The anti-war, anti-establishment novel, Catch-22, follows the life of Yossarian, the main character, and his fellow Army Air Corps officers, stationed on an imaginary island off the coast of Italy, through a period during World War II. The book is classified under the genre of tragic comedy, yet some people see it as one extreme or the other of tragedy versus comedy. Both tragedy and comedy are very prevalent throughout the book, however the comedic portion serves a different purpose than that of the tragedy. "Although a very funny book, the purpose of the humor in Catch-22 is not so much to amuse as to point out (and skewer) the absurdities and contradictions of war- (Regher). The humorous or comedic scenes and instances in the book enhance the tragedy of the whole story by bringing realizations to the reader as well as to the characters. Not only does the humor decrease as the book progresses but it also does so in a way to make room for the somberness of the theme. .
The amusing one-liners, quick-witted comebacks, and heated debates about absolutely nothing form the basis of the comedic element. Yossarian's unnecessary nudity, Major Major Major Major's limited availability, and the old man's odd amount of witty intelligence are prime examples of this. This element of comedy seems to stick out to some readers, causing them to feel the novel is strictly a comedy. This may be because either they are not scholarly enough to notice the serious element of the book, or because they simply choose not to notice. Avery Pennarun states, "The book alternates between developing a theme and comedy, which makes it far more appealing to the average person- (17 September 1999). The dramatic theme of the novel slowly evolves into something that the reader suddenly notices to be tragic. On the surface however, the theme does not at all seem tragic. "Humor is used to permanently capture the reader's attention at the beginning so that he can be force-fed' the theme later on- (Pennarum).