Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 498
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 with the bitterness and envy of the men who had just begun to treat him as a friend. Cathcart believes all men are created equal, and he hates everyone outside Group Headquarters “with equal fervor.”
The Twenty-seventh Air Force Command says forty missions are enough for a pilot to go home, but Doc Daneeka explains that Catch-22 says every soldier must obey his commander—even if the commander breaks a military order—and therefore pilots must fly the fifty-five missions Cathcart now says are required.
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