Chapter 34 Summary

Thanksgiving

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 “nowhere to be found.”