The plotline follows the airmen of the 256th Squadron while in action over Italy, and their repeated attempts to avoid combat missions that appear to lead to certain death. Their attempts are almost always comical: when an officer refers to the string on a map representing the front line and states that they won’t be able to fly if it moves beyond the target, the airmen begin watching the string obsessively until Yossarian secretly moves the string and the mission is canceled. The officer is not amused and assigns them a particularly dangerous mission. The ultimate escape is to have oneself declared mentally unfit for duty, but the Army has made this impossible through the eponymous Catch-22. In spite of their best efforts, most of the airmen are killed over the span of the novel. The development of the novel can be split into segments. The first (chapters 1–11) broadly follows the story fragmented between characters, but in a single chronological time in 1944. The second (chapters 12–20) flashes back to focus primarily on the “Great Big Siege of Bologna” before once again jumping to the chronological ‘present’ of 1944 in the third part (chapter 21–25). The fourth (chapters 26–28) flashes back to the origins and growth of Milo’s syndicate, with the fifth part (chapter 28–32) returning again to the narrative present but keeping to the same tone of the previous four. The sixth and final part (chapter 32 on) remains in the story’s present, but takes a much darker turn and spends the remaining chapters focusing on the serious and brutal nature of war and life in general.
Crime and Punishment
Raskolnikov, a conflicted former student, lives in a tiny, rented room in Saint Petersburg. He refuses all help, even from his friend Razumikhin, and devises a plan to murder and rob an elderly pawn-broker and money-lender, Alyona Ivanovna. His motivation comes from the overwhelming sense that he is predetermined to kill the old woman by some power outside of himself. While still considering the plan, Raskolnikov makes the acquaintance of Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, a drunkard who recently squandered his family’s little wealth. Raskolnikov also receives a letter from his sister and mother, speaking of their coming visit to Saint Petersburg, and his sister’s sudden marriage plans which they plan to discuss upon their arrival.
In the course of their travels, the protagonists meet innkeepers, prostitutes, goatherders, soldiers, priests, escaped convicts and scorned lovers. The aforementioned characters sometimes tell tales that incorporate events from the real world, like the conquest of the Kingdom of Maynila or battles in the Eighty Years’ War. Their encounters are magnified by Don Quixote’s imagination into chivalrous quests. Don Quixote’s tendency to intervene violently in matters irrelevant to himself, and his habit of not paying debts, result in privations, injuries and humiliations (with Sancho often the victim). Finally, Don Quixote is persuaded to return to his home village. The narrator hints that there was a third quest, but says that records of it have been lost.
In 1985, Bud Fox is working as a junior stockbroker in New York City at Jackson Steinem & Co. He wants to work with his hero, Gordon Gekko, a legendary Wall Street player. After calling Gekko’s office 59 days in a row trying to land an appointment, Bud visits Gekko on his birthday with a box of Gekko’s favorite, contraband Cuban cigars. Impressed at his sheer boldness, Gekko grants Bud an interview. Bud pitches him stocks, but Gekko is unimpressed. Desperate, Bud provides him some inside information about Bluestar Airlines, which Bud learned in a casual conversation from his father, Carl, the union leader for the company’s maintenance workers. Intrigued, Gekko tells Bud he will think about it, but also that he “[looks] at a hundred deals a day,” but “[chooses] one.” A dejected Bud returns to his office. However, Gekko places an order for Bluestar stock and becomes one of Bud’s clients. Gekko gives Bud some capital to manage, but the other stocks Bud selects lose money.
Feudal Japan in 1600 is in a precarious peace. The heir to the Taiko (Regent) is too young to rule, and the most powerful five overlords of the land hold power as a Council of Regents. Portugal, with its vast sea power, and the Catholic Church mainly through the Order of the Jesuits, have gained a foothold in Japan and seek to extend their power. But Japanese society is insular and xenophobic. Guns and Europe’s modern military capabilities are still a novelty and despised as a threat to Japan’s traditional Samurai warrior culture.
John Blackthorne, an English pilot, serving on the Dutch warship Erasmus, is the first English pilot to reach Japan. England (and Holland) seek to disrupt Portuguese (and Catholic) relations with Japan and establish ties of their own through trade and military alliances.
Erasmus is blown ashore on the Japanese coast at the village of Anjiro during a storm. Blackthorne and the few survivors of his crew are taken captive by local samurai, Kasigi Omi, until his daimyō (feudal lord) and uncle, Kasigi Yabu, arrives. Yabu puts Blackthorne and his crew on trial as pirates, using a Jesuit priest to interpret for Blackthorne. Losing the trial, Blackthorne attacks the Jesuit, rips off his crucifix, and stamps it into the dust to show the daimyō that the priest is his enemy. The Japanese, who know only the Catholic version of Christianity, are shocked by the gesture. Yabu sentences Blackthorne and his crew to death. However, Omi, who is quickly proving himself as a clever adviser, convinces Yabu to spare them to learn more about European ways.