Why is Catch-22 so widely read? According to the Guardian’s Sam Jordison, Joseph Heller’s novel is powerful because its protagonist Yossarian is “an old-fashioned hero”:
Readers immediately cared about Yossarian, and his survival. Yossarian is the point of connection and understanding; a strong central fulcrum around which the chaos of the novel spins. He’s also that universally appealing thing—an old-fashioned hero.
And when I say old-fashioned, I mean old-fashioned: as Reading group contributor Swelter has pointed out, there are strong parallels between Yossarian and Achilles. They both stew in their tents and refuse to fight. They are both humiliated and oppressed by vainglorious and intellectually challenged commanding officers. They are both devastated by the death of a friend (Nately in Yossarian’s case, Patroclus for Achilles).