62 pages 2 hours read

Joseph Heller


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1961

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Important Quotes

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“To break the monotony he invented games.”

(Chapter 1, Page 16)

Yossarian’s life is a boring, meaningless slog, so he must invent games to occupy his thoughts. However, the forged signature of “Washington Irving” will later cause chaos in the lives of Yossarian’s friends, including the chaplain. What seems like a trivial distraction has torturous and unforeseen consequences. In the opening pages of the novel, Yossarian is guilty of the same triviality and frivolity that will cause his superior officers to repeatedly endanger him. They, like Yossarian, are simply looking to amuse themselves and bring meaning into their hollow lives.

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“He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive.”

(Chapter 3, Page 33)

Yossarian’s desire to “live forever or die in the attempt” is an extension of the futility of existence. Living forever is an impossible ambition, so Yossarian will die in the pursuit, just like the men who die on doomed missions. His life itself seems an attempt to forge impossible meaning from futile pursuits.

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“I wonder what it means.”

(Chapter 4, Page 39)

A poet’s name is mistaken for a cryptic code, which reverberates through the military. No one can decrypt the name, so they dedicate time and resources to cracking a code that, by its very nature, cannot be cracked. The men at the headquarters ponder “what it means” (39) when they have mistaken the purpose and origin of the name.

Related Titles

By Joseph Heller