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Encyclopedia > Yossarian
Yossarian, as portrayed by Alan Arkin
Yossarian, as portrayed by Alan Arkin

Captain John Yossarian is the 28-year-old protagonist of the 1961 novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. He is a part of the 256th squadron of the Army Air Forces (which later became the US Air Force), where he serves as a B-25 bombardier. The character's exploits are based on the experiences of the author: Heller was a bombardier in the Air Corps, stationed on an island off the coast of Italy during World War II, and also lost crew members when his plane was attacked on his flight to bomb the city of Avignon. Image File history File links Alan Arkin as Captain John Yossarian in Catch-22. ... Alan Wolf Arkin (born March 26, 1934) is an American actor. ... The protagonist or main character is the central figure of a story. ... 1961 (MCMLXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (the link is to a full 1961 calendar). ... Catch 22 can refer to: A book by Joseph Heller, or the movie based on the book; see Catch-22. ... (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999) was an American satirist best remembered for writing the satiric World War II classic Catch-22. ... The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was a part of the U.S. Army during World War II. The direct precursor to the U.S. Air Force, the USAAF formally existed between 1941 and 1947. ... Seal of the Air Force. ... The North American B-25 Mitchell (North American NA-62) was an American twin-engined medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. ... The crews of bomber aircraft, historically, included a bombardier, as they were known in the United States, or a bomb aimer, as they were known in other countries, who was responsible for targetting the planes munitions. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, the use of images on this page may require cleanup, involving adjustment of image placement, formatting, size, or other adjustments. ... View over the Rhône River to North-East with Mt Ventoux at the rear Palais des papes Square below the Palace of the Popes Paul Vs coat-of-arms on the Palais des papes The Notre Dame des Doms cathedral is located in the heart of Avignon, near...

Yossarian is also the protagonist of Catch-22's sequel, Closing Time, which was published in 1994. Closing Time, first published in 1994, is Joseph Hellers sequel to the popular Catch-22. ... 1994 (MCMXCIV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated as the International Year of the Family and the International Year of the Sport and the Olympic Ideal. // Events January Bill Clinton January 1 : North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) goes into effect. ...

Yossarian's Name

Although the book describes him as being Assyrian, his name indicates an Armenian background. In Closing Time, he is revealed to be an Armenian jokingly posing as an Assyrian. Assyrians are Aramaic-speaking Christians who are indegenous inhabitants of Mesopotamia, and inheritors of the ancient culture of Assyria. ...

Yossarian's first name, John, is given quite late in the book version of Catch-22, as a throwaway remark by Colonel Korn: "Call me Blackie, John. We're pals now." (pg. 491; Vintage Classics). The movie poster has Yossarian's dog tags listing his first name as "Aram," which is Armenian for John. Later in the novel, a doctor also calls him John. In Closing Time, his first name is used frequently, as the novel has a civilian, rather than a military setting. In Catch-22, however, Yossarian is very much detached from the dominant culture, a fact which is emphasised by his foreign name and "Assyrian" background. The exotic name "Yossarian" was chosen by Heller to emphasise his protagonist's detachment from the mainstream military culture. To highlight this, Yossarian's name is described by Cathcart as being "an odious, alien, distasteful name, that just did not inspire confidence. It was not at all like such clean, crisp, honest, American names as Cathcart, Peckem and Dreedle." (pg. 241)

Moreover, Heller saw the Jewish community of America becoming more integrated and less sidelined by mainstream society, and so decided not to give his protagonist a Jewish name and a Coney Island background (as Heller himself had), since it would not have had as strong an effect in 1961 as perhaps twenty years previously.[citation needed] As to the origins of the name itself, "Heller admitted in later years that the name 'Yossarian' was derived from the name of one of his Air Force buddies, Francis Yohannon, but that the character of Yossarian himself was 'the incarnation of a wish' (Now and Then 175-6)."[1] Image of Coney Island, located in the middle left of the picture, taken by NASA. The peninsula to the right is Rockaway, Queens. ... Now and Then is a 1995 film directed by Lesli Linka Glatter and starring Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie ODonnell and Rita Wilson, which tells the story of four friends that have been busy with their lives until an important event takes place and reunites them in their (fictional...

Role in Catch-22

Throughout the book, 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 full-blown paranoia 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 obtain a Section 8 by pretending to be insane because his superiors see his desire to get out of flying as a sign of perfect sanity (hence Catch-22). Therefore, Yossarian boycotts flying missions as much as possible, either through feigning illness or inventing an excuse to return to base (like a busted radio.) In fact, the book begins with Yossarian staying in the hospital due to an invented liver condition. He busies himself by censoring letters — seemingly done arbitrarily — and signing them Washington Irving, Irving Washington, or (as gets the Chaplain into trouble with authorities) Albert T. Tappman (or R.O. Shipman in earlier editions), the Chaplain's name. For other senses of this word, see paranoia (disambiguation). ... The term Section 8 refers to a discharge from the United States military for reason of being mentally unfit for service. ... Inmates at Bedlam Asylum, as portrayed by William Hogarth Insanity, or madness, is a semi-permanent, severe mental disorder typically stemming from a form of mental illness. ... Sanity considered as a legal term denotes that an individual is of sound mind and therefore can bear legal responsibility for his or her actions. ... Catch-22 is a term, inspired by Joseph Hellers novel Catch-22, describing a general situation in which an individual has to accomplish two actions which are mutually dependent on the other action being completed first. ... A boycott is an action undertaken to abstain from using, buying, or dealing with someone or some organisation as an expression of protest or as a means of coercion. ... Malingering is a psychological term that refers to an individual faking the symptoms of mental or physical disorders. ... The liver is the largest internal organ of the human body. ... Washington Irving Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author of the early 19th century. ...

The dark humour of Yossarian's situation stems 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 were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind." (pg. 52) The only 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 found in Yossarian's response to this - ultimately his desertion and refusal to fly - is that war is something conducted on all levels, 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." (pg. 23) The notion that a war is somehow different to 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, since they are basically just government-sanctioned killing sprees and essential suicide, founded on such illogical causes as patriotism. A General is an officer of high military rank. ... Look up private in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Defense of the homeland is a commonplace of military patriotism: The statue in the courtyard of École polytechnique, Paris, commemorating the students involvement in defending France against the 1814 invasion of the Coalition. ...

Yossarian is also haunted by memories of the final moments of Snowden, one of his crew. Snowden, hit by flak fire during a bombing run, was tended to by Yossarian. When Yossarian finished patching what he assumed was Snowden's only wound (severe yet not life-threatening) he realised that, in actuality, Snowden's stomach had been opened, and he had tended the wrong wound. However, in all likelihood, Snowden would have been killed by the unseen wound despite Yossarian's intervention. Snowden's death manifests Yossarian's desires to evade death in combat, as by seeing Snowden's entrails spilling over the plane, he learns that "Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage." (pg. 504) Ironically, he is described as preferring to die naturally than being killed in combat. It is a meaningless, premature death for someone else's cause which Yossarian fears. Snowden is a character appearing in Joseph Hellers Catch-22 (ISBN 0684833395). ...

The bulk of Catch-22 concerns Yossarian's relationships with the other soldiers in his squadron, such as the psychotic Hungry Joe, the amateur war profiteer Milo Minderbinder, and the spoiled, idealistic Nately. As a note, there are many characters that Yossarian hates and likes. His best friends seem to be: Dunbar, the Chaplain, McWatt, Nately, and Hungry Joe. There are two characters whom Yossarian argues with, but he appears to show sadness when one, Clevinger, dies and the other, Orr, deserts (he eventually paddles to Sweden). The book also concerns the efforts of Yossarian's superiors, especially the egomaniacal Colonel Cathcart and the Joe McCarthy-like careerist Captain Black, to continually up the number of missions required before the aircrews can rotate back to the US, in an attempt to make themselves look good to their superiors. Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state in which thought and perception are severely impaired. ... Hungry Joe is a fictional character in Joseph Hellers novel Catch-22. ... A war profiteer is any person or organization that makes profits (rightly or wrongly) from warfare or by selling weapons and other goods to one or even both of the parties at war in their own or in foreign countries. ... Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder is a 27-year-old fictional character in Joseph Hellers classic 1961 novel Catch-22. ... Lieutenant Nately is a character in Joseph Hellers war novel Catch-22. ... Dunbar is a fictional character in Joseph Hellers magnum opus Catch-22. ... McWatt is a fictional character created by novelist Joseph Heller in the novel Catch-22. ... Lieutenant Nately is a character in Joseph Hellers war novel Catch-22. ... Hungry Joe is a fictional character in Joseph Hellers novel Catch-22. ... Colonel Cathcart is a fictional character in the 1961 novel Catch-22, written by Joseph Heller. ... Joseph Raymond McCarthy Joseph Raymond McCarthy (November 14, 1908–May 2, 1957) was a Republican Senator from the U.S. state of Wisconsin between 1947 and 1957. ... Captain Black (first name unknown) was the squadron intelligence officer in the 256th Army Air Force squadron, in the 1961 Joseph Heller novel, Catch-22. ...

Whenever on leave, Yossarian and his friends carouse, drink, and sleep around as much as they can, knowing and fearing they could die on any given mission. One of the prostitutes they employ becomes Nately's unofficial girlfriend (she is referred to only as "Nately's Whore" and "Nately's Girl"). Despite Nately's repeated advances, she spurns him cruelly until he, instead of sleeping with her, lets her get a good night's sleep. The next morning she began to show some signs of affection, which could possibly be construed as love. When Nately is killed, she blames Yossarian for his death; she manifests a towering rage and tries to kill Yossarian several times during the remainder of the narrative. Prostitution is the sale of sexual services (typically manual stimulation, oral sex, sexual intercourse, or anal sex) for cash or other kind of return, generally indiscriminately with many persons. ... Natelys Whore is a fictional character in the Joseph Heller novel Catch-22. ...

By end of the book, just about every other member of his squadron has been killed, disappeared, gone AWOL or otherwise removed. Through a convoluted chain of events, Yossarian earns Cathcart's ire for a smuggling scam that was actually perpetrated by Milo and is threatened with imprisonment. When Yossarian threatens Cathcart with exposing his opportunistic manipulation of missions, however, Cathcart backs down and offers to release him from duty as a reward for not telling anybody, as well as praising Cathcart and Korn on his return to the States. Yossarian cannot betray the members of his squadron who are still on the island, nor those that have died as a result of Cathcart's despicable self-serving missions policy, so decides that he will run for freedom. The book is left with Yossarian running through the camp, a plan to make for Sweden in his head. There is nothing for the reader to know whether Yossarian makes it. However, Closing Time hints that the idealistic escape did not really eventuate, with Yossarian saying that when he went home, he was made a major. While Korn and Cathcart are not mentioned, there are implications that perhaps Yossarian took their deal in the end. This reflects more the character of the elderly Yossarian, who by his eighties has become a part of the society he spurned in his youth. A skirmish with smugglers from Finland at the Russian border, 1853, by Vasily Hudiakov. ... Closing Time, first published in 1994, is Joseph Hellers sequel to the popular Catch-22. ...


  1. ^ Scoggins, Michael C.: "Joseph Heller’s Combat Experiences in Catch-22"; War, Literature and the Arts, vol. 15; pg. 223. United States Air Force Academy, 2003. (available here)

  Results from FactBites:
Catch-22 Study Guide (1434 words)
Yossarian's main antagonist is Colonel Cathcart, whose goal in life is to become a general.
Yossarian wants to stop flying missions so he does not get killed, yet Cathcart's aim is to continue raising the number of required missions in order to impress his superiors.
Yossarian broke the news to her, and the novel concludes with Nately's whore trying to kill Yossarian in violent rage.
Yossarian - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1460 words)
Captain John Yossarian is the 28-year-old protagonist of the 1961 novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
Yossarian is also haunted by memories of the final moments of Snowden, one of his crew.
Yossarian cannot betray the members of his squadron who are still on the island, nor those that have died as a result of Cathcart's despicable self-serving missions policy, so decides that he will run for freedom.
  More results at FactBites »



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