paper rather than the truth--the dead body or the alive person.The third event happens in Italy, when Aarfy rapes and murders a maid—Michaela. Yossarian tells him that he will be arrested and possibly executed, but what happens is totally different. The police arrest Yossarian for being absent without official leave, and apologize for their intruding to Aarfy. The police simply rely on rules while ignoring the murder right before them. By acting so strictly by the rules the M.P.s have shown their lack of subjectivity, or ability to make human decisions, as if they were computers.

5. Conclusion
Catch-22 is Joseph Heller's best known novel. It manages to be both hilariously funny and terribly sad. Heller makes each of the men in the USAAF flight based at Pianosa a believable individual, each of the front-line fliers responding to the stresses of the war in the air in different ways, and each of those who are in the army bureaucracy behind the lines wrapped up in the totally unimportant in their own different ways.
While the war itself provides most of the tragedy, it is the clash between the bureaucracy and the soldiers that provides the comedy. This clash is exemplified by the famous Catch 22 itself, described as "the best catch there is" (Robert Merrill. 1986), 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. Sometimes when we finish laughing at the absurd events, though, we’re left with the fact that the numbers are abstract, but the deaths are real. 
Heller manipulates the craziness of the atmosphere through the way he writes the novel. Catch-22 is such a rich and complicated novel that words cannot even express its various meanings. Heller immediately reveals to us an absurd world as we enter the first several pages and by and by we realize consciously this is a totally mad world with a large number of strange, even grotesque characters. By analyzing numerous characters, the seemingly senseless language and the society in which all the absurd things happen, we can explore the world of absurdity, which Heller meticulously constructed.

I would like to express my gratitude to all those who helped me during the writing of this thesis. I gratefully acknowledge the help of my supervisor Zhou Yanxia for his kindly assistance and valuable suggestions during the process of my thesis writing. His willingness to give his time so generously has been much appreciated.
My gratitude also extends to all the teachers who taught me during my undergraduate years for their kind encouragement and patient instructions. The past four years in the college would be a sweet memory in my whole life.
Last but not the least; I would like to offer my particular thanks to my family and friends, for their encouragement and support for the completion of this thesis.

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