Questions to Think About During Catch 22

Below are some discussion questions prepared by Pam B. Cole a Professor of English Education & Literacy at Kennesaw State University. Use these as a guide to help further your understanding of this nation-wide sensation.

Discussion Questions
1. A complex, chaotic structure makes the novel difficult to follow. How might this structure parallel, represent, and/or elevate themes in the story? How does Heller piece together the chronology of events?

2. Heller’s dialogue style is reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” comic routine of the 1940s. How does Heller use this back-and-forth disorderly logic to develop character?

3. Chapters tend to be named for individuals in the story; however, titles are deceptive because they tend to be about other characters. Why might Heller have named chapters after one character but have written them about another?

4. Yossarian shares a tent with a “dead man.” What role does this mysterious character play?

5. Chief White Halfoat is illiterate, yet he is assigned to military intelligence. Identify and discuss other examples of Heller’s cynicism toward the government and/or other institutions.

6. Choose a poignant passage/scene. How does Heller make this passage/scene work (e.g., how does he evoke emotion in the reader)?

7. Of the multiple characters in the story, which are you drawn to the most? Why? Are there any completely moral characters in the story? Explain.

8. Major Major is described as “the most mediocre of men.” What do the events in his past and present life tell us about humanity and destiny?

9. Both Captain Wren and Captain Piltchard are described as “mild” and “soft-spoken” officers, and they love the war. Why might their personalities be fitting for someone who loves the war?

10. Yossarian returns to the hospital several times. What role do the hospital settings play in the story? In what way might the hospital settings foil the bombing/war scenes? In what way might they be reflective times for Yossarian? For other characters?

11. Compare and contrast Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn. Are they both hypocrites? Why or why not?

12. Circumstances surrounding Snowden’s death are revealed slowly. What does his death mean to Yossarian? To others?

13. Discuss the significance of déjà vu in the story and how it relates to religious faith.

14. While much of the novel is military satire, the story does delve into the private sector. How might Mrs. Daneeka be a satirical character?

15. One of the ironies of the story occurs at the end in which Yossarian has an opportunity to go home a hero. In essence, he has the system in a Catch-22. Explain.

16. Discuss whether the ending of Catch-22 is uplifting or downbeat. Is it a victory or a defeat?

Further Discussion

17. Most of the characters in Catch-22 are over-the-top in the sense that, in many ways, they are caricatures of themselves. What must Heller have known about humanity to make them all so recognizable?

18. What do you believe is Heller’s view of a capitalistic society?

19. Is Catch-22 a comic novel or a story of morality? Explain.

20. What does Catch-22 say about war?

21. Discuss the literary significance of Catch-22 and its relevance in the twenty-first century.

22. How does Catch-22 compare to other war stories you have read? How does it compare to other satires?

23. How might Catch-22 be described as an allegory?

24. Discuss how the novel can be described as a struggle between the individual and an institution.

25. Discuss the meaning of sanity as it applies to the story.

 

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November & December Book Announced

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Catch-22 By Joseph Heller

A Nation-Wide Sensation

More than fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—books of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer.

Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

Help Us Pick Our Last Book of 2017

It’s time to pick our November & December book club book. We are ending the year with a classic! Help us pick which classic to read by voting below.

Questions to Think About During Little Princes

Below are some discussion questions to think about while reading or after, if you have already finished:

1. What most impressed you about the author and the children with whom he came into contact? Did any aspect of the story upset you? Did Conor’s story inspire you?

2. In your opinion, what was it about these children that touched Conor so deeply? Were you moved by their plight? What about the increasing number of children growing up in poverty in America? Do you see these children in the same way, or do you see their situations differently?

3. How might American children help their counterparts in places like Nepal? Thinking about the Little Princes, do you think we as Americans spoil our children and ourselves — do we buy more than what can truly be appreciated?

4. When Conor returned to Nepal he met the mother of one of the Little Princes. How did this affect him personally? And how did it influence the course of events that followed?

5. How did volunteering at Little Princes prepare Conor for having a family of his own? What did these children teach him about himself and the world?

6. At the beginning of Little Princes, Conor did not see himself as a global humanitarian, yet his visit to Nepal changed everything. What is it about him — and others like him introduced in Little Princes — that sets him apart from those who don’t volunteer or get involved?

7. How did Golkka, the man who trafficked many of these children, get away with his nefarious practices for so long? Human trafficking has become a worldwide problem, affecting millions. Why has it flourished and what steps might help stop it? How might you play a role? Would you consider doing so? Why or why not?

8. Do you empathize with the parents of the Little Princes children and others? Do you understand why they gave their children up? What might you do given similar circumstances?

9. What lessons did you take away from reading Little Princes?

Little Princes: Other Inspiring Readings

Conor Grennan’s story about saving the lost children of Nepal is inspiring to say the least. If you are looking to read more books that make you want to get up and help humanity then check out these other inspiring true stories.

1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time

The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism in the Taliban’s backyard. Anyone who despairs of the individual’s power to change lives has to read the story of Greg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools—especially for girls—that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson’s quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Tea combines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit.

2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank’s diary needs no introduction. This beautifully written memoir of a young girl caught in the middle of one of the most horrific periods of human history, is a testament to the indestructible human will to persevere and survive in the face of the most adverse of circumstances.

3. Tuesdays with Morrie

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague.  Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago. Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder.  Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger? Mitch Albom had that second chance.  He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life.  Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college.  Their rekindled relationship turned into one final “class”: lessons in how to live. Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie’s lasting gift with the world.

4. Free Fall: A Memoir of a Family Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One and Reclaiming Life on Their Own Terms

“Understanding suffering always helps the energy of compassion to be born.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh In an instant my husband stripped away my identity as wife, stay-at-home mom, and best friend. With his suicide, our world changed forever. He’d been the center of our universe, but then he was gone. Grief is a dark journey, one often tainted with judgment and false perceptions. Add the word ‘suicide’ to the mix and more complications arise. This memoir, Free Fall, is intended for those who may be facing their own tragedy and feeling alone, hopeless, confused, scared, and misunderstood. Free Fall is the journey of piecing our lives back together—overcoming children’s anxiety as we traversed the brutal grief and trauma process, learning to say the words ‘widow’ and ‘single mom’ without cringing, surviving the fall out with friends and family who simply couldn’t understand our healing process, triumphing over the stigma of ‘suicide’, forgiving my husband, and finding peace after chaos. Free Fall is for widows, widowers, parents, survivors of suicide, family members or friends of one who mourns. This story is for anyone who needs encouragement that there is another side to grief. There is. We’re there now. We’re looking back and holding our hands out to you saying, “hang in there, you’re not alone, and you’ll get here, too.”

5. The Hiding Place

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil. Here is the riveting account of how Corrie and her family were able to save many of God’s chosen people. For 35 years millions have seen that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. Now The Hiding Place, repackaged for a new generation of readers, continues to declare that God’s love will overcome, heal, and restore.

6. Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

Muhammad Yunus is that rare thing: a bona fide visionary. His dream is the total eradication of poverty from the world. In 1983, against the advice of banking and government officials, Yunus established Grameen, a bank devoted to providing the poorest of Bangladesh with minuscule loans. Grameen Bank, based on the belief that credit is a basic human right, not the privilege of a fortunate few, now provides over 2.5 billion dollars of micro-loans to more than two million families in rural Bangladesh. Ninety-four percent of Yunus’s clients are women, and repayment rates are near 100 percent. Around the world, micro-lending programs inspired by Grameen are blossoming, with more than three hundred programs established in the United States alone. Banker to the Poor is Muhammad Yunus’s memoir of how he decided to change his life in order to help the world’s poor. In it he traces the intellectual and spiritual journey that led him to fundamentally rethink the economic relationship between rich and poor, and the challenges he and his colleagues faced in founding Grameen. He also provides wise, hopeful guidance for anyone who would like to join him in “putting homelessness and destitution in a museum so that one day our children will visit it and ask how we could have allowed such a terrible thing to go on for so long.” The definitive history of micro-credit direct from the man that conceived of it, Banker to the Poor is necessary and inspirational reading for anyone interested in economics, public policy, philanthropy, social history, and business.

7. An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Western India in 1869. He was educated in London and later travelled to South Africa, where he experienced racism and took up the rights of Indians, instituting his first campaign of passive resistance. In 1915 he returned to British-controlled India, bringing to a country in the throes of independence his commitment to non-violent change, and his belief always in the power of truth. Under Gandhi’s lead, millions of protesters would engage in mass campaigns of civil disobedience, seeking change through ahimsa or non-violence. For Gandhi, the long path towards Indian independence would lead to imprisonment and hardship, yet he never once forgot the principles of truth and non-violence so dear to him. Written in the 1920s, Gandhi’s autobiography tells of his struggles and his inspirations; a powerful and enduring statement of an extraordinary life.

8. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s antiapartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality. LONG WALK TO FREEDOM is his moving and exhilarating autobiography, destined to take its place among the finest memoirs of history’s greatest figures. Here for the first time, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela tells the extraordinary story of his life–an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph.

9. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

10. Man’s Search for Meaning: The Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

September & October Book Announced

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Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal By Conor Grennan

New York Times Bestseller

Little Princes is the epic story of Conor Grennan’s battle to save the lost children of Nepal and how he found himself in the process. Part Three Cups of Tea, part Into Thin Air, Grennan’s remarkable memoir is at once gripping and inspirational, and it carries us deep into an exotic world that most readers know little about.

Help Us Pick Our Next Book

It’s time to pick our September & October book club book. The theme is: Literary vs Sociology. Pick your favorite below or feel free to add your own suggestions.

The Girls: Other Readings

I can quite honestly say I have not read another book similar to this. I know. Everyone’s astonished. I went into this book with thoughts of feminism and empowerment for women. Some BA girls running around stirring up trouble for the patriarchy. Clearly, I should have read the back of the book. They do run around and stir up trouble, but at the same time they are all fawning and under the spell of Russel. (Right now I’m halfway through and will update this later.) However, I will muddle through with the hope that these girls grow their wings and fly out from beneath his thumb and lunatic rhetoric. So because this book is so far outside my normal wheelhouse I went to the internet to find a list (there are many). So without further adieu or rambling, straight from thedebrief.co.uk :

1. Girls On Fire

Written by Robyn Wasserman, Girls on Fire is about that special kind of bond that only teenage girls can have. Hannah (Dex) and Lacey are best friends and share, amongst other things, a mutual hatred of popular girl Nikki. As their friendship becomes more intense, so too do their feelings for Nikki.

Get Girls on Fire here.

2. Invincible Summer

Four friends, 20 years and a lifetime of stories.Following Benedict, Lucien, Sylvie and Benedict as they graduate from university, the book looks at what happens to the energy and dreams of the young as Real Life (boo) sets in. By Alice Adams.

Get Invincible Summer here.

3. Before The Fall

Everyone raves about this book. I got a couple of pages in and realised it all revolved around a plane crash. I have a phobia of flying and a long-distance flight coming up so sozza, I ditched it. Anyways – it’s about a guy who gets on a family’s private jet back from rich-people holiday destination Martha’s Vineyard. The plane crashes, he survives. What happens in the aftermath is the focus.

Get Before The Fall here.

4. The Muse

The next offering from the wonderful Jessie Burton, the lady behind 2014’s beautiful The Miniaturist. Set not in 1600’s Amsterdam but rather in 1960’s London, The Muse is about Odelle, a Trinidadian girl trying to make it in London. She gets a job at a gallery where the book diverges into the mysterious backstory of an exciting work of art.

Get The Muse here.

5. Sweetbitter

Written by Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter is about Tess, a 22-year-old who moves to the big city to erm, do something. Whilst working at one of New York’s fanciest restaurants she finds herself caught up in a triangle of love affairs set against the city’s fast-paced restaurant scene.

Get Sweetbitter here

6. Maestra

The intelligent woman’s 50 Shades. Written by Oxbridge historian Lisa Hilton, it’s about a girl called Judith Rashleigh who worked in an auction house by day and a sleazy West End bar by night.  When she tries to steal money from a rich man, she ends up running for her life. Basically, imagine if Amy from Gone Girl replaced Anastasia from 50 Shades. Read our interview with Lisa here.

Get Maestra here.

7. The Glorious Heresies

This book won the Baileys’ Women’s Prize for Fiction this year so, it’s kind of a big deal. It’s about a group of people living in the criminal underworld of the Irish city of Cork in a post-economic crash world. There’s Ryan, the teenage drug dealer, Jimmy, one of the city’s most terrifying gangsters, Georgie a prostitute and Maureen, Jimmy’s mother. As the groups’ lives cross, things disintegrate further.

Get The Glorious Heresies here

8. Hot Milk

About a daughter Sofia and her mother Rosie who take a trip to Spain not on a lovely holiday but rather to a clinic to try to fix Rosie who is confined to a wheelchair. The women have a suffocating relationship and it intoxicates them both. By Deborah Levy.

Get Hot Milk here

9. Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online

It’s ex-Debrief and uber blogger Emma Gannon! Her book about growing up online (hello MSN Messenger) is funny, open, lovely and guaranteed to make you cringe as you recall yourself as a clueless teenager trying to operate as a grown-up.

Get Ctrl, Alt, Delete here.

10. Fates and Furies

One of the many books that was bequeathed the ‘Next Gone Girl’ honour by critics. Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies is, in a similar manner to Gone Girl, the story of a relationship told from both sides of a couple (Lotto and Mathilde Satterwhite – how’s that for a couple of names?). It’s brutal. And beautiful.

Get Fates and Furies here.

 

The Girls Discussion Questions

Straight from PRH (Penguin Random House for those who aren’t perpetually surrounded by the merch, name, and warehouse personnel.) here are some discussion questions to think about while reading (or after, seeing as how we are to be done the end of the month. Ackkkk!)  Please feel free to include moments you thought of in the comments below!

1. The Girls takes place in the summer of 1969. When Evie explains the era to Sasha, she says “It was a different time … Everyone ran around” (144). Do you think that what happened to Evie could have only happened in the 1960s? Or is her story a timeless story? How might her story be different, if it happened today?

2. One of the central relationships in The Girls is between Evie and Suzanne. What did you make of their connection? The first time they meet, Suzanne is hesitant to let Evie come along (94-95). Does she sense something about Evie from the very beginning? What might it be?

3. Evie describes the “constant project of our girl selves” and the specific attentions that project requires—the make-up, the grooming rituals. Did you see a parallel in Evie’s mother’s behavior? What are the similarities and differences between Evie’s “constant project” and her mother’s new search for “an aim, a plan”?

4. In looking back at the time before her parents got divorced, Evie describes “the freedom of being so young that no one expected anything from me” (78). Do you think that freedom still exists when she is a teenager—or has it already disappeared? Why might that sense of freedom start to vanish, as she gets older?

5. Evie delineates the difference between the attention girls can get from boys, and the attention they can get from other girls: “Girls are the only ones who can really give each other close attention, the kind we equate with being loved” (34). What do you make of this? Is something all of the girls in this story are aware of, consciously or unconsciously? Do you think it holds true forever, or does it change as girls grow older?

6. At the same time, though, Evie says that she “didn’t really believe friendship could be an end in itself, not just the background fuzz to the dramatics of boys loving you or not loving you” (49). How does this notion change and evolve as the story goes on? Do you consider Evie’s relationship with Suzanne to be a friendship, or something different?

7. Evie is constantly sizing up other girls and women, measuring their beauty and assessing them “with brutal and emotionless judgment” (34). But Suzanne, she decides, “wasn’t beautiful … It was something else” (68). How does this complicate her understanding of, or attraction to, Suzanne? Is beauty something that is valued by Russell, Suzanne and others, in the world of the ranch?

8. What did you make of Evie’s dynamic with Sasha? What similarities to—and differences from—her teenage self might Evie see in Sasha? Why do you think Evie tells Sasha so much about her past?

9. Why do you think Evie decides to mess with Teddy Dutton, when she brings his dog back to his house? Does she have a newfound feeling of power, after spending time at the ranch? Do you think that interaction with Teddy paves the way for her and the girls’ later intrusion into the Dutton house?

10. Were you surprised by the character of Tamar, and her relationship with Evie? How does Tamar differ from the other girls and women in the story—from Suzanne, from Connie, from Evie’s mother?

11. Looking back, Evie questions whether she might have known what Suzanne and the others were planning, and whether she would have participated: “Maybe I would have done something, too. Maybe it would have been easy” (321). Do you think Evie would have gone through with it, if she had stayed in the car? Why, or why not?

12. At the end, Evie describes Suzanne letting her go as “a gift” (351), allowing Evie to have the normal life that Suzanne herself could not. But she reflects that it might have been easier to be punished and redeemed, as Suzanne was. What did you make of Evie’s still-conflicted feelings about that chapter in her life? Would it ever be possible for someone in Evie’s situation to make peace with the past? If so, what do you think prevents her from doing so?

July & August Book Announced

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The Girls By Emma Cline

The Instant Bestseller & Named One of the Best Books of the Year by 18 Publications

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.