Summary — Chapter 17: The Soldier in White
Yossarian has gone back to the hospital. While there, he finds life (as well as death to be more tolerable than the recurring memories he experiences of a bomb run during which Snowden was dying in the back of the plane, quietly saying, “I’m cold.” Death has a polite and orderly feeling at the hospital. There isn’t any unjustifiable violence there. Dunbar is in the hospital at the same time. They are both confused by the man entirely covered with plaster bandages, referred to as the soldier in white. The men in the hospital talk about how unjust death can be: why are some men killed while others are not? Why do some men become ill while others do not? There seems to be no logic or pattern to any of this. Before this, Clevinger had tried to provide some sort of explanation as to why there could be a certain amount of justice in some illogical deaths. However, Yossarian was preoccupied with staying aware of all the forces that were trying to cause his demise to listen. A bit later, Yossarian and Hungry Joe bring together lists of fatal diseases that they can say they have. However, Doc Daneeka often refuses go ground them even when they say that they have these diseases. The doctor claims that once Yossarian has flown his fifty-five missions, he will consider helping him.
Summary — Chapter 18: The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice
Yossarian is still a private the first time he ever goes to the hospital. He pretends he has an abdominal pain. However, when the doctors declare that he has been cured, he feigns having the same mysterious illness as another soldier in the ward who claims he “sees everything twice.” He remains in the hospital over Thanksgiving. He promises himself that he will spend all Thanksgivings in the future there. Yet he fails to keep this promise when his next Thanksgiving is spent with Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife, in bed, in an argument about God. Once Yossarian says that he has been cured of the ailment that makes him see everything twice, he is asked to pretend that is a dying soldier whose father, mother, and brother have come to see him. The family, which has arrived to see their family member, is unaware that he had passed away that morning. Yossarian pretends that he is the dying soldier, and the doctors bandage him. Yossarian is asked by the soldier’s father to tell God that it is wrong for men to die so young.
Summary — Chapter 19: Colonel Cathcart
Haven’t you got anything humorous that stays away from . . . God? I’d like to keep away from the subject of religion altogether if we can.
Colonel Cathcart, always ambitious, bullies the chaplain. He demands that there be a prayer prior to each bombing run. This is an idea that he finds in the Saturday Evening Post. He subsequently abandons this idea once the chaplain indicates that God might punish them for failing to include the enlisted men. The chaplain tentatively mentions that some of the men have made complaints about Colonel Cathcart’s practice of increasing the required number of missions every few weeks. Colonel Cathcart ignores this.
Summary — Chapter 20: Corporal Whitcomb
While making his way home, the chaplain comes across Colonel Korn. Colonel Korn, Colonel Cathcart’s sidekick, is cynical and artful in character. Colonel Korn mocks Colonel Cathcart. He views a plum tomato that Colonel Cathcart offers to the chaplain with a suspicious eye. When the chaplain reaches his tent in the woods, he sees Corporal Whitcomb, who has a hostile attitude. Corporal Whitcomb is his atheistic assistant. He resents the chaplain for thwarting his advancement in his career. Corporal Whitcomb informs the chaplain that a C.I.D. man suspects that the chaplain has signed the name of Washington Irving to official papers, as well as stealing plum tomatoes. The chaplain is extremely unhappy. He feels unable to improve other people’s lives.
Summary — Chapter 21: General Dreedle
Colonel Cathcart is now preoccupied by how Yossarian is acting, specifically the way he complains about how many missions are required and the fact that he showed up naked at his medal ceremony soon after Snowden’s death. Snowden, who had been dying in the back of the plane, bled all over Yossarian. This is reason why he took off his clothes. Yossarian felt he would never again want to put on a uniform. Yossarian also bears responsibility for an epidemic of moaning at the briefing that occurred prior to the Avignon mission (the one in which Snowden was killed). This was because he moaned at the idea that the dangers of the mission could mean that he might never again sleep with beautiful women.
Colonel Cathcart wishes he could find a way to solve the problem that Yossarian’s mischief causes. It would certainly impress his commanding officer, General Dreedle. However, General Dreedle is entirely careless of anything his men do, as long as they stay alive in high enough quantities for military purposes. He brings an attractive nurse with him everywhere he travels and is primarily concerned about his son-in-law, Colonel Moodus. He hates him and sometimes asks Chief Whtie Halfoat to punch him in the nose. The narrator tells us that Colonel Korn once attempted to undermine Colonel Cathcart by giving an overblown briefing in order to impress General Dreedle. It doesn’t work, as General Dreedle does not find the brief impressive. General Dreedle While talking to Colonel Cathcart, General Dreedle said that Colonel Corn made him sick.