Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 details the physical and psychological struggles of a young airman named Yossarian, who feigns illness and madness in an attempt to avoid being killed over World War II Italy. Realizing that the war is putting him in personal danger, Yossarian mounts a series of protests against it. At first, his protests are passive, as when he feigns illness and seeks refuge in an army field hospital. Later, he refuses to fly bombing missions, goes AWOL, and attempts escape, by inflatable rubber lifeboat, from Italy to Sweden.
Catch-22 features a dizzying array of characters, each having a unique dysfunctional relationship with the military bureaucracy that Heller rails against. Yossarian fights against the system because it does not take him into account. Orr, one of Yossarian’s peers, who shares Yossarian’s distaste for the war, successfully turns the military’s complete disregard for him into a tool that eventually enables him to escape. In contrast, Milo Minderbinder, one of the more insidious characters, harnesses the system for his own personal gain, counting on the self-interest of others to divert their attention from his ruthless profiteering.
One of the most haunting characters in the novel is the soldier in white. Completely wrapped, like a mummy, in strip bandages, the soldier in white first appears as a patient at the field hospital where Yossarian is hiding from the war. Yossarian observes that...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The events take place in Pianosa, a small Italian island where an Air Force bombing group is sweating out the closing months of World War II, and Rome, where the flyers go on leave to stage latter-day Roman orgies in a city filled with prostitutes. Men who behave like madmen are awarded medals. In a world of madmen at war, the maddest—or the sanest—of all is Captain John Yossarian, a bombardier of the 256th Squadron. Deciding that death in war is a matter of circumstance and having no wish to be victimized by any kind of circumstance, he tries by every means he can think of—including malingering, defiance, cowardice, and irrational behavior—to get out of the war. That is his resolve after the disastrous raid over Avignon, when Snowden, the radio-gunner, was shot almost in two, splashing his blood and entrails over Yossarian’s uniform and teaching the bombardier the cold, simple fact of man’s mortality. For some time after that, Yossarian refuses to wear any clothes, and when General Dreedle, the wing commander, arrives to award the bombardier a Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism, military procedure is upset because Yossarian wears no uniform on which to pin the medal. Yossarian’s logic of nonparticipation is so simple that everyone thinks him crazy, especially when he insists that “they” are trying to murder him. His insistence leads to an argument with Clevinger, who is bright and always has an excuse or an explanation for everything. When...
(The entire section is 991 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The events on the tiny Mediterranean island of Pianola, where Heller’s characters are stationed, are often grotesque exaggerations of events in the larger society. There is a Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, when the entrepreneur Milo Minderbinder, supply officer of the group, tries to insist that all the officers and enlisted men sign loyalty oaths before they can eat in the group’s mess halls. Other actions are simply inexplicable, as with the reluctant officer who refuses to see anyone during office hours. Still others are grim, such as the “soldier in white” who is placed in the hospital ward with other officers, completely encased in plaster; he never moves or speaks, and after a couple of days he is declared dead.
Heller’s central character, Yossarian, is fond of confusing other characters with apparently crazy but logical views of events, and he frequently undertakes bizarre actions—for example, sitting in a tree naked during the funeral of one of the flyers. It becomes clear, however, that for Yossarian and his buddies—other flyers, such as Orr and Dunbar—jokes and unusual behavior are the only ways to retain something like sanity. Their commanders are even crazier than they are, their missions become increasingly hazardous, and their fellow fliers die, one by one or in groups.
Yossarian is the most religious character in Catch-22, willing to try any way of circumventing authority and retaining his individuality. He...
(The entire section is 764 words.)
Catch-22 is a product of intense private and public concerns. Heller based the novel's plot on his memories of World War II bombing missions; he derived its ironic tone and thematic substance from such sources as his father's early death, the grotesque Coney Island neighborhood of his youth, the fast-paced, disjointed world of advertising, and his anxiety over the Korean War and Cold War tensions with China and Russia. Heller translated the intergroup antagonism that prevailed in the United States after the Second World War---the Communist witch hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the racial hatred that surfaced when southern schools began to be integrated---into the conflict between the common soldiers and the officers of Catch-22.
There was only one catch, and that was Catch-22...
In Heller's novel, the military's Catch-22 states that if a man is crazy, he must be grounded—but a man cannot be grounded if he asks to be, since anyone who wants to avoid combat duty is not really crazy. Catch-22 abounds with paradoxes and inversions, as Heller depicts a topsy-turvy society in which sanity and insanity, order and chaos have become confused. Colonel Korn permits only those people who never ask questions to ask questions; Major Major orders Sergeant Tower to allow men to see him only when he is out; the Air Force denies the death of Mudd, who was killed before officially checking in with the squadron but declares...
(The entire section is 281 words.)
Joseph Heller's satirical war novel Catch-22 depicts the absurdity and inhumanity of warfare through the experiences of Yossarian, a bombardier pilot stationed on the island of Pianosa (near Italy) in World War II. Heller does not tell Yossarian's story chronologically. Instead, the novel revolves around episodes in Yossarian's life (particularly the gruesome death of Snowden, a young airman) and employs flashbacks and digressions to jump back and forth between events.
Yossarian is terrified of flying bombing missions and attempts throughout the novel to escape this duty. He is thwarted, however, by his superiors and by "Catch-22," an ever-changmg rule that keeps people subjected to authority. Early on, "Catch-22" works to keep all the men flying bombing missions, as Doc Daneeka explains to Yossarian:
"Sure, I can ground Orr, who is considered crazy, but first he has to ask me to."
"That's all he has to do to be grounded?"
"That's all. Let him ask me."
"And then you can ground him?" Yossarian asked.
"No. Then I can't ground him."
"You mean there's a catch?"
"Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy."
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers...
(The entire section is 355 words.)
Life in the Squadron
The novel begins with Yossarian in a military hospital faking a liver ailment. He spends his time censoring letters until a talkative Texan drives him from the safety of the hospital. Upon Yossarian's return to active duty, we learn about the various men in his unit. We meet Orr, Yossarian's short, mechanically-gifted tentmate who keeps being shot down during bombing runs but wants to keep flying; McWatt, who likes to fly low and buzz Yossarian's tent in order to terrify him; Nately, a naive boy in love with a prostitute in Rome (who is only referred to as "Nately's whore") who barely notices him; Doc Daneeka, a depressed doctor continuously lamenting the loss of his lucrative practice in America; Yossarian's navigator, Aarfy, who calmly smokes a pipe and talks while Yossarian yells hysterically during bombing runs; Major Major Major Major, the pitiable squadron commander who resembles Henry Fonda and who avoids contact with everyone, leaping through his office window when people try to see him, Colonel Cathcart, a man so obsessed with promotion that he keeps increasing the men's bombing missions so that he might impress his commander, General Dreedle, and Milo Minderbinder, the unit's morally blind mess officer, a financial genius who believes only in unrestricted capitalism and who forms the M & M Enterprises syndicate, which eventually controls almost all black market commerce in the hemisphere.
Yossarian has been promoted to Captain to cover up...
(The entire section is 591 words.)
Casualties of War
Soon, a series of tragedies hits the unit. McWatt, while jokingly flying low over the beach, accidently kills a member of the squad. Kid Sampson, with a propeller. McWatt flies the plane into a mountain rather than land. Colonel Cathcart responds to these deaths by raising the missions to sixty-five. Yossarian returns to Rome. Also in Rome, Nately finds the prostitute with whom he is in love and, instead of sleeping with her, allows her to sleep for eighteen hours. When she awakes, she suddenly discovers she loves him. Nately volunteers to fly more missions so he can stay near Rome. On one of these, Nately dies when another plane collides with his. When Yossarian tells Nately's whore of Nately's death, she tries to kill him. Yossarian escapes, but he must keep watch because she continually attempts to ambush him.
In response to Nately's death, Yossarian vows to fly no more missions. The men in his unit secretly tell him they hope he succeeds. Then Yossarian learns that Nately's whore and her younger sister have disappeared after the police cleared out the brothel. Yossarian goes AWOL (absent without leave) and flies to Rome, feeling remorse and guilt over his lost friends, including Orr, whose plane went down after the Bologna mission.
Yossarian begins looking for Nately's whore and her kid sister. In a passage reminiscent of a descent into the Underworld, Yossarian walks the streets and witnesses scenes of horrific brutality. He returns to...
(The entire section is 286 words.)
The Final Catch
On Pianosa, Colonel Korn, Cathcart's assistant, informs Yossarian that they are sending him home. Yossarian is a danger to his superiors because he has given the men hope that they, too, can stop flying missions. Yossarian's release comes with one condition: he must become his superiors' "pal" and never criticize them. Yossarian agrees to this "odious" deal. On his way out, Nately's whore attacks him, stabbing him in the side.
While sitting in the hospital, Yossarian recalls in full Snowden's death. During a mission, Snowden is wounded and Yossarian tries to treat him, discovering a large wound in Snowden's upper leg. Snowden keeps complaining that he is cold, even after Yossarian bandages the wound. Yossarian cautiously looks for another wound and removes Snowden's flak suit. Snowden's insides pour out. This moment traumatizes Yossarian, causing him to watch Snowden's funeral from a distance while sitting nude in a tree. Snowden's death has taught Yossarian a secret: "Man was matter....The spirit gone, man is garbage.... Ripeness was all."
Major Danby from Yossarian's unit comes to see him. Yossarian tells him that he is refusing the "odious" deal, but Danby informs him that if he refuses to cooperate, Korn and Cathcart will court-martial him on a variety of charges, some real, most invented. Still, if he takes the deal, Yossarian would violate the memory of his friends and would hate himself. The squad's Chaplain Tappman rushes in and...
(The entire section is 311 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
Yossarian is a puzzle to his doctors. The pain in his liver is not quite jaundice—almost, but not quite. If it turns into jaundice, they can treat it; if it does not become jaundice and goes away, they can dismiss him. Each day three doctors and Nurse Duckett (a brisk and serious woman who does not like Yossarian) come to check on him. When he tells them the pain is exactly the same, and they are irritated.
The pain in his liver is actually gone, but Yossarian does not tell them and they do not seem to suspect anything except perhaps that he is moving his bowels in secret. None of the nurses like Yossarian, but he has everything he needs in the hospital. The food is good, with extra rations of fresh meat, and no one but the staff ever disturbs him and most of the day he is free. Unlike Dunbar, who has to keep “falling on his face” to get back into the hospital, Yossarian always runs a temperature of 101 and has a clear conscience about staying indefinitely in these comfortable surroundings.
Once he decided to spend the rest of the war in the hospital, Yossarian wrote letters to everyone telling them he was in the hospital. Then he wrote them all, telling them he volunteered for a dangerous top secret mission and would write them when he returned. He has not written anyone since. As an officer, he is forced to censor the letters of enlisted men. It is an odious task, so he makes a game of it. Each day he wages war against something new—articles, adverbs, adjectives. One day he crosses out everything except a, an, and the.
When that grows too monotonous, he crosses out names and addresses on the envelopes. Each censored letter is supposed to be signed by the officer who censors it. Yossarian signs his name to the letters he does not read (which is most of them) and signs fictitious names to those he does. The military is infuriated at the unreadable envelopes and sends someone to the hospital, looking for the people who belong to the fictitious names.
This is a good ward, the best he and Dunbar have ever had. There is a fighter-pilot captain who survived a plane crash in the Adriatic Sea in the middle of winter but has the grippe, now that it is summer. There is a captain lying on his stomach with malaria and a Texan who believes “people of means” should have more votes than people like drifters, whores, and atheists. The...
(The entire section is 809 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Outside the hospital, the war continues. “Men go mad and are rewarded with medals,” and young boys all over the world give their lives for what they have been told is their country. No one seems to mind much, including those boys who are losing everything, and there seems to be no end in sight. Yossarian would have been content to live out the rest of the war in the hospital, but the Texan ruined all that. He obviously wanted everybody to be happy, and he is obviously a very sick man.
Yossarian cannot be happy because there is nothing funny about life outside of the hospital; a war is going on and no one seems to notice. When he tries to remind people that there is a war going on, they think he is crazy. Clevinger should know better, but even he told Yossarian he was crazy the last time he saw him, just before Yossarian “fled into the hospital.”
Clevinger is angry, insisting that no one is trying to kill Yossarian specifically; they are all being shot at. When he asks Yossarian exactly who is trying to murder him, Clevinger is frustrated by Yossarian’s circular answer. Yossarian is certain that people he does not know regularly try to shoot at him or drop a bomb at him. That is not funny, and there are plenty of things “that aren’t even funnier.”
Yossarian’s tent is next to the forest separating his squadron from Dunbar’s; next to it runs an old railroad ditch which now holds the pipeline which carries gasoline to the airfields. His roommate, Orr, has made Yossarian’s tent the most luxurious tent in the squadron. Each time Yossarian returns from a holiday in Rome or the hospital, Orr has installed some new comfort in the captain’s tent: running water, a cement floor, a wood-burning stove. While the two men raised the huge tent together, Yossarian did all the physical work while Orr did all the brain work.
Havermeyer lives next door, a man who likes peanut brittle and spends his nights killing small field mice. McWatt lives in a tent on the other side of Havermeyer; he used to share it with Clevinger but now Nately lives with him. Nately is in Rome, courting the “sleepy whore he has fallen so deeply in love with there.” McWatt is certainly crazy, for he flies his plane as low as he possibly can, as often as he can, over Yossarian’s tent just to see how badly he can scare him. He does the same over the wooden raft floating...
(The entire section is 811 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Only Orr and the dead man are there when Yossarian returns from the hospital. The dead man bothers him, but no one will admit the dead man ever existed—which of course he no longer does. Orr is trying to repair a gas leak in the stove and tells a frustratingly convoluted story about walking around with crab apples in his cheeks when he was a kid because he wanted round cheeks. Yossarian knows Orr will never tell him why he wanted round cheeks.
General P.P. Peckham is responsible for sending out the U.S.O. troops. He has moved his headquarters to Rome and spends his time scheming against General Dreedle. Dreedle refuses to obey Peckham’s ridiculous orders (such as requiring that all tents be pitched along parallel lines leading directly back to the Washington Monument.) It is a battle of wills until a mail-clerk begins throwing away all communications from Peckham, so Dreedle wins. To regain his status, Peckham sends out more U.S.O. troops than ever before and expects the troops receive them enthusiastically.
Yossarian’s group is not enthusiastic. Every day men ask Sergeant Towser if their orders to go home have arrived; some of these men have even flown fifty missions, but they are still waiting and worrying, for they know Colonel Cathcart might raise the required number of missions at any time.
Colonel Cargill, a former marketing executive, is in charge of improving morale; however, he is notorious for being an abject failure at his job. He is “a self-made man who owes his lack of success to nobody.” He commands the officers to attend the U.S.O. show and orders them to have a good time.
Yossarian almost feels sick enough to return to the hospital; he feels even sicker when he flies three more missions and Doc Daneeka still refuses to ground him. Daneeka is depressed himself at having to be here, but he is Yossarian’s friend and would help him if he could. Daneeka tells Yossarian all about the people, including Cathcart, who insist that forty missions should be enough to complete a tour of duty. He tells Yossarian to “smile and make the best of it,” like Havermeyer. It is a terrible thought. Havermeyer refuses to take evasive action on a mission; though he never misses, Havermeyer is a hazard to himself and others. Yossarian’s only goal each time he flies is to come back alive, but he used to be a lead bombardier and the men loved flying with...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Hungry Joe is crazy, and Yossarian tries to help him; however, Hungry Joe will not listen to Yossarian because he is certain Yossarian is crazy. Dan Daneeka is mournful, melancholy soul who enjoys sulking. He wishes he were back home making money, he continually complains about his health, and he feels claustrophobic when he has to fly once a month to receive his flight pay. If Daneeka ever grounds Yossarian, a disgruntled Cathcart will transfer Daneeka, even though Yossarian has been a friend and arranged for Daneeka to collect his flight pay without ever flying.
Daneeka says that friends do favors for one another, but when Yossarian asks Daneeka to do him a favor, the doctor flatly refuses. Daneeka is a frozen, pitiful man on the outside; he is actually a “very warm, compassionate man” who never stops feeling sorry for himself. His perpetual question is “why me?” It is a good question, and Yossarian should know because he collects good questions.
At education sessions, Yossarian asks many good (and unanswerable) questions. Soon the only people at the sessions who are permitted to ask questions are those who never ask them. Eventually the sessions are discontinued because it is neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never question anything.
Yossarian is a poor skeet shooter and a poor gambler. A fellow soldier, Dunbar, loves shooting skeet because he hates it and therefore the time passes more slowly for him. Dunbar believes life seems longer when it is filled with long periods of boredom and discomfort. Clevinger snickers at this reasoning, but Dunbar insists time passes more quickly when it is going away. Dunbar tries to explain. Just a moment ago, for example, Clevinger was beginning his college career; and today, Dunbar claims, Clevinger is an old man. Clevinger is surprised and insists that he is not old, but Dunbar disagrees, pointing out that he is mere inches from death every time he flies a mission. He wonders how much older Clevinger can be at his age.
The only way for Dunbar to slow down time is to fill it up with things he dislikes so the time will pass more slowly. Dunbar is almost angry at Clevinger, and Clevinger unwillingly concedes that perhaps a long life must be filled with many unpleasant things if it is going to seem long. That is exactly what Dunbar wants, because there is nothing...
(The entire section is 404 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Chief White Halfoat
Dan Daneeka shares a tent with Chief White Halfoat, a man he fears and despises. Each man is consumed with his own troubles. Daneeka’s practice in Staten Island failed, and everything he bought on credit was eventually repossessed. Just when things were the worst, though, the war erupted and saved him. Most of the other doctors nearby were called into service, and Daneeka soon had more patients than he could competently treat. He was regularly receiving kickbacks and performing illegal abortions until the draft board discovered him.
Daneeka had performed his own physical examination in which he concluded he was unfit for duty. The draft board man saw that Daneeka did not have one leg amputated at the hip and was not bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis, so Daneeka was drafted as a flight surgeon even though he is terrified of flying. Chief White Halfoat thinks Daneeka is crazy. If Daneeka were not crazy, he would start digging for oil under Halfoat’s bed. Yossarian explains that Daneeka is not crazy; he is simply afraid Halfoat is going to die of pneumonia.
Halfoat is a handsome half-blood Creek from Oklahoma who wants to exact revenge from white men and has decided to die of pneumonia. His family has “a natural affinity for petroleum deposits,” so geologists constantly followed them and the Halfoats were constantly moving. Soon the geologists began guessing where the Halfoats were going next. Finally there was no place left to go, and Halfoat was drafted and saved while the rest perished. Yossarian knows he is lying but lets him talk.
Yossarian comes to Daneeka one mission later and again begs to be grounded. When he gets the answer he expects, Yossarian decides right then to go crazy. Daneeka must ground anyone who is crazy, but a crazy person cannot pronounce himself crazy. All anyone has to do is ask Daneeka to be grounded; however, Daneeka cannot ground him because of Catch-22. Anyone who wants to escape combat duty is not crazy because Catch-22 says that concern for one’s safety when confronting real dangers is a rational process. For example, “Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and he had to.” Catch-22 is a brilliant simplicity which Yossarian admires. Yossarian tries...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Hungry Joe has flown fifty missions and is ready to go home, but he is sick. Every noise enrages him; he is a “throbbing, ragged mass of motile irritability.” He forces his roommate, fifteen-year-old Huple (who lied to enlist), to do what he does every night: wrap his watch in a pair of wool socks and place it in his footlocker clear across the room. If this is not done, Hungry Joe cannot sleep.
In civilian life, Hungry Joe was a photographer for Life magazine, and here he manages to persuade women to strip naked for him so he can take their pictures; however, the photographs never turn out and most of the time he is torn between wanting to ravage the women and wanting to take their pictures.
Despite this, Yossarian believes Hungry Joe is the “biggest hero” in the Air Force because he has served six tours of combat duty, more than anyone else. When twenty-five missions were required before a pilot could be sent home, Hungry Joe flew twenty-five missions. Then Cathcart increased the number to thirty, and he flew those.
The worst times are when Hungry Joe is not flying combat missions and waiting for orders home, which never come. He has horrible nightmares every night until he is once again flying combat missions, and he settles into a “normal state of terror with a smile of relief.” Everyone else is puzzled by this curious phenomenon—everyone but Hungry Joe, who does not admit to having nightmares at all.
Colonel Cathcart is a courageous man who is never afraid to send his soldiers to attack dangerous targets. When two of his men get in a fight over a ping-pong game, Chief White Halfoat gets so excited that he punches Colonel Moodus (General Dreedle’s son-in-law) in the nose.
This is so exhilarating for Dreedle that he orders Cathcart to move Halfoat into Doc Daneeka’s tent so he will remain healthy enough to punch Moodus whenever the general brings him here.
Halfoat would rather have stayed in his tent with Captain Flume, as Flume lived his life in mortal fear that Halfoat would slit his throat one night when he was sleeping. (Halfoat threatened it as a joke; he never intended to do it.) Now Halfoat wishes someone would silence Hungry Joe that way so everyone could sleep better.
One day Cathcart abruptly tells Major Major that he is the new squadron commander, leaving him to deal...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
McWatt is Yossarian’s usual pilot and is probably the craziest combat soldier of all because he is “perfectly sane and still does not mind the war.” He wears red pajamas and “fleecy bedroom slippers,” whistles show tunes, sleeps on colored bedsheets, and is in a constant state of happiness.
McWatt is impressed with Milo Minderbinder, the mess cook who buys eggs for seven cents each and sells them for five cents. Minderbinder, however, is impressed with the letter Yossarian obtained from Doc Daneeka entitling him to take all the fruit and fruit juices he wants.
Yossarian’s admittedly imaginary liver condition is perplexing to the cook, but Yossarian explains that since fruit is good for his liver, he never eats it and gives it away to anyone who wants it. Aarfy takes the prunes because he never gets enough in the mess hall, and Nately takes boxes of fruit to his prostitute in Rome. She and her family sell it on the black market to buy gaudy costume jewelry, cheap perfume, dirty pictures, and raw whiskey.
Minderbinder wants to be Yossarian’s partner but is denied. He will talk to his cook, Corporal Snark, about serving more prunes. Snark is always complaining that his talents are being wasted here, and Minderbinder wonders why Snark was demoted. Yossarian says Snark once mashed hundreds of cakes of soap into the sweet potatoes to prove that the men did not know good food from bad. Because they ate the potatoes so eagerly, everyone got sick and missions even had to be canceled.
Minderbinder is appalled and wants to move Stark “to the administrative side” because he wants to serve “the best meals in the whole world.” It is a lofty goal, but Yossarian sees that the young man is absolutely sincere. In his moral code, it is a sin to sell things for as much as the market will bear.
Minderbinder is upset that a C.I.D. man is snooping around, but Yossarian assures him the man is looking for someone who is signing Washington Irving’s name when censoring letters (Yossarian).
Unlike Yossarian, the cook is more outraged about the possibility that the C.I.D. man might discover his black market activity than he is about the fact that Colonel Cathcart has raised the number of missions to fifty-five. Yossarian says that is because he does not have to fly missions. Yossarian plans either to see Major Major (who refuses to see anyone) or...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Clevenger knows everything about the war except why he has to die while someone like Corporal Snark “is allowed to live.” Nothing in the world demands Yossarian’s “premature demise” either as the only certain thing in war is that some must die. Clevenger is a Harvard scholar, an earnest and conscientious “dope.” Yossarian and Clevenger were in cadet school together.
One day in cadet school, Yossarian tries to warn Clevenger not to tell Lieutenant Scheisskopf why the morale of his squadron of aviator cadets is so low, but Clevinger does not listen. Clevenger tells Scheisskopf it is because the cadets do not want to participate in the Sunday afternoon parade competitions every week and because he appointed officers from the ranks instead of letting the squadron elect them.
Scheisskopf is an “ambitious and humorless” ROTC graduate. The best thing about him is his wife, and the best thing about her is her nineteen-year-old friend Dori Duz. Yossarian loves (and sleeps with) both women. Scheisskopf is afraid of Clevenger because he can think and causes dissatisfaction among the cadets, although he does take the parades as seriously as Scheisskopf does.
Scheisskopf desperately longs to win parades and spends all his time each week preparing for the next parade; despite his efforts, his squadron loses consistently. The week after he allows the cadets to choose their own officers, however, his squadron begins winning. Scheisskopf goes to bizarre and elaborate lengths to ensure that his cadets’ formations continue winning. They do so in such an astounding manner that the parades are soon discontinued. Scheisskopf is promoted to First Lieutenant and his colleagues all call him a genius.
Clevenger, on the other hand, must face the Action Board on charges brought by Scheisskopf, who is also the prosecutor. The charges are numerous and ridiculous. The hearing is equally ridiculous and the questioning is full of circumlocutions and provocations:
Clevenger was guilty, of course, or he would not have been accused, and since the only way to prove it was to find him guilty, it was their patriotic duty to do so.
Clevenger’s punishment is to walk, back and forth, for fifty-seven hours over the course of several weekends. Clevenger is surprised by the hatred of the Action Board, but Yossarian...
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Major Major Major Major
Thirty-one-year-old Major Major Major Major was born with several disadvantages, including his name. He looked like Henry Fonda and was always apologizing for not being Henry Fonda. Major’s father was a “sober, God-fearing man” who made his living not growing alfalfa as the “Government paid him well for each bushel he did not grow.” Soon he was not growing more alfalfa than anyone in the county.
In kindergarten, Major finally discovered that his father named him Major Major Major instead of his wife’s choice, Caleb Major; until then, everyone called the boy Caleb. The revelation actually killed the boy’s mother, and Major Major Major suffered an acute identity crisis. His honesty, politeness, and obedience created enemies everywhere he went.
Four days after joining the Army as a private, he was promoted to Major as a joke: Major Major Major Major. This promotion depressed Major until he became one of Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s air force cadets, even though he technically outranked his commanding officer. Life there was no different, however; “whoever he was with always wanted to be with someone else.”
Now the only thing that makes Major happy is playing basketball, but that all ends the day Colonel Cathcart abruptly announces that he is the new squadron commander. Major Major will never enjoy basketball again. No one talks to him, but everyone stares at him.
Major is a lamentable failure at being a Major. The day after C.I.D. agents question him about someone in the hospital who is forging Washington Irving’s name to censored letters, Major adopts the idea as a small act of rebellion and begins signing all official documents the same way.
Major is bored and dissatisfied. Whatever he is supposed to do gets done without him, although he is glad for official documents to sign so he has something to do. The first C.I.D. man who appears is suspicious of the second C.I.D. man; both are buffoonish in their quest for the Washington Irving signer. Major changes and signs every document John Milton, but only with his left hand and while wearing a fake mustache and dark glasses (a disguise he tried to use, unsuccessfully, to play basketball again).
Major tells his sergeant to let no one in to disturb him until he has left his office. Major climbs in and out of a window to avoid detection and eats his meals alone. He...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Eighteen planes fly a mission off the coast of Elba, but only seventeen of them come back. Helicopters search, but no trace of the missing plane is found. Clevenger is presumed dead; Yossarian assumes he has just gone AWOL.
Every time ex-PFC Wintergreen goes AWOL, he is sentenced to dig six-by-six-foot holes and then refill them. He accepts “his role of digging and filling up holes with all the uncomplaining dedication of a true patriot.” When he dug holes in Colorado, he struck oil. At the mention of oil, Chief White Halfoat was transferred but eventually returned to Pianosa to replace Lieutenant Coombs. Coombs went out as a guest one day to experience real combat; he and Kraft died over Ferrara. Yossarian feels guilty when he thinks of Kraft because Kraft was killed on Yossarian’s second bombing mission.
Appleby wants to see Major Major but must wait until Major goes out to lunch—though Major will not be in until after lunch. Appleby leaves in confusion and sees a man who looks like Henry Fonda climbing out of Major’s window. Appleby stops and is then told he can see Major now, since Major has gone; but Appleby will have to leave when the Major returns, since Major “never sees anyone in his office while he’s in his office.” Appleby assumes he is being made a fool of, but Sergeant Towser assures him he is only following Major’s orders. (Towser runs the squadron because no one else does it and has no interest in “war or advancement.”) Frustrated and confused, Appleby leaves a message and leaves. Towser suspects all uniformed men are crazy now that Colonel Cathcart has raised the required number of combat missions to fifty-five.
A replacement pilot named Mudd arrived and was killed in combat the same day; now he is referred to as “the dead man in Yossarian’s tent” because he was never officially part of the squadron and therefore cannot be officially removed from it. Towser hates both violence and waste, and it seems an “abhorrent extravagance” to fly Mudd all the way from America only to have him “blown into bits” two hours after arriving. Yossarian knows who Mudd is; he is the dead man whose belongings have been sitting on the cot across the tent, “contaminated with death,” for the past three months.
Yossarian remembers the Great Siege of Bologna a week after Mudd’s death, when Cathcart volunteered his men to bomb...
(The entire section is 507 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Corporal Kolodny receives surprising news on the telephone and shares it with Captain Black who is longing at his desk. Black immediately brightens and laughs in amazement. He cannot wait to see the reaction when the squadron realizes they will have to fly a mission to Bologna. It is the first laugh Black has had since Major Major “outsmarted him and was appointed squadron commander.”
His amusement continues as the bombardiers come for their flight maps and are incredulous to learn that they are flying to Bologna. Black relishes their horror and assures them they are all going to die this time. When he goes outside where the men are preparing to fly, Black gloats over their “dark consternation.” This is the happiest day in Black’s life since the day Major Duluth was killed and Black was almost chosen to replace him.
Black was the squadron intelligence officer and he believed he was the logical choice because he was the most intelligent man in the squadron. It seemed inevitable to him; however, before he could do anything to promote himself, Colonel Cathcart appointed Major Major to be squadron commander. In his bitterness, Black spread the rumor that Major was a Communist and started the Glorious Loyalty Oath Campaign.
Everyone had to sign a series of loyalty oaths to get the equipment to complete their missions. Soon Black became paranoid, assuming any officer who supported his loyalty oath program was somehow competing with him, and made everyone sign multiple oaths. To Black, the more loyalty oaths a man signed, the more loyal he was, which is why he made Kolodny sign hundreds of them a day.
Several captains hated the oath-signing because it slowed down every mission and made any emergency actions impossible. Despite their displeasure, the captains did not speak out against Black, who now implemented the “doctrine of ‘Continual Reaffirmation’” designed to trap any who might have changed their loyalties since yesterday.
Milo was opposed to Black’s programs and did not believe Major was a Communist; he refused to deny Major food because he would not sign a loyalty oath—which Black would not allow Major to sign. Black ordered Milo to speak directly to Major Coverly about Major’s refusal to sign a loyalty oath; Milo says nothing when Coverly comes to eat and finds his way blocked by lines of men signing loyalty oaths. When...
(The entire section is 492 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
The men are already fearful about their mission to Bologna, and then a “cruel series of postponements” gives the men too much time to consider the dangerous mission. The interminable rain makes them miserable, but soon they pray the rain continues. The morning after Hungry Joe’s fight with Huple’s cat, the rain stops. It will take the runway twenty-four hours to dry.
Resentments build and the only hope is if the bomb line shifts past Bologna; that night Yossarian sneaks to the map and shifts the bomb line. In the morning, everyone in leadership believes the map, cancels the mission, and celebrates by awarding a medal to the infantry officer who captured Bologna. Since no officer captured the city, they give the award to General Peckem; he immediately asks for more responsibility, as long as it does not involve combat.
Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen competes with Milo, selling items in the black market just under Milo’s price. Yossarian begs Wintergreen to forge official orders which would keep them all from flying the mission to Bologna because Yossarian is certain he is going to be killed on the mission. Wintergreen refuses. He and Clevinger both agree that one must die when one’s time to die comes, and Clevinger is outraged when Yossarian confesses he moved the bomb line to avoid going. Clevinger is concerned about the infantry men who are now at risk and believes all soldiers should follow orders unquestioningly, without worrying about dying. Yossarian’s view is that anyone who is trying to get him killed is the enemy, including Colonel Cathcart. (Clevinger forgets that and eventually dies.)
Yossarian is also responsible for telling Corporal Snark to put laundry soap in the sweet potatoes, giving everyone a terrible case of diarrhea and postponing the mission. After two weeks, the men are dispirited and having nightmares, fearing the mission to Bologna. Captain Black delightedly tells the men about a gun in Bologna which “glues a whole formation of planes together right in mid-air,” which amplifies their fear.
Yossarian convinces Chief White Halfoat to steal Black’s vehicle to avoid the mission; several others join them. It is raining and Halfoat misses his turn (because he refuses to turn on his headlights) before rolling the jeep in the mud. No one is hurt, and the men share a bottle of whiskey before Clevinger comes to investigate. Clevinger...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Major --- de Coverly
The Germans are not fooled by moving the bomb line, but Major --- de Coverly is completely fooled. De Coverly is a “splendid, awe-inspiring, grave old man” with a mane of white hair who rages around the camps like a patriarch. His only duties consist of “pitching horseshoes, kidnapping Italian laborers, and renting apartments” for officers and enlisted men to use on leave. He is superior at all three of his tasks.
Each time a city is about to fall, de Coverly commandeers a pilot and an airplane and flies off without a word. Several days after the city falls, he returns with the leases to two “large and luxurious” apartments (one for officers, one for enlisted men), fully staffed with cooks and maids. De Coverly appears to be a ubiquitous, invincible presence in the face of danger. The Germans are unable to elicit any information about de Coverly from captured soldiers. American intelligence is unable to locate him either.
De Coverly outdoes himself with the apartments he procured in Rome. Soon the enlisted men’s apartments are full of hungry soldiers looking for food and female comfort. Yossarian arranges for many young girls to stay in the apartments as long as they keep the soldiers satisfied. Yossarian is in love with an agreeable maid because she seems to be the only woman left in the world he can “make love to without falling in love with.”
Despite the perils of renting apartments in war-torn cities, de Coverly is ironically injured by an over-zealous man during a celebratory procession: he joyously throws a flower and hits the major in the eye. The stoic de Coverly does not flinch and does not even seek medical attention until he completes his business in Rome. He insists on a transparent eye patch so his horseshoe-throwing and other tasks will not suffer.
The only one bold enough to directly address de Coverly is twenty-seven-year-old Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer. He goes to the horseshoe pit and tempts De Coverly with a fresh egg; de Coverly is outraged until he is mollified by Minderbinder’s offer to get all the fresh eggs and butter the major wants. Soon other officers commission Minderbinder and turn their mess halls over to him, and he is making shuttle runs (by airplane) for fresh food seven days a week.
Colonel Cathcart is particularly proud of this arrangement; however, he is thwarted when he tries...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
By the time he goes on the mission to Bologna, Yossarian is brave enough not to pass over the target even one time. He is in Kid Sampson’s airplane and calls back to ask Sampson what is wrong with the plane, sending Sampson into a panic. Sampson then shrieks and asks what is wrong with the airplane; in turn, Yossarian wonders what is wrong with the plane and asks if they should bail out. Finally they both calm down enough to realize that nothing is wrong with the aircraft; however, Yossarian is distraught, thinking things are “terribly wrong” if everything is “all right” and he has no reason to turn the airplane back toward camp.
Yossarian yanks out all the wires from the intercom system so he and Sampson can no longer communicate. Yossarian gathers his map case and three flak suits before making his way to Nately, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat. Yossarian grins at Sampson, sitting behind Nately, and yells that he cannot hear him. Sampson yells back that he is shouting is loud as he can, but Yossarian says they will have to turn back because the intercom is not working.
Sampson is incredulous and looks to Nately for support, but the co-pilot studiously avoids making eye contact with Sampson. In a moment, Sampson whoops with delight, capitulating to the inevitable; he is soon joined by Nately and Sergeant Knight, who comes down from the gun turret. Amid the jubilation, Sampson turns the airplane around, but the celebration turns to silence as they approach the landing field. They drive through the mountains back to camp in silence. Doc Daneeka is standing outside his tent; the danger everyone else is in has heightened his concern for his own safety. Chief White Halfoat is busy stealing and drinking alcohol until a distressed Captain Black comes to stop him and steals the rest for himself. After the others leave in the Jeep, Yossarian is alone and Black asks him why his airplane turned back, but Yossarian ignores him.
Yossarian undresses and walks to the beach. Along the way he sees hundreds of mushrooms which sprouted in the recent rain and hurries past them, half expecting them to attack him. He swims a bit and then lies in the sand and sleeps until he hears the hum of his returning squadron. He is shocked to see every aircraft (except his) flying in precise formation; none of them are lagging behind, damaged, and none are flying in advance, with...
(The entire section is 461 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Piltchard and Wren
Captains Piltchard and Wren are “inoffensive joint squadron operations officers” who want nothing more than to fly combat missions. They persistently beg Colonel Cathcart to fly hundreds of missions and fly every one they can. War is the pinnacle of their life-experience, and they are afraid they may never be in another one. They do not cause any disruption but are most comfortable with their own company. They gently reprimand Yossarian publicly for forcing Kid Sampson to turn back from the mission in Bologna.
Piltchard scolds Yossarian and says a mission should be scrapped only for something important, not a defective intercom. Wren has nothing to add but is proud to announce that Cathcart has given his permission for the squadron to strike the ammunition dumps tomorrow. To show they hold no ill will toward Yossarian, the captains assign him to “fly lead bombardier” in the first formation.
Yossarian locates the target when suddenly his airplane is bombarded with flak. He sees the black puffs of smoke rising up from below, but there is nothing he can do until his bombs have been dropped. As soon as the eight five-hundred-pounders have been released, Yossarian screams at McWatt to make a hard turn, which he does. Yossarian tells him to climb higher, but soon the aircraft is back in the line of fire from below.
The bombs he dropped are now landing, “exactly where he had aimed,” and his bombs and those which were dropped after his destroy the ammunition dump. Aarfy, a fat, annoying pest, has come to the nose of the plane to taunt Yossarian by claiming he cannot hear anything Yossarian says. Infuriated, Yossarian tries unsuccessfully to push Aarfy to the back of the airplane as Aarfy continues to mock him and ignore his wishes.
The aircraft is hit more than once and Yossarian is certain they are all going to die; however, Aarfy is in a state of “rapturous contentment” and keeps taunting Yossarian. Yossarian continues to navigate McWatt through the flak until they are miraculously out of range and still airborne. Yossarian is amazed that they are still alive. Behind them men are dying, “strung out for miles in a stricken, tortuous, squirming line” as they follow the path Yossarian’s aircraft just traversed. One plane is on fire; four men parachute out before the plane nosedives to the ground. One entire flight of airplanes is “blasted...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Yossarian finds Luciana, a “tall, earthy, exuberant girl with long hair and a pretty face, a buxom, delightful, flirtations girl,” in an officers’ night club. She allows Yossarian to buy her dinner; after she eats heartily, Yossarian assumes he will be able to sleep with her. Instead, she tells him she has to go home to her mother but will come to his room early in the morning before she goes to work.
After escorting Luciana to her ride home, Yossarian rushes back to the club, hoping the “coarse, vulgar, amoral” girl who was with Aarfy (but would have been perfect for him) could offer him an aunt, friend, sister, or mother for the night. She and everyone else is gone when he reaches the club, so Yossarian walks wistfully home, thinking of all the women with whom he is in love, including the lovely countess and her daughter who live above the soldiers’ apartments but will not let him touch them.
He arrives at the apartments and is surprised to see Aarfy is there and the girl is gone. Aarfy explains that he was unwilling to take advantage of a drunken girl (though all she talked about was having sex with anyone who was willing) and took her home. Yossarian and the others are furious at this wasted opportunity.
At dawn, the maid wakes Yossarian to announce a visitor. Yossarian is shocked that Luciana keeps her word and jumps out of bed to grab her. Luciana is dressed for work and slaps him, calling him a pig. She begins tidying the room as he runs to the bathroom to clean himself up a bit. When he returns, the room is neat and Luciana is nearly undressed. Afterward, Luciana rues the fact that no one will marry her because she is not a virgin, which makes Yossarian love her. He says he will marry her and she says he is crazy and cannot marry him; because she will not marry him, Yossarian thinks she is crazy and therefore cannot marry her. It is an amusing idea to both of them.
Hungry Joe inadvertently interrupts them and runs for his camera. Yossarian pushes Luciana to get dressed because he knows Hungry Joe will be back to take whatever pictures he can get. He returns but Yossarian keeps him out. Yossarian convinces Luciana to write her name and address on a piece of paper, but she knows he will tear it up as soon as she leaves, which he does. Soon he regrets it and tries to recover the bits of paper, but they are gone. He searches for...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
The Soldier in White
Yossarian is determined to remain in the hospital rather than fly a thirty-third mission; ten days later he changes his mind and comes out—only to find that the colonel has raised the number to forty-five.
Again Yossarian returns to the hospital, determined not to fly any more than his thirty-eight missions. He is free to escape to the hospital at any time because of his liver condition; he says he has one and the doctors are ashamed they cannot fix it.
Being in the hospital is easy for Yossarian; the death rate is higher outside the hospital than inside it, and the deaths outside are much uglier. Not everything inside the hospital is easy or convenient, and the closer the hospitals get to the battlefront, the more the quality of the patients deteriorates. An example of that is the soldier in white. He “could not have been any sicker without being dead.”
The soldier in white is “constructed entirely” of gauze and plaster. All four of his limbs are strung up and suspended by weights. The only patient who is not afraid to talk to him is the Texan, though he never gets an answer. The soldier has a small opening over his mouth for a thermometer, and Nurse Cramer discovers he is dead one afternoon when she checks his thermometer. Although Yossarian feels dread about the soldier in white, he believes the soldier deserved better than to have a nurse determining when his life is over.
Nurse Cramer is a compassionate, wholesome, unattractive girl, and Yossarian is furious with her for crying over the soldier’s death, demanding to know how she can even tell for whom she is crying. The men talk and decide that at least this soldier earned his injuries fairly; they each have unfair wounds or conditions which they do not deserve. They discuss these injustices, and Yossarian has too many worries “to keep track of.” Lieutenant Scheisskopf, Appleby, Havermeyer, Black, and Korn all want to kill him, and there are many others who want him dead. If none of them succeed, his various conditions might kill him.
Hungry Joe collects “lists of fatal diseases,” and Yossarian gives Doctor Daneeka ideas from the list when Daneeka needs to diagnose someone—or himself. Yossarian has so many conditions that he considers giving up and spending the rest of his life in a hospital bed. Yossarian fears Daneeka will not help him, and he does not. Daneeka...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice
Yossarian owes his good health to teamwork, fresh air, exercise, and good sportsmanship; he discovers the hospital in an attempt to get away from all of that. One day, instead of doing calisthenics, he goes to the infirmary complaining of abdominal pain, something the doctors now have to observe for five days because too many soldiers have had trouble when their complaints were not taken seriously.
A young English intern comes to see Yossarian and advises him to complain about his liver because it is something the doctors know little about; no doctor ever sees Yossarian more than once, which makes life even easier for him. After ten days of tests and examinations, a new group of doctors has bad news: Yossarian is fit and must leave the hospital. Suddenly another patient sits up in bed, screaming that he sees everything twice.
The medical personnel are immediately distraught and make a variety of diagnoses, though there is no reason or justification for any of them. They finally all agree that no one has a clue what is wrong with the man, but they quarantine everyone on the ward for two weeks. Yossarian spends the most rational Thanksgiving of his life in the hospital. (The next Thanksgiving with General Scheisskopf’s wife is the most irrational. They are both atheists and Yossarian debates with her about how miserable life is. Finally she gets angry, claiming the God she does not believe in is more just and merciful than Yossarian’s “mean and stupid” God. They agree to believe in whatever God they each choose not to believe in.)
Yossarian is distraught when the quarantine period is up and easily convinces the new doctors that he, too, now sees everything twice. He takes his cue from the original sufferer, but that night the soldier who sees everything twice dies, and now Yossarian is quick to claim that he now sees everything only once. The dead soldier’s family comes to see their dying boy. Yossarian agrees to pose as their son as long as the doctor assists him in his liver illness charade. The doctor agrees, since they are “in this business of illusion together.”
When the family arrives, they see a soldier wrapped in bandages and assume it is their son, though he tells them his name is Yossarian. The family quickly adjusts to the new name and notes that he looks terrible. They console him and encourage him to keep...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
Thirty-six-year-old Colonel Cathcart is a “slick, successful, slipshod, unhappy man” who wants more than anything to be a general. He is “dashing and dejected, poised and chagrined…complacent and insecure.” He is conceited and deviously tries to keep his name before his superiors; he is also miserable because he is only a full colonel. He does not believe in absolutes, measuring himself only against others. He worries constantly about what his colleagues and superiors think of him and is willing to change to gain their approval.
Cathcart spends all his time calculating, not on behalf of his men but for his own advancement. He prides himself on being an insider but is constantly trying to discover what is happening around him. The young general takes great pains to privately interpret every look or facial expression, though most people are aware of his existence. Cathcart constantly feels as if he is being persecuted, and when he hears that another general either smiled or frowned, he cannot rest until he creates his own explanations for these actions.
Cathcart is routinely irritated by Lieutenant Colonel Korn, his “loyal, indispensable ally.” He is both indebted to Korn and despises him. Cathcart is so desperate to advance in his career that he is willing to try religion, so in the week Cathcart raises the required number of missions to sixty, he summons a chaplain. The chaplain is relieved to know that Cathcart has no intention of firing him after the incident in the officers’ club involving Chief White Halfoat.
Cathcart wants the chaplain to say prayers before each mission, hoping this will get Cathcart some publicity in the press. The chaplain agrees and does not know what to say next, but Cathcart explains that he wants “light and snappy” prayers before each mission, starting today. The chaplain is not allowed at the confidential briefing but will be allowed a minute and a half to pray; the chaplain says that is enough time as long as the time it takes to remove the atheists and allow the enlisted men in is not deducted from his allotted time to pray.
The outraged general is shocked to learn that there are atheists among his men (he assumes atheism is either against the law or un-American) and wants to exclude the enlisted men from the proceedings, although Cathcart assures the chaplain that he does not think enlisted men are not...
(The entire section is 493 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
The chaplain is discouraged as he leaves Colonel Cathcart’s office, ashamed that he had not been more forceful when discussing the new sixty-mission rule. This is always how he feels when he is confronted with stronger personalities. He already feels terrible, but he feels worse as he sees Colonel Korn walking toward him. The chaplain is even more frightened of Korn than he is of Cathcart, for Korn is disdainful and derisive and the man of God finds himself tongue-tied whenever they meet.
Korn is “an untidy disdainful man” in a rotund and rather repulsive body. The two men pass one another and Korn curtly addresses the Anabaptist chaplain as father, a discourtesy the chaplain believes is deliberate. Suddenly Korn turns back and asks what the chaplain was doing in Cathcart’s office. Before the chaplain can answer, Korn guesses that Cathcart wanted the chaplain to pray for the benefit of the press, which the chaplain admits is true. Before he continues on, Korn asks the chaplain (with a mysterious meaningfulness) if he ate in Korn’s mess hall a day or so ago. The chaplain says he did and Korn goes on his way. Korn developed the complicated mess hall rotation which the chaplain must follow.
The chaplain lives a bit apart from everyone in a clearing in the woods; his closest neighbor is his assistant, Colonel Whitcomb, a disgruntled atheist who is confident he could do a better job than the chaplain. Their tents are less than five feet apart, and Whitcomb is rude and antagonistic to the chaplain because he knows the chaplain will allow it. The chaplain lives separate from the others so the soldiers will not feel guilty every time they see him. The chaplain, a natural introvert, prefers this arrangement, but Whitcomb plans to change everything once he deposes the chaplain.
While the chaplain was away, Yossarian came to visit, but Whitcomb sent the “crackpot” away. Whitcomb is offended that his boss does not believe Yossarian is crazy and abruptly leaves. The chaplain always tries to be considerate to Whitcomb, but Whitcomb insists on being bitter. Whitcomb re-enters the tent and gloats that a C.I.D. man has been here and is going to punish the chaplain for signing Washington Irving’s name to letters, something the chaplain vehemently denies. Whitcomb tries to explain how he has been sparing the chaplain grief by signing Washington Irving’s name...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
All Colonel Cathcart can think about is Yossarian; it is too much of a coincidence for the man the chaplain mentioned not to be the same Yossarian who was the cause of Cathcart’s most humiliating moment. A man named Yossarian arrived wearing nothing but moccasins to receive his Distinguished Flying Cross medal from Colonel Dreedle. Upon reflection, he is mortified to remember that he also approved a medal for someone named Yossarian for blowing up an ammunition dump despite his striking another airplane in the process. Cathcart feels as if he is some kind of cosmic peril and Yossarian is his nemesis.
Cathcart is uncertain if the activities he is involved in with Colonel Korn (such as growing tomatoes at a hidden house Korn maintains) are illegal. But Korn is a lawyer, so he should know whether their “fraud, extortion, currency manipulation, embezzlement, income tax evasion and black-market speculations” are legal, and Cathcart trusts him. Soon Cathcart has paced his office so much that his arches hurt and he finally sits down and makes a list of the “black eyes” and the “feathers in his cap” he has earned at his time in the military.
Too many of the negative events are connected to this man named Yossarian, and he wants to investigate several others he suspects might also be connected to Yossarian. Cathcart assumes everyone hates him and wonders if perhaps sixty missions is too many. He only did it to distinguish himself as a decisive leader, but the reality is that he is never going to become a general.
General Dreedle has done his job well for many years and is responsible for his son-in-law’s enlisting; now, though, he is infuriated by everything his son-in-law, Colonel Moodus, does. Dreedle believes his men should be loyal and then allows them to make their own decisions about their troops. Cathcart remembers the ceremony with the naked Yossarian. Dreedle had not seemed at all concerned about his nakedness.
Dreedle is always accompanied by his nurse, and Yossarian immediately fell in love with her. He begins to moan in his distress, and soon many men moan with him to amuse themselves. It is so out-of-control that Dreedle orders that the major who is unable to regain control be taken away and shot. Once he discovers that he does not have the power to do that, Dreedle is disgusted until Colonel Korn takes charge and...
(The entire section is 492 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
Milo the Mayor
Yossarian loses his nerve on the mission to Avignon which he flies with Snowden, Huple, and Dobbs. Huple, the pilot, is only fifteen years old, and Dobbs, the co-pilot, has no faith in him. As soon as they dropped their bombs, Dobbs goes berserk and wrests the controls from Huple. The plane dives and nearly crashes until Huple regains the controls and tries to guide them to safety. “Dobbs [is] the worst pilot in the world and [knows] it.” Suddenly there is a hole in the windshield of the plane and the radio-gunner, Snowden, is on the ground after he faints.
Dobbs is the one who instigates a plot to kill Colonel Cathcart because he had just raised the required number of missions to sixty. Although Dobbs has a complete plan to kill Cathcart, Yossarian is not interested. The only thing Dobbs needs from Yossarian is his approval. Dobbs can carry out the entire plan by himself. Dobbs is completely out of control and adds that he would also like to kill several others as long as he was killing Cathcart.
Yossarian tells Dobbs he might be willing to participate if he stops shouting and limits the bloodshed to Cathcart. A frantic and frustrated Dobbs leaves when Yossarian refuses to give his consent to the plan. Dobbs is almost as crazy as Orr.
Milo regularly takes Orr and Yossarian with him on his buying trips for supplies for his mess halls. All of his complicated, confusing chicanery results in a profit for his syndicate. Yossarian is surprised to learn that everyone is part of this syndicate. Milo needs Yossarian to get Orr away from town, so he arranges for both men to spend time with older, jaded women who advertise themselves as pre-teen virgins. Yossarian is not thrilled with the plan.
When they arrive in Palermo, Milo is received like a hero and endures the “tumultuous celebration with benevolent grace.” His secret is now out: Milo has been elected mayor of Palermo, and many other cities, for bringing Scotch to Sicily. The people do not drink the Scotch; they sell it. Because of Milo, Sicily is the third-largest exporter of Scotch in the world. That is why he was elected mayor. His office is in a barber shop and he has a deputy mayor.
Orr and Yossarian are left to fend for themselves and spend the night cramped in their airplane just to avoid the rain. This kind of thing happens in every city to which they fly, as Mayor Milo...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
Nately’s Old Man
Nately finds his whore after “many fruitless weeks of mournful searching” and lures her and her two girlfriends back to his apartment by promising them thirty dollars each. Nately will pay but wants Aarfy and Yossarian to take the other two friends. Aarfy obnoxiously proclaims he never has to “pay for it,” but he suggests they keep the girls until after curfew and then threaten to have them arrested unless the girls return the money.
Aarfy is always trying to “help” Nately because Nately’s father is rich and influential, and Aarfy hopes to benefit from him after the war. The girl Nately is so in love with swears sullenly at him until Hungry Joe and Dunbar join the group. Everyone but Aarfy leaves, and the girls, feeling much friendlier now, take the four men to their apartment after demanding their money.
Soon eleven nearly naked women surround the men, and Hungry Joe desperately wants to get his camera; however, he is afraid that this “lovely, lurid, rich and colorful pagan paradise” will be gone when he returns. An old man cackles lasciviously and proclaims that America will lose the war. When Nately reminds him that Italy is a much poorer country than America and has been occupied by both Germans and Americans, the old man reminds Nately that Italian soldiers are no longer dying. Nately is shocked that the old man thinks America, like Rome and Greece, will die.
Nately wishes he could just take his whore to bed, but this “vulturous, diabolical old man” infuriates him. The one-hundred-and-seven-year-old man is nothing like Nately’s father, yet he reminds Nately of him. The amoral man champions whoever is winning the war; in fact, he is the one who hit Major de Coverly in the eye with a rose when the Americans conquered the city because the major seemed too arrogant for the old man’s liking. Nineteen-year-old Nately passionately makes the case for loyalty and honor, but the old man just shakes his head at such raw idealism. If Nately wants to live to be an old man, he should grow as jaded and amoral as this old man.
Nately sleeps alone on the couch. He is a “sensitive, rich, good-looking boy” who has managed to live “without trauma, tension, hate, or neurosis.” He was raised to despise “climbers” and “pushers” and taught that old money is better than new money.
He does sleep with his whore in the...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
April is the best month for Milo Minderbinder because the produce is fresh and he is able to buy and sell many things officers want. Everyone is a shareholder in the syndicate, and all he asks from any of the commanders is the use of one plane and a pilot. When one of them refuses, Minderbinder tells General Dreedle and Dreedle immediately replaces the uncooperative leader with a decrepit officer who particularly likes litchi nuts.
No one understands how Minderbinder will get the items he promises them, as many of them are found only behind enemy lines; however, he knows where items are traded and is able to get them through a maze of cross-trading and traitorous dealing.
The twenty-seven-year-old genius has his own fleet of planes circuiting through Colonel Cathcart’s field, all bearing colorful banners on which words like Truth, Liberty, and Honor are painted next to M & M (for Milo and Minderbinder) Enterprises. Everyone thinks Minderbinder is “a jerk” because he volunteered for the mess hall job and now takes it so seriously; however, Yossarian thinks Minderbinder is a genius.
Minderbinder is able to travel freely and is a kind of double agent, profiting from information sharing. Yossarian accuses Minderbinder of killing the dead man in Yossarian’s tent before the man even unpacked his bags—and making a profit on it—but Minderbinder denies everything except the profit. Yossarian is outraged, but Minderbinder assures Yossarian that the Germans are not their enemies; they are also part of the syndicate and he must protect their shares as well as the Americans’.
Minderbinder buys too much Egyptian cotton and soon M & M Enterprises is on the verge of collapse; he makes a deal with the Germans and commands his pilots to bomb his own camp. He has gone too far and investigations ensue; he is in serious trouble until he pays the government for the damages. Doctor Daneeka morosely tends each patient, as he did the day of the Avignon mission, when Yossarian was covered with Snowden’s blood and body and refused to wear his uniform anymore.
Minderbinder tries to talk reasonably with the naked Yossarian, asking him to try his latest concoction: chocolate-covered cotton, Minderbinder’s last, desperate attempt to get rid of the cotton he overbought.
Yossarian convinces Minderbinder...
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
The Chaplain has long been questioning his faith, and being an Army chaplain is making things worse. He sees himself as a failure. He has met Yossarian many times and always feels as if he has met him before; to him, such feelings have importance. The chaplain misses his family and is convinced he is not “particularly well suited to his work.” He feels safe sitting with Yossarian and Dunbar at the officers’ club, as he is protected from others who welcome him effusively but are anxious for him to go away. Yossarian even defends him the night Colonel Cathcart tried to eject him from the officer’s club.
No one seems to understand that Chaplain Albert Taylor Tappman is a normal human being with a wife and children. His assistant, Whitcomb, is the only one who might understand that Tappman has feelings, but he hurts them when he makes the recommendation that the unit should use only form condolence letters for fallen soldiers.
The chaplain lives in constant, crippling fear that something awful is going to happen to his family. He feels most hypocritical when he presides at funerals, and one extraordinary funeral he remembers precisely because he saw an apparition in a nearby tree.
Major Major and Major Danby are standing like pillars next to him before the “repulsive coffin” when the chaplain sees the naked man in the tree, soon joined by a sinister-looking, mustached man wearing black who gives the naked man a drink from a goblet.
Today he was humiliated by Cathcart, Colonel Korn, and Whitcomb and he has to escape. He makes the strenuous trek to Major Major’s office and is allowed to enter because Major is absent; inside, the chaplain senses an inhumane trick and escapes through the window and imagines he hears derisive laughter as he staggers away until he feels safe. He finally gets back to his office where a surly Whitcomb announces that Major Major had been here and left Tappman a private letter. Whitcomb destroyed the letter as soon as he read it.
The chaplain goes back to see Major and is told Major sent Yossarian to him because Major can do nothing to change the required number of missions. He walks dejectedly home through the forest where he is accosted by a frightened soldier. Flume lives wildly in the forest because he is afraid of everyone who has threatened to kill him.
Cathcart has promoted Whitcomb for bringing...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
Everything is Yossarian’s fault. If he had not moved the bomb line during the siege of Bologna, Major de Coverly might still be here and would not have “stocked the enlisted men’s apartment with girls who had no place to live,” and Nately would not have fallen in love with his whore.
The girl Nately is in love with is tall, firm, and voluptuous, but none of the other men want her “at any price.” When she leaves, Nately follows her, and Yossarian and Aarfy find them two hours later. The girl is dressing to leave and Nately is distraught; he tells his friends that the girl is bored with him and wants to go. Aarfy is derisive and says she is just a whore. Yossarian is more comforting, reminding Nately that they know where all the whores gather and can find her again. Nately is distraught and claims to be in love with her.
Aarfy continues to berate her and warns Nately that he is going to tell Nately’s father about her. Nately declares that he will not tell his parents anything about the girl until after he marries her. This really amuses Aarfy, an expert on love because he loves Nately’s father. Aarfy hopes befriending Nately will be enough to buy him favor with Nately’s rich, influential father after the war.
Aarfy is a “lead navigator who [has] never been able to find himself since leaving college.” He constantly gets himself and his crew lost and then magnanimously forgives all the men who berate him for getting them lost or leading them directly into the line of fire. On one mission, Aarfy navigated them into heavy flak and Yossarian gets hit in the groin. He screams at Aarfy for help, but Aarfy just looks at him quizzically and says he cannot hear him.
Yossarian continues to holler at him, and Aarfy continues to shout back that he cannot hear him. After several of these infuriating exchanges, Yossarian faints. He wakes to find McWatt hovering over him. McWatt has stopped the bleeding from the artery in Yossarian’s thigh and Nately is flying them home.
Yossarian wakes in the hospital in the bed next to Dunbar, who has pulled rank and switched beds with another patient so he can be closer to Yossarian. When he is able to walk, Yossarian also pulls rank and takes the bed of a patient near Dunbar’s real bed. Nurse Cramer catches him and insists he return to his own bed but does not allow him to do so. Yossarian claims...
(The entire section is 492 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
Nurse Duckett is a “tall, spare, mature, straight-backed woman,… very lovely and very plain.” She is an intelligent, responsible, and capable woman. Yossarian pities her and decides to help by making sexual advances to her. Dunbar joins in the game until he knocks himself out in an attempt to grope her; now he actually suffers from the condition which he has been faking in order to avoid flying missions.
The doctor in charge scolds both men for their behavior, but of course Yossarian and Dunbar soon get him quite confused and he sends Yossarian to the psychiatrist, Major Sanderson. Sanderson encourages Yossarian to describe the recurring dreams he claims to have (which are actually Dunbar’s); however, Yossarian deftly turns Sanderson into the patient and Sanderson reveals his own violent sex dreams.
Yossarian tries to discover other people’s dreams which he can claim as his own with Sanderson. When Yossarian shares the chaplain’s rather normal, fearful dreams about his wife and children, Sanderson is appalled and believes anyone who dreams such things should not be allowed in the military. Yossarian slyly suggests that perhaps Sanderson should ground him and send him home. Yossarian also learns that Sanderson thinks Yossarian is actually Fortiori, the man whom Yossarian regularly kicks out of his bed just because he can.
Yossarian continues his strategy to earn a discharge and soon gets Sanderson so confused and upset that Sanderson shouts that Yossarian “ought to be taken outside and shot.” Back in the ward, Dobbs tells Yossarian that new soldiers are “pouring in” and hundreds of pilots, gunners, and bombardiers are waiting to leave in a “replacement center” in Naples, ready to go home after flying just forty-five missions. Though Dobbs has only two more missions to fly, he begs Yossarian to help him kill Colonel Cathcart. Dobbs shouts as he waves a gun and tears run down his face; he is desperate to act but is too afraid to act alone.
The chaplain comes to visit Yossarian; he has asked Doctor Daneeka for help, but Daneeka is too worried about his own fears to offer any help to others. Instead Daneeka suggests that the chaplain go to the mainland to see Wintergreen, a mail clerk who is successful in the military because he refuses to help anyone.
When Yossarian sees Sanderson again, the angry psychiatrist tells him he is...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
Yossarian is still recovering from his wound but flies two missions before he learns of another planned mission to Bologna. That is when he goes to see Dobbs to plan Colonel Cathcart’s murder. Dobbs is appalled at the idea, since he has now completed the two missions he needed and is waiting to go home. He suggests that Yossarian just fly his last two missions or else talk to Orr, who “might be unhappy enough to kill” Cathcart.
Orr’s airplane was “knocked down” again, though he was able to land the craft successfully. The life rafts did not inflate (because Milo Minderbinder stole the carbon dioxide from them in order to make ice cream sodas for the men), but the raft did; however, the aircraft sank quickly and soon the raft drifted aimlessly. A frantic, ridiculous Orr took charge for thirty minutes until the launch picked them up.
Yossarian goes directly back to his tent where Orr is once again working on the heater he is building. Orr has only flown eighteen missions and has had to crash land or ditch his airplane on nearly every one. He tells Yossarian he should fly with him because he has become an expert pilot at crash landing and ditching; Yossarian has requested not to fly with Orr in any circumstances. Yossarian worries about who will watch after Orr, the “warm-hearted simple-minded gnome.” Despite Orr’s many useful talents, no one will protect the small, ugly man once Yossarian has gone.
As Orr works on the heater, Yossarian thinks he will go crazy watching him and listening to him breathe; he even considers, for just a moment, killing Orr. Just then Orr begins a ridiculous conversation with Yossarian about all the women (prostitutes) who hate Yossarian, even if they do sleep with him. Orr ends with a serious question, asking Yossarian directly why he never flies with him.
Yossarian is ashamed and embarrassed and gives the excuse that he usually flies the lead plane; however, Orr knows that Yossarian went to Wren and Piltchard after their first (and only) mission together and requested never to fly with Orr again. Yossarian also asked not to fly with Dobbs or Hope, also. Now he lies, denying everything, but Orr will not be dissuaded. He knows Yossarian does not want to fly with him because he has no confidence in his ability to pilot a plane; he is not bitter or angry, just hurt, making things even more painful for Yossarian.
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
Orr does not appear for ten days, and Colonel Cathcart is told to prepare a letter to Orr’s next-of-kin. General Peckem has sent an order: there will be no parade this Sunday because Colonel Scheisskopf is being sent overseas. Scheisskopf does not approve of the move, nevertheless he reports to Peckem in Rome as ordered.
P.P. Peckem is a “handsome, pink-skinned man of fifty-three” who is quite aware of everyone’s ridiculousness but his own. His language is bombastic and he thinks he is most amusing. Scheisskopf is not amused and Peckem is stunned at the man’s lack of enthusiasm for his wittiness. Though this causes Peckem some self-doubt, he magnanimously forgives Scheisskopf and proceeds to flatter him with lies. He assures Scheisskopf that nothing they do in this department is very important and there is never a rush to get it done; however, it is imperative that others know they “do a great deal of it.”
If Scheisskopf needs more help than the two majors, four captains, and sixteen lieutenants he has already requested for his staff, he simply has to ask. Scheisskopf asks about the parades he was told he can have (he will not be allowed to have them) and about bringing his wife here with him, as he was told (he will not be allowed to bring her). Peckem reminds Scheisskopf that people have a right to lie to him. When he sees Scheisskopf wilt, Peckem is thankful to have such a weak subordinate; a strong-willed one would have been unbearable.
Peckem elaborately explains their current military position, honing in on their true enemy: Dreedle. If they can conquer him, they will have all the “aircraft and vital bases” they need in order to “carry their operations into other areas.” Peckem is gleeful at the thought of Dreedle’s impending demise, but all Scheisskopf is content to receive permission to send out weekly notifications that the parades have been postponed, which will be “infinitely more disconcerting.”
Colonel Cargill later demands to know why he cannot be the one to postpone the (nonexistent) parades. Peckem allows him to cancel equally non-existing USO shows. Before long, Peckem’s two colonels are silently antagonistic to one another, which is just what Peckem wants.
The next mission will use bombs to create a roadblock near a small village. Dunbar and Yossarian are shocked that the villagers...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
Yossarian no longer cares where his bombs fall. Dunbar drops his hundreds of yards away from the village, an offense punishable by court martial if anyone can prove it. Dunbar never laughs anymore and is always “crude and surly and profane,” even in front of the chaplain. The chaplain tries to talk to Wintergreen about lowering the required number of missions, but Wintergreen refuses to see him, “too deeply involved with wartime activities to concern himself with matters so trivial.”
Yossarian is again the lead bombardier; he is paired with McWatt, whom he likes, and Aarfy, whom he does not. McWatt is generally unafraid and loves performing low-flying, outrageously risky maneuvers just for fun; he assumes Yossarian also enjoys this kind of flying. He does not. Soon Yossarian has his hands around McWatt’s neck, threatening to kill him; McWatt relents and says Yossarian is too tense and should go home, but of course no one will let him. Yossarian is ashamed of his behavior, but McWatt readily forgives him. He still plans to make his low-flying passes over the beach.
Yossarian often takes Nurse Duckett to the beach when he feels the need to touch her, and she is happy to oblige. She is always accompanied by her best friend, Nurse Cramer, who sits ten yards away from them, in a huff because she does not approve of Yossarian. When the couple swims, she swims, too, always maintaining her ten-yard distance. Duckett enjoys Cramer more now that Cramer refuses to speak to her. Duckett thinks Yossarian is wonderful and is “already trying to change him.” Yossarian is never lonely when he is with her.
Yossarian is not prepared for what happens one day when McWatt makes one of his usual low-flying passes over the beach. Kid Sampson is in the water and leaps “clownishly” up to touch the airplane. Something happens, perhaps the wind, and one of the airplane propellers cuts Kid Sampson absolutely in half. The scene is horrifying and grizzly; nearly everyone on the beach is sprayed by blood or worse as they panic to get out of the water and off the beach.
Doctor Daneeka was supposed to be in the airplane with McWatt, but Yossarian always ensures that Daneeka never has to actually fly, as required, and Daneeka is on the ground, stunned. McWatt and two other pilots had been on a training flight, but now McWatt takes the airplane to five thousand feet and slowly...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
Chapter 31 Summary
When Colonel Cathcart discovers that Doctor Daneeka died in the plane crash with McWatt, he raises the number of required missions to seventy. Sergeant Towser is the first in the squadron to learn that Daneeka’s name was on the passenger list McWatt filed, he is sad and goes to tell others, “discreetly avoiding any conversation with Doc Daneeka himself” as he walks past the physician. Now Towser has two dead men to deal with: the one in Yossarian’s tent who is not there and Daneeka who is certainly alive and will provide a “still thornier administrative problem” for Townsend.
Daneeka’s temperature is even more below normal than usual; someone suggests that may be because he is dead. Daneeka is outraged, but the records do show that he was killed in the crash. When he rages at Towser, Towser suggests that Daneeka stay out of sight for a while, at least until a decision is made about what to do with his remains. The War Department informs Mrs. Daneeka of her husband’s death.
Mrs. Daneeka grieves loud and well for a week—until she receives a letter from her husband, in his own handwriting, telling her to ignore any letter she may have just received. She writes the War Department about the mistake, but it remains unmoved. She sends a letter to her husband, but it is returned to her unopened with “Killed in Action” stamped on it. Mrs. Daneeka is morose until she learns she is the sole beneficiary of her husband’s ten thousand dollar GI insurance policy.
Now she and her children will no longer have to struggle financially. The Veterans’ Administration informs her she is also entitled to a burial benefit as well as her husband’s pension and monthly support until her children turn eighteen. She uses these official letters as documentation of her husband’s death and she claims the benefits from her husband’s three life insurance policies, totaling fifty thousand dollars.
Every day brings Mrs. Daneeka new and unexpected treasure which is hers because her husband has supposedly dies. Soon her closest friends’ husbands begin to flirt with her, and she delightedly dyes her hair. While she is amazed that so many organizations want to help her bury her husband, Daneeka is busy in Pianosa trying to keep from being buried and wondering why his wife has not answered his letter. He is ostracized by his squadron who curse his memory for not...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
Chapter 32 Summary
The cold weather has come, but Yossarian is warm because of Orr’s stove. No one has retrieved Kid Sampson’s severed legs from the beach. The weather is miserable and every mission is difficult. The first thoughts Yossarian has every morning are about Kid Sampson’s “moldering stumps” and about Snowden freezing and wounded at the back of the airplane. Each night before he sleeps, Yossarian tries to remember everyone he has ever known who is now dead; the numbers keep increasing. The Germans are still fighting, and he suspects he is going to lose.
Yossarian would stay comfortably alone if his tent were not invaded by members of the “two full combat crews” Colonel Cathcart requisitioned to replace McWatt and Kid Sampson. His four new roommates are “noisy, overconfident, emptyheaded kids of twenty-one” who all know one another and lived normal, upper-class lives before coming here; they are thrilled that the war has “lasted long enough for them to find out what combat [is] really like.”
Sergeant Towser begs Yossarian to accept his roommates or move in with Lieutenant Nately; however, Yossarian refuses to abandon Orr’s tent, as it would be the same as abandoning Orr. So, Yossarian is stuck with the “boisterous, immature young men.” They depress him because they are always in “high spirits.” The newcomers call him Yo-Yo and admire all authority. They have a good time and are never silent; they do not have “brains enough to be introverted and repressed.”
Soon their buddies regularly invade the tent and Yossarian no longer has a place to be alone with Nurse Duckett. Yossarian invites Chief White Halfoat to his tent, hoping Halfoat’s “threats and swinish habits” will drive the boys away, but Halfoat is making plans to go to the hospital and die of pneumonia. Doctor Daneeka is living in Halfoat’s tent, but he is not allowed to practice medicine and does not collect a paycheck, which amuses Halfoat. When Halfoat suggests that perhaps Yossarian should get Captain Black to “kick those kids out,” Yossarian’s attitude toward his four rambunctious roommates becomes protective, and he resolves to be more “tolerant and benevolent” toward them.
That feeling lasts until he returns to his tent and is horrified to discover that his roommates are burning Orr’s birch logs in the stove. The next day they get rid of the dead...
(The entire section is 461 words.)
Chapter 33 Summary
While in Rome, Yossarian misses Nurse Duckett; he misses her so much that he goes “searching hungrily” for Luciana, the prostitute with a scar. But the more he misses Duckett, the more Yossarian finds other women to have sex with.
He meets others from his squadron. Aarfy refuses to join Yossarian and the others as they drunkenly go to a hotel to rescue Nately’s whore from a group of “middle-aged military big shots” who hired her along with two other prostitutes. They are keeping her captive because she will not say uncle. Actually, she readily says uncle but does not mean it because she does not understand what they are really asking her to do.
Yossarian, Dunbar, Nately, and others make a drunken racket, throwing furniture and uniforms out of the window as the naked officers watch, bewildered. Nately sneaks over to the couch and sits by the woman he loves; she looks blankly at him for a moment before smiling faintly at Nately, sending him into a state of ecstasy because she has never smiled at him before. The officers are glad to let her go, and Yossarian accompanies her and Nately to the woman’s apartment where she sleeps for eighteen hours.
When she wakes up, she is “deeply in love” with Nately. The woman’s little sister again jumps into the bed with them, and Nately begins to plan his future with this woman and her little sister. When he tells his girl friend he does not want other men to see her naked, both she and her sister are disgusted at him and haughtily leave the room. Nately tells his friends they have to look away from now on when she is naked. He sternly tells his girlfriend she must no longer prostitute herself or have “anything to do with” the old man who lives in her apartment. She believes Nately has gone “clear out of his mind.”
Nately is a “romantic idiot” and wants all his friends to fall in love immediately and get married, too. His girlfriend agrees not to sleep with Captain Black (or give him any of Nately’s money), but she refuses to ignore the “filthy-minded old man,” who is watching all of this with “insulting derision.” The woman and her sister are certain Nately is crazy, but the woman misses him when he is away and is furious at Yossarian for punching Nately in the face, breaking his nose, and sending him to the hospital.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Chapter 34 Summary
Sergeant Knight is really the one to blame for Yossarian’s breaking Nately’s nose on Thanksgiving Day. Milo Minderbinder provides an elaborate meal followed by all the cheap whiskey anyone can drink. Nearly everyone is either “merry or sick” in his drunkenness. Yossarian goes to bed early and is awakened a bit later to the sound of machine gun fire; this sends him under his cot in terror, a “trembling, praying ball” soaked with sweat.
He is furious to learn that that it was a drunken joke. He loads his .45 and leaves his tent, ignoring Nately’s attempts to stop him. The machine gun fire begins again and Yossarian is full of “ferocious rage and determination.” He begins running; Nately races after him and eventually Yossarian punches him in the nose in his determination to find the rioters. Yossarian meets Dunbar, who is also outraged at the reckless behavior, and they determine one of the shooters is Sergeant Knight. Before they go after Knight, they try to find and help Nately, but they cannot find him.
When they learn Nately is in the hospital, Yossarian and Dunbar also get themselves admitted and sneak into beds next to Nately. Nurse Duckett has decided she will marry a doctor, because doctors are rich and successful, so she will no longer compromise her reputation by maintaining a relationship with Yossarian. The chaplain is in the hospital with a case of Wisconsin shingles; he promised the doctors he would tell them when his disease goes away if they promised not to do anything to treat it. He is gleeful about telling the first lie in his life.
All of them leave for a movie showing; when they return they are horrified to see the soldier in white again. Their reaction creates a panic and patients begin to run; the ward is soon in chaos as the men unintentionally hurt each other in the hysteria. Even Nurse Cramer is frightened. Dunbar is convinced the white body cast is just an empty shell, and soon others believe it, too. The doctors and MPs try to re-establish order.
Nurse Duckett pulls Yossarian aside; he is hoping she has reconsidered her decision not to have sex with him, but she urgently tells him “they’re going to disappear” Dunbar. She heard the pronouncement through a closed door but does not know what it means. Yossarian tells her it is a ridiculous thing for anyone to say; nevertheless, he goes to warn Dunbar. Dunbar is...
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 35 Summary
Milo the Militant
Yossarian prays for the first time in his life: he prays to Nately not to volunteer to fly more than seventy missions. Chief White Halfoat did die of pneumonia in the hospital and Nately has applied to take his job. Nately is unmoved by Yossarian’s plea. He has to fly more missions or he will be sent home, and he does not want to go home until he can take his girl friend with him. Yossarian then urges Nately to get himself grounded, but Colonel Korn has told Nately that he must either fly more missions or go home. Yossarian talks to Milo Minderbinder who then talks to Colonel Cathcart.
Minderbinder has “been earning many distinctions for himself.” He sells petroleum and ball bearings to the Germans to help maintain a balance of power between the “contending forces.” He has also raised the price of his food (for the mess halls) so high that everyone has to give him everything they earn just to eat. He has also been caught stealing from his own countrymen, which makes Cathcart exceptionally proud. Cathcart is shocked when Minderbinder magnanimously volunteers to fly more missions.
Minderbinder has only flown five missions—four, technically. He was in the control tower for the fifth, though his airplanes and supplies were used for the mission, which he planned and supervised. Cathcart assures Minderbinder that five missions in eleven months is a “very good” record. Minderbinder graciously refuses to count the time Cathcart contracted with Minderbinder to bomb the bridge at Orvieto, since he was in Orvieto directing the antiaircraft fire during the attack.
Cathcart assures Minderbinder that he is certainly doing more than his share in the war effort. When Cathcart finally agrees to schedule Minderbinder for more missions, Minderbinder proceeds to confound the colonel with a complicated, convoluted list of things Cathcart must do while Minderbinder is flying missions. Finally Cathcart stops him, claiming Minderbinder is indispensable and forbids him to fly any more missions. The devious Minderbinder convinces Cathcart to have the other men in the squadron fly his missions for him.
In order to be fair, the men can take turns flying his missions, but Minderbinder will of course get the credit and any medals which might be awarded. To accomplish this task, Cathcart increases the number of required missions to eighty. Minderbinder gleefully...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Chapter 36 Summary
The disaster is too awful for Chaplain Tappman to contemplate. At first he prays that his closest friends have survived, but he knows that is not a proper prayer. He lives in constant fear that he is going to die without ever seeing his wife and children again. He rides to the landing field with Sergeant Whitcomb and tries not to listen as Whitcomb celebrates being able to write twelve letters of condolence all at once. When they arrive, the chaplain is in awe it the “great, appalling stillness.” He is overjoyed to see Yossarian but can immediately see by his face that Nately is dead. As the chaplain sobs his grief, someone takes him firmly by the arm and takes him away for questioning.
He asks why he is being questioned, but his interrogators only say they are confident they will soon find out what “very serious crimes” he has committed. Tappman is taken to a basement room where interrogation devices are prominently displayed to intimidate him, including a ceaselessly dripping faucet. A major asks the chaplain to write his signature and then accuses him of not writing his name in his own handwriting.
The major shows him a letter addressed to Mary, Tappman’s wife, which has been heavily censored. Tappman recognizes Yossarian’s handwriting but says he does not. The chaplain finally gets angry at the persistent circular arguments his interrogators make and demands to go back to his grieving squadron. The major shoves Tappman back into his chair and continues the ridiculous interrogation.
Colonel Cathcart claims Tappman stole a plum tomato from him; the chaplain maintains that Cathcart gave it to him, which is true. The major insists Tappman must be guilty or he would not be under interrogation. Next Tappman is accused of not believing in God because he once said atheism is not a crime. Tappman is formally charged with “being Washington Irving” and capriciously censoring letters. He is summarily found guilty and told not to leave the island; he is under constant surveillance.
Tappman is filled with “moral outrage” and confronts Colonel Korn about some of the men who die in the crash already having flown all seventy of their required missions. Korn is only worried about how he can write his report without making himself look bad. Tappman plans to talk next to General Dreedle but is shocked to learn that Dreedle is out and General Peckem is the...
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Chapter 37 Summary
General Dreedle is out of power and General Peckem is in; Peckem has hardly gotten settled before his tremendous military victory begins to fall apart around him. In addition to that, he is surprised to learn that Colonel Scheisskopf is now Lieutenant General Scheisskopf. Peckem asks the sergeant (his secretary) about it; the sergeant informs Peckem that Scheisskopf does not want Peckem to issue any orders to anyone in his command without clearing them through him.
For the first time in his life, Peckem swears aloud in his amazement. He assumes that the promotion was intended for him but was mistakenly given to Scheisskopf, instead. Colonel Cargill also wonders why Scheisskopf is giving orders to them if he is still in Special Services and they are in charge of combat operations. Peckem had not thought of this but grins at the thought. He triumphantly asks the sergeant that question and is told about another change. As of this morning, “all combat operations are now under the jurisdiction of Special Services.” Scheisskopf is not, officially, their commanding officer.
Peckem is horrified at the thought of Scheisskopf being in charge and immediately commands Cargill to get Wintergreen on the telephone. Suddenly all the telephones begin ringing at once, and a corporal runs in with the news that a chaplain is here to tell Peckem about an injustice that has been done in Colonel Cathcart’s squadron. Peckem orders that the chaplain be sent away, as there is enough to be dealt with here already.
The next announcement is that Scheisskopf is on the telephone and wants to speak to Peckem at once; Peckem orders the messenger to tell Scheisskopf that Peckem has not arrived yet. Suddenly Peckem is struck by the enormity of the disastrous problems caused by having Scheisskopf in charge. Peckem knows he is much more commanding than the timid and malleable Scheisskopf, a “blockhead,” but now Scheisskopf is his superior.
Someone finally reaches ex-Sergeant Wintergreen. Wintergreen has been trying to call Peckem all morning, as well. (Cargill is on another line and reports that Wintergreen’s line is busy.) Wintergreen is furious at Peckem for the ridiculous memoranda he sent asking for combat operations to be under the auspices of Special Services; just when his recommendation was approved, Peckem transferred to combat operations, which left...
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Chapter 38 Summary
Yossarian has refused to fly any more missions and is marching backwards with a gun on his hip. Captains Wren and Piltchard take him off the list for the next mission but report his refusal to Group Headquarters. Colonel Cathcart is disturbed to hear Yossarian’s name again, but Colonel Korn just laughs and says Yossarian has no choice but to fly more missions. That does not matter to Yossarian, so they begin by sending him to Rome for a few days to recover from Nately’s death.
When Yossarian tells Nately’s whore that Nately has been killed, she stabs at him with a potato peeler.” She assumes Yossarian is the one who killed him, and she is so crazed that Yossarian is afraid he might not be able to defend himself against her prolonged attack with various items. Finally she collapses in her desolation and cries out her grief and anguish. Yossarian awkwardly consoles her and she is docile for a moment before she tries to kill him again.
The woman’s kid sister also attacks him, and Yossarian knows he must leave. He throws the younger sister at the older and narrowly escapes. He is covered with cuts and goes to wash the blood off; when he emerges from the bathroom, the woman is waiting to ambush him with a steak knife. He eludes her and makes Hungry Joe fly him back to Pianosa; he is astonished to discover Nately’s whore has stowed away, disguised as a mechanic. She tries to stab him again, so he holds her down as Hungry Joe flies them back to Rome. Yossarian dumps her on the runway before the plane, without stopping, continues back to Pianosa. Yossarian spends the evening in the officer’s lounge, warily watching for her to reappear. She does, disguised as a local farmer. Hungry Joe flies far behind enemy lines and Yossarian straps Nately’s whore to a parachute and “shoves her out the escape hatch.” He is confident she will not be bothering him again.
He nearly faints when he sees a figure crouching near his tent. It is a pilot; he encourages Yossarian to remain firm in his resolve not to fly any more missions. Next Appleby emerges from the shadows to tell him that the commanders are bluffing; they will not court martial him for his refusal because Yossarian is a hero for twice bombing the bridge at Ferrara. Havermeyer is the next person to come out of hiding to talk to him, and others do the same, worried about flying their own missions and encouraging...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 39 Summary
The Eternal City
Yossarian is “absent without official leave” as Milo Minderbinder flies him to Rome, piously scolding him for being disloyal. It is selfish of Yossarian to think only about his own safety while he, Colonels Cathcart and Korn, and others (none of whom do anything dangerous) are doing everything they can to win the war. Minderbinder claims that Yossarian is “jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.”
Yossarian nods but is thinking of all the people he knows who have died in this war. He understands why Nately’s whore holds him responsible for Nately’s death, as he is part of the older generation responsible for every “unnatural tragedy” that befalls the younger people.
Rome is “in ruins” from the war, and only one old woman remains at the crumbling apartment where Nately’s girlfriend and kid sister once lived. She is mourning the loss of all the young girls who were chased by the police into the cold streets without even their coats. She tells Yossarian the police claimed they could do this because of Catch-22, which says they have a “right to do anything [the people] can’t stop them from doing.” Yossarian is furious, certain that Catch-22 does not exist, but he knows all that matters is that people believe it exists.
Yossarian enlists Minderbinder’s help in finding the kid sister; for a time Minderbinder is engaged in helping, but he is soon distracted by the prospect of smuggling illegal tobacco. Yossarian wanders the streets, moved to such intense pity for all the poverty-stricken people he sees that he wants to kill them because they remind him of all the “stupefying misery” in the world. The evidence of awful inhumanity assaults him until he longs to be soothed. He remembers he has no leave papers and hurries to the officers’ apartment where Aarfy has raped an innocent maid and then killed her by dropping her out of the window.
Aarfy explains simply that he had to kill her after he raped her or she would have said “bad things” about American officers. Aarfy is confident that he will not be imprisoned “for killing her.” Her broken body is still lying outside below the window, a clear violation of the curfew, according to Aarfy, so she is to blame. Yossarian hears the sirens and finally convinces Aarfy that the police are coming for...
(The entire section is 496 words.)
Chapter 40 Summary
Of course there is a catch to Yossarian’s being able to leave—a Catch-22. Colonel Cathcart is fuming at all the trouble Yossarian has caused, but Colonel Korn is pleasant, reminding Yossarian that he has been treated well here: fed daily, paid on time, promoted to captain, and given a medal. Korn is convinced Yossarian will accept the “despicable deal” he is about to offer.
Korn admires Yossarian a little because he is an “intelligent person of great moral character who has taken a very courageous stand”; Korn admits he is also an intelligent person but has “no moral character at all.” All Cathcart keeps asking is whether Yossarian is aware that they are in the midst of a war; of course Yossarian is quite aware of that obvious fact.
The two colonels argue incessantly during this discussion, often ignoring Yossarian altogether. The plan they have devised will send Yossarian home in two weeks without “causing too much dissatisfaction” with the others, and Korn is certain Yossarian will accept it because his only alternative is a court-martial for desertion of duty.
Cathcart is only concerned about how any of this is going to affect him and how he can please both General Peckem and General Scheisskopf, who hate one another. Korn wants to be a full colonel and Cathcart wants to be a general because, like everyone, they aspire to have more. That is why they must send Yossarian home; he will leave in two weeks if he simply agrees to like them. He just has to say “nice things” about them here and back in the States.
It seems so simple, but Yossarian realizes Korn was telling the truth when he said this would not be an easy decision for Yossarian. The colonels intend to make things as easy as they can for Yossarian by promoting him to major and awarding him another medal. Articles will be written about him, praising him for his valor at Ferrara and his loyalty to man and country. Yossarian will leave here a hero and tell everyone his protest over not flying any more missions was only a “minor disagreement between pals, that’s all.”
The other men will be appeased by this and fly more missions without complaining. Yossarian is unsure, knowing this is a “crummy trick” to play on his fellow soldiers. In a moment, however, he jubilantly accepts the deal; he says if the others are unhappy, they can do something themselves, as he...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Chapter 41 Summary
Yossarian wakes in the hospital as people argue over whether he needs surgery. Nearly all of them are clearly inept, so Yossarian pretends to be unconscious so no one will take any action. Eventually he has to protest their outrageous suggestions; they finally anesthetize him so they can do what they want with him.
Yossarian wakes up in a private room with Colonel Korn assuring him that their deal is still in effect, assuming Yossarian lives. Yossarian promptly vomits and Korn rushes off in disgust. Later, he is roughly awakened by a “strange man with a mean face” who claims that he has Yossarian’s “pal.”
Yossarian wakes later and the chaplain says Yossarian’s wound is minor, so he will be able to leave the hospital in a few days. The chaplain has been spending most of his time hiding out and praying; he offers to get Yossarian whatever he needs. Everyone is proud of Yossarian for stopping the “Nazi assassin” who was hiding out, waiting to kill Korn and Colonel Cathcart.
Yossarian laughs and explains the “assassin” was just Nately’s girlfriend who has been trying to kill Yossarian ever since Nately died. Yossarian explains the deal the colonels offered him, and the chaplain is at first appalled. Yossarian assures the chaplain he does not intend to take the deal because he does not want to be credited with saving Cathcart’s life. Yossarian will either fly more missions or desert and let the authorities catch him.
Yossarian asks about the man who claimed to have his “pal,” but soon he realizes that all his friends have been killed, all but Hungry Joe. The chaplain has to tell Yossarian that Hungry Joe “died in his sleep while having a dream.” A cat was lying on his face.
In the middle of the night, another mean man dressed as a patient tells Yossarian that he has his pal. Yossarian lunges ineffectually at the man who slithers away with a “malicious laugh.” A troubled Yossarian cannot sleep, as he remembers helping Snowden, a man who was wounded in the rear section of the airplane they were flying.
The jagged, football-sized gash in Snowden’s thigh is gruesome, and Yossarian discovers the morphine in the first aid kit has been taken by Milo Minderbinder (in trade for something else, of course). Yossarian fashions a tourniquet and is quite composed as he does something he actually knows how to do. The leg...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
Chapter 42 Summary
Major Danby assures Yossarian that his deal with the colonels is still on, but Yossarian assures him that he is breaking his word because it is an “odious deal.” Yossarian wants to be sent home because he flew his required missions, not because he was stabbed by a crazy girl or because he is stubborn. He assures the nervous Danby that the colonels will not court-martial him because they filed an official report that made Yossarian a hero.
Danby assures Yossarian there are always multiple official reports, some of which make Yossarian a criminal; the colonels can create and choose any official report which suits their needs. If Yossarian is court-martialed, the colonels will accuse him of many crimes he did not commit and will produce false witnesses to testify. Danby is a university professor who encourages Yossarian to hold fast to his ideals and values, despite the fact that people are not always good. Yossarian must think only about what is best for “the welfare of [his] country and the dignity of man.” Being court-martialed will benefit neither and, in fact, damage both.
Yossarian fought to save his country, and now he intends to fight himself. He is confident the war will be over soon; his country is no longer in danger, but he is. When Yossarian asks Danby if he would take the deal, Danby eventually admits he would never let anyone send him home, but he would also never be court-martialed or fly more missions. All those who might have helped Yossarian are now in league with one another and will not help him.
The chaplain bursts into the room to announce that Orr was found washed ashore in Sweden after weeks at sea. Yossarian realizes Orr rowed to Sweden to escape the war. The chaplain is encouraged and resolves to persevere until the war ends. Yossarian hopes Clevinger might have done the same thing and is still hiding in the clouds somewhere.
Orr practiced for this grand escape by getting shot down on every mission. Yossarian is dismayed that he never suspected Clevinger’s cleverness. Yossarian tells Danby he is going to fly to Rome and then get to Sweden. He is not shirking his responsibilities; he is embracing his obligation to save his own life.
The chaplain brings Yossarian’s uniform and proudly announces he will now bother the commanders in Yossarian’s place. Danby fears both men have gone crazy, but the chaplain...
(The entire section is 505 words.)