Catch-22
Joseph Heller
Contributed by Sherie Debus

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Chapters 32-37
Summary

Summary Chapter 32: Yo-Yos Roomies

The cold weather arrives. Kid Sampson’s legs are still on the beach. This is because no one is willing to go and get them. When Yossarian wakes up every morning, the first images that he recalls are Snowden and Kid Sampson’s legs. Orr never comes back, and four new roommates now join Yossarian. They are only twenty-one years old and have no experience of combat. They joke around and call him “Yo-Yo.” This makes him so angry that he has murderous emotions. Yossarian attempts to persuade Chief White Halfoat to frighten these new officers away by moving in with him. Halfoat, however, has decided that he will go into the hospital to die of pneumonia. Yossarian starts to feel a greater sense of protectiveness towards the men. However, they burn Orr’s birch legs. They also abruptly remove Mudd’s belongings from the tent. Mudd was the dead man whose belongings have always been in Yossarian’s tent. In a panic, Yossarian goes to Rome with Hungry Joe. This is the day before Nately’s prostitute has a long sleep. She awakens the following morning to find that she is in love.

Summary Chapter 33: Natelys Whore

Yossarian misses Nurse Duckett while in Rome. He searches for Luciana but is not able to find her. He goes with Nately on a mission. It is to rescue Nately’s whore from some army officers who refuse to let her leave their hotel room. Once the rescue takes place and she has a long sleep, she falls in love with Nately. They lie in bed together until the prostitute’s little sister gets in with them. Nately starts to have strange fantasies of bringing his prostitute and her little sister to America. He thinks he could bring up the little sister as if she is his own child. However, when the prostitute finds out that he wants her to stop going out and hustling, she becomes very angry. They have an argument. The other men try to help. Nately attempts to convince them that they can all come to the same suburb. They can work for his father. He attempts to tell his prostitute never to again speak to the old man in the hotel. She becomes even more furious. However, she misses Nately when he is gone. When Yossarian punches Nately in the face, breaking his nose, she is very angry with him.

Summary Chapter 34: Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving, Milo encourages the men to get drunk on cheap whiskey. This is when Yossarian breaks Nately’s nose. Yossarian decides to go to bed early. When he awakens, he hears the sound of machine-gun fire. While he is terrified at first, he promptly understands that some men are just firing machines guns as a joke. This makes him furious, and he tries to confiscate their guns to get revenge. When Nately tries to hold him back from doing this, Yossarian breaks his nose. Nately ends up in the hospital the following morning. Yossarian feels very guilty for what he has done. They see the chaplain while at the hospital. He told a lie so that he could be admitted. He said he had a disease called Wisconsin shingles. He has found out how to rationalize vice, making it seem like virtue. This makes him feel wonderful. The soldier in white is suddenly brought into the room. This makes Dunbar panic. He starts screaming. Everyone else in the ward screams, as well. Nurse Duckett tells Yossarian that she heard some of the doctors discussing their plans to “disappear” Dunbar. Yossarian wants to warn Dunbar but cannot find him.

Summary Chapter 35: Milo the Militant

Once Chief White Halfoat finally passes away of pneumonia and Nately completes his seventy missions, Yossarian pleads with Nately not to volunteer to go on more than seventy missions. However, Nately does not want to go home, not until he can bring his prostitute with him. Yossarian requests help from Milo. Milo immediately visits Colonel Cathcart, wanting to talk about being assigned to additional combat missions. Finally, Milo has been shown to be not only a fraud but a tyrant. He does not intend to give any person a fair share of the indicate. However, his influence and power are still strong and he is admired by everyone. He feigns feeling guilty for not doing his duty (flying missions). He sneakily asks Colonel Cathcart to let him take on more dangerous combat duties. Milo explains that someone else will need to run the syndicate. Colonel Cathcart volunteers both Colonel Korn and himself. Milo explains the complexity of the business and its operations to Cathcart, forcing the colonel to become confused by Milo’s logical traps. The colonel says that Milo is the sole man who is capable of running it. He forbids Milo from going on any other combat missions. He indicates that he might compel the other men to go on Milo’s missions in his stead. If one of them wins a medal in the process, Milo will be given the medal. He explains that to make this plan a possibility, he will increase the number of missions required of each man to eighty. The alarm sounds the following morning. The men leave on a mission that ends up being extremely deadly. Nately and Dobbs are among the twelve men killed.

Summary Chapter 36: The Cellar

The chaplain is terribly upset by Nately’s death. He finds out about the death at the airfield when the men are coming back from their mission. The chaplain is suddenly brought away by some military police who accuse him of a crime, not saying what the crime is. A colonel accuses the chaplain of committing forgery. He interrogates the chaplain. The only evidence presented is a letter that Yossarian forged while in the hospital and signed using the chaplain’s name quite a long time previously. The colonel then says that the chaplain stole the plum tomato from Colonel Cathcart. He also accuses him of being Washington Irving. The men in the room irrationally consider him guilty of unspecified crimes that they assume he must have committed. They tell him to continue with his business while they come up with a punishment. The chaplain leaves, furious. He confronts Colonel Korn about the required number of missions. He informs Colonel Korn about his plan to immediately present the matter to General Dreedle. The colonel is gleeful when he says that General Peckem has taken General Dreedle’s place as wing commander. He goes on to inform the chaplain that he and Colonel Cathcart have the right to force the men to fly as many missions as they want. They have transferred Dr. Stubbs. Dr. Stubbs had offered to ground men who have flown more than seventy missions to the Pacific.

Summary Chapter 37: General Scheisskopf

General Peckem’s victory quickly loses its luster. On his first day at the head of General Dreedle’s former operation, he finds out that Scheisskopf has been promoted to the position of lieutenant general. He now has the position of commanding officer for all combat operations. He has control over General Peckem and the entire group, and he wishes to force every man march in parades.

Analysis

The first section of this part of the novel involves Yossarian’s 21-year-old roommates and the tale of Nately’s prostitute. It marks a return to the high comedy we see earlier in the novel. There is one significant difference, though. This is that Yossarian teeters on the edge of a breakdown. He appears to be aware of that. The disappearance of Orr is very difficult to deal with. Yossarian is constantly besieged by thoughts of dismemberment and death. The high comedy that we see in this part of the book reaches an abrupt stop with the strange return of the soldier in white. After this we see the unexplained disappearance of Dunbar and the deaths of Dobbs, Nately, and Chief White Halfoat. The squadron is starting to fall apart. The rejection of General Dreedle for the promotion of General Peckem signifies that even the powerful military bureaucracy is being turned on its head. General Peckem immediately finds out that General Scheisskopf is now his superior in the hierarchy. Additionally, Scheisskopf’s desire for all men under his command to take part in parades makes for a ridiculous juxtaposition with the realities of war.

As the story of Yossarian makes its way further towards its climax, the feeling of unknown danger coming from all sides becomes more intense. We see the gunfire in the dark and Dunbar’s disappearance, as well as the way the chaplain is suddenly interrogated for an unnamed crime. (This scene brings to mind a scene in The Trial by Franz Kafka, in which the story’s protagonist awakens one day to discover himself accused of a crime, the nature of which no one will explain to him). It is the illogical character of the chaplain’s interrogation that makes it especially terrifying. If he could know what crime of which he was accused or if the interrogators would listen to anything he said, the chaplain would feel a much greater sense of control over the situation. In the situation as it stands, though, every attempt he makes to clear his name are pushed won with the same nonsensical arguments. He cannot do anything. He understands that the people holding him captive could beat him until he died if they wished and that he couldn’t do anything about it. The situation of the chaplain bears similarities to that of every man in the squadron in one way: by no choice of their own, their lives rest in the careless hands of others. In an illogical world, their logical wish to be free because they are innocent has no meaning.

The fact that no goal appears to be achievable is another terribly restrictive condition in which the squadron exists. Whenever one of the men completes his missions, the number required is increased. When Orr completes the building of his stove, he is shot down. He disappears. When Nately’s prostitute falls in love with him, he dies in combat. In these circumstances, the fact that the men have enough spirit to try to accomplish anything seems incredible. Heller never goes so far as to criticize the existence of the war itself. After all, it would be extremely difficult to argue that Hitler did not have to be defeated. Rather, he directs his criticism at the manner in which the war is carried out.

This part of the novel is also among the only extended sequences of chapters told in conventional linear time. In fact, this is the same timeline that brings up directly to the end of the novel. Heller makes use of this extended chronological sequence to enhance the feeling of momentum that builds toward a climax. The linear progression of time links to a growing feeling of disorder in Yossarian’s world. The lack of control and sense of helplessness felt by the men spirals to a feverish level. Everything surrounding Yossarian seems to fall apart. The novel consequently takes on the sensation of a moving walkway. It inevitably leads in the direction of an ominous and mysterious ending.

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