Chapter 5 Summary

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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 this argument on everyone he meets: how can a man see that he has flies in his eyes is he has flies in his eyes? Appleby walks away bewildered and Havermeyer plays along with Yossarian but does not understand the point.

Yossarian hates the B-25 because he can only reach the escape hatch or his parachute by climbing through a narrow crawlway. There are no rules for evasive action—just fear. Yossarian is the greatest coward he knows, and he trusts no one else to perform evasive actions on missions. 

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