The novel takes place during World War Two in an American
army camp on the island of Pianosa as well as in Rome. The main character
is Yossarian, who suffers from a severe fear of death. He and his comrades
are in the Air Force in the 256th squadron.
Yossarian's main antagonist is Colonel Cathcart, whose goal
in life is to become a general. Yossarian wants to stop flying missions
so he wont get killed, yet Cathcart's aim is to continue raising the number
of required missions in order to impress his superiors. He uses Catch-22's
unfair illogical rules to keep the men flying. This creates a constant conflict
between Yossarian and Colonel Cathcart.
Orr, a member of the squadron, manages to outmaneuver the
catch-22 problem and escape the horror of the war through careful planning.
Each mission he goes on is a practice in the art of crashing and survival
in the sea. He makes sure he is able to inflate rafts, get food, and maneuver
properly using a tiny spoon. These plans come in handy when on one mission
he crashes and does not return. It is only then that Yossarian realizes
Orr's genius. All of this planning was used to help Orr sail off to freedom
in Sweden, away from the death and destruction of World War II.