Chapter 4 Summary

Doc Daneeka

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 else.