Comic novelist and critic, Paul McDonald, provides an accessible, revealing study guide to Joseph Heller’s seminal anti-war novel, Catch-22.
In order to help readers deepen their understanding of this perplexing comedy, McDonald succinctly contextualises it both in relation to the author’s life, and key developments in modern American literature. The book offers a thorough summary and analysis of the plot of Catch-22, addresses important characters such as Colonel Cathcart, Lieutenant Scheisskopf, Milo Minderbinder, Major Major, and Doc Daneeka, and explains the various ways in which Yossarian’s hilarious predicament has been interpreted. Among other things it considers Yossarian’s status as a mythic hero, an individualist hero, and a postmodern hero, assessing his relevance to contemporary America, and his re-emergence in the sequel to Catch-22, Closing Time, published in 1994. It also offers a descriptive bibliography of important secondary sources, and links to useful online texts.
About the author
Paul McDonald works at the University of Wolverhampton where he is Senior Lecturer in American Literature and Course Leader for Creative Writing. He is the author of eleven books, including three poetry collections and three comic novels. His criticism includes books on Philip Roth, the fiction of the Industrial Midlands, and Laughing at the Darkness: Postmodernism and American Humour (Humanities-Ebooks, 2011), available on this site. His research focuses largely on comedy, and he takes a perverse pleasure in the fact that Googling ‘the oldest joke in the world’ generates several hundred pages with his name on.
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