Chapter 2 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 811

Clevinger

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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 just offshore where the men swim naked. Nately does not seem to mind living with a crazy man because he is crazy too, spending every free day working on the officers’ club which Yossarian has not helped to build.

The officers’ club Yossarian is most proud of not building is the one on Pianosa. It is a fine, sturdy building, and Yossarian goes there often, filled with a huge sense of accomplishment that he did nothing to help create it. The last time he and Clevinger called one another crazy, they were there. Appleby, a blond boy from Iowa, is playing at the nearby crap table. Appleby is good at everything and is the typical all-American boy whom everyone likes. Yossarian hates him.

Yossarian cannot find a machine gun; he wants to machine-gun everyone singing unknown, sappy songs while standing at the bar. In his frustration, Yossarian stomps on a wayward ping-pong ball. When the officers good-naturedly tease Yossarian, he seems to be playing along with them; however, Clevinger knows he is actually displaying his “antisocial aggressions.” Dunbar dislikes Clevinger because he is annoying and makes time pass more slowly and tells Clevinger to be quiet.

Every conversation with Yossarian is confusing. Yossarian patiently tries to convince Clevinger that people are always trying to kill Yossarian because he is Assyrian. He is only alive because is a “bona fide supraman.” Clevinger is frustrated and confused, accusing Yossarian of being like Raskolnikov, who killed an old woman without any provocation and yet justified the murder. Yossarian calmly explains that he is obviously right because he has never been wrong. Everyone else is so crazy that it is a miracle Yossarian has managed to stay alive amid so much hatred and craziness.

After returning from the hospital, Yossarian is wary and suspicious of everyone, but he eats well at Milo’s mess hall. Yossarian thinks the food might be worth everything else until he remembers everyone is trying to kill him. He finds Doc Daneeka so he can take himself off combat duty and be sent home; Daneeka tells Yossarian that the colonel now wants fifty missions from anyone who wants to go home. Yossarian laments that he only has forty-four, but Daneeka is unmoved. 

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