10 Strong Catch-22 Quotes About Corrupt Authority and Death

‘Catch-22’ has been beloved for decades, and for good reason! It’s a satiric book with important, relevant lessons. Read on for some insightful quotes!

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'Catch-22' TV series showing Lieutenant Scheisskopf pointing at John Yossarian with Timothy Clevinger next to him and Major Major in the background

Catch-22 is a satirical war novel by Joseph Heller, published on November 10, 1961. It takes place during WWII and includes major themes such as death and corruption of power and authority. These themes are central to the story, and, considering human nature, are still relevant now and always will be.

There were many wonderful quotes and passages about these two themes, but I tried to choose 10 of the best ones.

Corrupt Authority

Corrupt authority is a huge problem in the book, and in real life too. Those who had power abused it, like Colonel Cathcart who made his unit of soldiers fly more and more dangerous missions so he could look impressive. This novel is satirical, but it captures this theme so well.

Under Colonel Korn’s rule, the only people permitted to ask questions were those who never did.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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
'Catch-22' by Joseph Heller book cover with a blue background and red cutout of a body

There was no telling what people might find out once they felt free to ask whatever questions they wanted to.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

When people disagreed with him he urged them to be objective.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

You have no respect for excessive authority or obsolete traditions. You’re dangerous and depraved, and you ought to be taken outside and shot!

Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Black and white photo of Joseph Heller smiling and staring off camera


Death is inevitable, and it’s especially prevalent in this book, given that it’s about war. Sometimes it’s brought up humorously, in a way where one can only laugh or cry about a situation. But other times, the book points out stark, grim realities about death, particularly during war.

There was a much lower death rate inside the hospital than outside the hospital and a much healthier death rate. Few people died unnecessarily. People knew a lot more about dying inside the hospital and made a much neater, more orderly job of it. They couldn’t dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her behave.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Of course you’re dying. We’re all dying. Where the devil else do you think you’re heading?

Joseph Heller, Catch-22
1970 'Catch-22' movie poster showing John Yossarian, Nately, Major Major Major Major, Chaplain Tappman, 1st Lt. Dobbs, and Milo Minderbinder on top, then Yossarian on the bottom with a crashed plane in the background

He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Anything worth living for is worth dying for.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Outside the hospital the war was still going on. Men went mad and were rewarded with medals. All over the world, boys on every side of the bomb line were laying down their lives for what they had been told was their country, and no one seemed to mind, least of all the boys who were laying down their young lives.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

While we can not completely eradicate corrupt authority, it is still important to recognize it and try to do fix it. Not much we can do about death, though.

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