American Literature books summary
about all the people who have died underwater, including Orr and Clevinger.
One day, McWatt is buzzing the beach in his plane as a joke, when a gust of
wind causes the plane to drop for a split second--just long enough for the
propellor to slice Kid Sampson in half. Kid Samson's body splatters all
over the beach. Back at the base, everyone is occupied with the disaster;
McWatt will not land his plane, but keeps flying higher and higher.
Yossarian runs down the runway yelling at McWatt to come down, but he knows
what McWatt is going to do, and McWatt does it, crashing his plane into the
side of a mountain, killing himself. Colonel Cathcart is so upset that he
raises the number of missions to sixty-five.
When Colonel Cathcart learns that Doc Daneeka was also killed in the
crash, he raises the number of missions to seventy. Actually, Doc Daneeka
was not killed in the crash, but the records--which Doc Daneeka, hating to
fly, bribed Yossarian to alter--maintain that the doctor was in the plane
with McWatt, collecting some flight time. Doc Daneeka is startled to hear
that he is dead, but Doc Daneeka's wife in America, who receives a letter
to that effect from the military, is shattered. Heroically, she finds the
strength to carry on, and is cheered to learn that she will be receiving a
number of monthly payments from various military departments for the rest
of her life, as well as sizable life insurance payments from her husband's
insurance company. Husbands of her friends begin to flirt with her, and she
dies her hair. In Pianosa, Doc Daneeka finds himself ostracized by the men,
who blame him for the raise in the number of missions they are required to
fly. He is no longer allowed to practice medicine and realizes that, in one
sense, he really is dead. He sends a passionate letter to his wife begging
her to alert the authorities that he is still alive. She considers the
possibility, but after receiving a form letter from Colonel Cathcart
expressing regret over her husband's death, she moves her children to
Lansing, Michigan and leaves no forwarding address.
The cold weather comes, and Kid Sampson's legs are left on the beach;
no one will retrieve them. The first things Yossarian remembers when he
wakes up each morning are Kid Sampson's legs and Snowden. When Orr never
returns, Yossarian is given four new roommates, a group of shiny-faced
twenty- one year-olds who have never seen combat. They clown around,
calling Yossarian "Yo-Yo" and rousing in him a murderous hatred. Yossarian
tries to convince Chief White Halfoat to move in with them and scare the
new officers away, but Halfoat has decided to move into the hospital to die
of pneumonia. Slowly, Yossarian begins to feel more protective toward the
men, but then they burn Orr's birch logs and suddenly move Mudd's
belongings out of the tent--the dead man who has lived there for so long is
abruptly gone. Yossarian panics and flees to Rome with Hungry Joe the night
before Nately's whore finally gets a good night's sleep and wakes up in
In Rome, Yossarian misses Nurse Duckett and goes searching in vain for
Luciana. Nately languishes in bed with his whore, when suddenly Nately's
whore's kid sister dives into bed with them. Nately begins to cherish wild
fantasies of moving his whore and her sister back to America and bringing
the sister up like his own child, but when his whore hears that he no
longer wants her to go out hustling she becomes furious, and an argument
ensues. The other men try to intervene, and Nately tries to convince them
that they can all move to the same suburb and work for his father. He tries
to forbid his whore from ever speaking again to the old man in the whores'
hotel, and she becomes even angrier, but she still misses Nately when he
leaves and is furious with Yossarian when he punches Nately in the face,
breaking his nose.
Yossarian breaks Nately's nose on Thansksgiving, after Milo gets all
the men drunk on bottles of cheap whiskey. Yossarian goes to bed early, but
wakes up to the sound of machine gun fire. At first he is terrified, but he
quickly realizes that a group of men are firing machine guns as a prank. He
is furious, and takes his .45 in pursuit of revenge. Nately tries to stop
him, and Yossarian breaks his nose. He fires at someone in the darkness,
but when a return shot comes Yossarian recognizes it as Dunbar's. He and
Dunbar call out to each other, and go back to help Nately. They cannot find
him, and discover him in the hospital the next morning. Yossarian feels
terribly guilty for having broken Nately's nose. They encounter the
chaplain in the hospital; he has lied to get in, claiming to have a disease
called Wisconsin shingles, and feels wonderful--he has learned how to
rationalize vice into virtue. Suddenly the soldier in white is wheeled into
the room, and Dunbar panics; he begins screaming, and soon everyone in the
ward joins in. Nurse Duckett warns Yossarian that she overheard some
doctors talking about how they planned to "disappear" Dunbar. Yossarian
goes to warn his friend, but cannot find him.
When Chief White Halfoat finally dies of pneumonia and Nately finishes
his seventy missions, Yossarian prays for the first time in his life,
asking God to keep Nately from volunteering to fly more than seventy
missions. But Nately does not want to be sent home until he can take his
whore with him. Yossarian goes for help from Milo, who immediately goes to
see Colonel Cathcart about having himself assigned to more combat missions.
Milo has finally been exposed as the tyrannical fraud he is; he has no
intention of giving anyone a real share of the syndicate--but his power and
influence are at their peak and everyone admires him. He feels guilty for
not doing his duty and flying missions, and asks the deferential Colonel
Cathcart to assign him to more dangerous combat duties. Milo tells Colonel
Cathcart that someone else will have to run the syndicate, and Colonel
Cathcart volunteers himself and Colonel Korn. When Milo explains the
complex operations of the business to Cathcart, the colonel declares Milo
the only man who could possibly run it, and forbids Milo from flying
another combat mission. He suggests that he might make the other men fly
Milo's missions for him, and if one of those men wins a medal, Milo will
get the medal. To enable this, he says, he will ratchet the number of
required missions up to eighty. The next morning the alarm sounds and the
men fly off on a mission that turns out to be particularly deadly. Twelve
men are killed, including Dobbs and Nately.
The chaplain is devastated by Nately's death. When he learns that
twelve men have been killed, he prays that Yossarian, Hungry Joe, Nately,
and his other friends will not be among them. But when he rides out to the
field, he understands from the despairing look on Yossarian's face that
Nately is dead. Suddenly, the Chaplain is dragged away by a group of
military police who accuse him of an unspecified crime. He is interrogated
by a colonel who claims the chaplain has forged his name in letters--his
only evidence is a letter Yossarian forged in the hospital and signed with
the chaplain's name some time ago. Then he accuses the chaplain of stealing
the plum tomato from Colonel Cathcart and of being Washington Irving. The
men in the room idiotically find him guilty of unspecified crimes they
assume he has committed, then order him to go about his business while they
think of a way to punish him. The chaplain leaves and furiously goes to
confront Colonel Korn about the number of missions the men are required to
fly. He tells Colonel Korn he plans to bring the matter directly to General
Dreedle's attention, but the colonel replies gleefully that General Dreedle
has been replaced with General Peckem as wing commander. He then tells the
chaplain that he and Colonel Cathcart can make the men fly as many missions
as they want to make them fly--they've even transferred Dr. Stubbs, who had
offerred to ground any man with seventy missions, to the Pacific.
General Peckem's victory sours quickly. On his first day in charge of
General Dreedle's old operation, he learns that Scheisskopf has been
promoted to lieutenant general and is now the commanding officer for all
combat operations: He is in charge of General Peckem and his entire group.
And he intends to make every single man present march in parades.
Yossarian marches around backwards so no one can sneak up behind him
and refuses to fly in any more combat missions. When they are informed of
this, Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn decide to take brief pity on
Yossarian for the death of his friend Nately, and send him to Rome, where
he breaks the news of Nately's death to Nately's whore, who tries to kill
Yossarian with a potato peeler for bringer her the bad news. When he
resists, she tries to seduce him, then stabs at him with a knife again when
he seems to have relaxed. Nately's whore's kid sister materializes, and
tries to stab Yossarian as well. Yossarian loses patience, picks up
Nately's whore's kid sister and throws her bodily at Nately's whore, then
leaves the apartment. He notices people are staring at him, and suddenly
realizes that he has been stabbed several times and is bleeding everywhere.
He goes to a Red Cross building and cleans his wounds, and when he emerges
Nately's whore is waiting in ambush and tries to stab him again. He punches
her in the jaw, catches her as she passes out and sets her down gently.
Hungry Joe flies him back to Pianosa, where Nately's whore is waiting to
kill him with a steak knife. He eludes her, but she continues to try to
kill him at every opportunity. Yossarian walks around backwards; as word
spreads that he has refused to fly more combat missions, men begin to
approach him, only at night, and to ask him if it's true, and to tell him
they hope he gets away with it. One day Captain Black tells him that
Nately's whore and her kid sister have been flushed out of their apartment
by M.P.'s, and Yossarian, suddenly worried about them, goes to Rome without
permission to try to find them.
He travels with Milo, who is disappointed in him for refusing to fly
more combat missions. Rome has been bombed, and lies in ruins; the
apartment complex where the whores lived is a deserted shambles. Nately
finds the old woman who lived in the complex sobbing; she tells Yossarian
that the only right the soldiers had to chase the girls away was the right
of Catch-22, which says "they have a right to do anything we can't stop
them from doing." Yossarian asks if they had Catch-22 written down, and if
they showed it to her; she says that the law stipulates that they don't
have to show her Catch-22, and that the law that says so is Catch-22. She
says that the her old man is dead. Yossarian goes to Milo and says that he
will fly as many more combat missions as Colonel Cathcart wants if Milo
uses his influence to help him track down the kid sister. Milo agrees, but
becomes distracted when he learns about huge profits to be made in
trafficking illegal tobacco. He slinks away, and Yossarian is left to
wander the dark streets through a horrible night filled with grotesqueries
and loathsome sights; he returns to his apartments late in the night to
find that Aarfy has raped and killed a maid. The M.P.'s burst in. They
apologize to Aarfy for intruding, and arrest Yossarian for being in Rome
without a pass.
Back at Pianosa, Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn offer Yossarian a
deal: they will allow him never to fly another combat mission and will even
send him home, if only he will agree to like them. He will be promoted to
major and all he will have to do is to make speeches in America in support
of the military and the war effort, and in support of the two colonels in
particular. Yossarian realizes it is a hideous deal and a frank betrayal of
the men in his squadron, who will still have to fly the eighty missions,
but he convinces himself to take the deal anyway, and is filled with joy at
the prospect of going home. On his way out of Colonel Cathcart's office,
Nately's whore appears, disguised as a private, and stabs him until he
In the hospital, a group of doctors argues over Yossarian while the
fat, angry colonel who interrogated the chaplain interrogates him. Finally
the doctors knock him out and operate on him; when he awakes, he dimly
perceives visits from Aarfy and the chaplain. He tells the chaplain about
his deal with Cathcart and Korn, then assures him that he isn't going to do
it. He vaguely remembers a malignant, almost supernatural man jeering at
him "We've got your pal" shortly after his operation,. He then and he tells
the chaplain that his "pal" must have been one of his friends who was
killed in the war. He realizes that his only friend still living is Hungry
Joe, and but then the chaplain tells him that Hungry Joe has died--in his
sleep, with Huple's cat on his face. Later, Yossarian wakes up to find a
mean-looking man in a hospital gown leering saying "We've got your pal." He
asks who his pal is, and the man tells Yossarian that he'll find out.
Yossarian lunges for him, but the man glides away and vanishes. He flashes
back to the scene of Snowden's death, which he relives in all its agony--
Snowden smiling at him wanly, whimpering "I'm cold," Yossarian reassuring
him and trying to mend the wound until he opens up Snowden's flak suit and
Snowden's insides spill out all over him. He then --and remembers the
secret he had read in those entrails: "The spirit gone, man is garbage."
man is matter, and without the spirit he will rot like garbage.
In the hospital, Yossarian tries to explain to Major Danby why he can
no longer go through with the deal with Cathcart and Korn: he won't sell
himself so short, and he won't betray the memory of his dead friends. He
tells Danby he plans to run away, but Danby tells him there is no hope, and
he agrees. Suddenly the chaplain bursts in with the news that Orr has
washed ashore in Sweden. Yossarian realizes that Orr must have planned his
escape all along, and joyfully decides there is hope after all. He has the
chaplain retrieve his uniform, and decides to desert the army and run to
Sweden, where he can save himself from the madness of the war. As he steps
outside, Nately's whore tries to stab him again, and he runs into the
Yossarian - The protagonist and hero of the novel. Yossarian is a
captain in the Air Force and a lead bombardier in his squadron, but he
hates the war. His powerful desire to live has led him to the conclusion
that millions of people are trying to kill him, and he has decided either
to live forever or, ironically, die trying.
Milo Minderbinder - The fantastically powerful mess officer, Milo
controls an international black market syndicate and is revered in obscure
corners all over the world. He ruthlessly chases after profit and bombs his
own men as part of a contract with Germany. Milo insists that everyone in
the squadron will benefit from being part of the syndicate, and that
"everyone has a share."
Colonel Cathcart - The ambitious, unintelligent colonel in charge of
Yossarian's squadron. Colonel Cathcart wants to be a general, and he tries
to impress his superiors by bravely volunteering his men for dangerous
combat duty whenever he gets the chance. He continually raises the number
of combat missions required of the men before they can be sent home.
Colonel Cathcart tries to scheme his way ahead; he thinks of successful
actions as "feathers in his cap" and unsuccessful ones as "black eyes."
The Chaplain - The timid, thoughtful chaplain who becomes Yossarian's
friend. He is haunted by a sensation of deja vu and begins to lose his
faith in God as the novel progresses.
Hungry Joe - An unhinged member of Yossarian's squadron. Hungry Joe is
obsessed with naked women, and he has horrible nightmares on nights when he
isn't scheduled to fly a combat mission the next morning.
Nately - A good-natured nineteen year-old boy in Yossarian's squadron.
Nately comes from a wealthy home, falls in love with a whore, and generally
tries to keep Yossarian from getting into trouble.
Nately's whore - The beautiful whore Nately falls in love with in Rome.
After a good night's sleep, she falls in love with Nately as well. When
Yossarian tells her about Nately's death, she begins a persistent campaign
to ambush Yossarian and stab him to death.
Clevinger - An idealistic member of Yossarian's squadron who argues
with Yossarian about concepts such as country, loyalty, and duty, in which
Clevinger firmly believes. Clevinger's plane disappears inside a cloud
during the Parma bomb run, and he is never heard from again.
Doc Daneeka - The medical officer. Doc Daneeka feels very sorry for
himself because the war interrupted his lucrative private practice in the
States, and he refuses to listen to other people's problems. Doc Daneeka is
the first person to explain Catch-22 to Yossarian.
Dobbs - A co-pilot, Dobbs seizes the controls from Huple during the
mission to Avignon, the same mission on which Snowden dies. Dobbs later
develops a plan to murder Colonel Cathcart, and eventually awaits only
Yossarian's go-ahead to put it in action.
McWatt - A cheerful, polite pilot who often pilots Yossarian's planes.
McWatt likes to joke around with Yossarian, and sometimes buzzes the
squadron. One day he accidentally flies in too low, and slices Kid Sampson
in half with his propellor; he then commits suicide by flying his plane
into a mountain.
Major - The supremely mediocre squadron commander. Born Major Major
Major, he is promoted to major on his first day in the army by a
mischievous computer. Major Major is painfully awkward, and will only see
people in his office when he isn't there.
Aarfy - Yossarian's navigator. Aarfy infuriates Yossarian by pretending
he cannot hear Yossarian's orders during bomb runs. Toward the end of the
novel, Aarfy stuns Yossarian when he rapes and murders the maid of the
officers' apartments in Rome.
Orr - Yossarian's often maddening roommate. Orr almost always crashes
his plane or is shot down on combat missions, but he always seems to
Appleby - A handsome, athletic member of the squadron and a superhuman
ping-pong player. Orr enigmatically says that Appleby has flies in his
Captain Black - The squadron's bitter intelligence officer. He wants
nothing more than to be squadron commander. Captain Black exults in the
men's discomfort and does everything he can increase it; when Nately falls
in love with a whore in Rome, Captain Black begins to buy her services
regularly just to taunt him.
Colonel Korn - Colonel Cathcart's wily, cynical sidekick.
Major de Coverley - The fierce, intense executive officer for the
squadron. Major ----- de Coverley is revered and feared by the men--they
are even afraid to ask his first name-- though all he does is play
horseshoes and rent apartments for the officers in cities taken by American
forces. When Yossarian moves the bomb line on a map to make it appear that
Bologna has been captured, Major ----- de Coverely disappears in Bologna
trying to rent an officers' apartment.
Major Danby - The timid operations officer. Before the war, he was a
college professor; now, he does his best for his country. In the end, he
helps Yossarian escape.
General Dreedle - The grumpy old general in charge of the wing in which
Yossarian's squadron is placed. General Dreedle is the victim of a private
war waged against him by the ambitious General Peckem.
Nurse Duckett - A nurse in the Pianosa hospital who becomes Yossarian's
Dunbar - Yossarian's friend, the only other person who seems to
understand that there is a war going on. Dunbar has decided to live as long
as possible by making time pass as slowly as possible, so he treasures
boredom and discomfort. He is mysteriously "disappeared" as part of a
conspiracy toward the end of the novel.
Chief White Halfoat - An alcoholic Indian from Oklahoma who has decided
to die of pneumonia.
Havermeyer - A fearless lead bombardier. Havermeyer never takes evasive
action, and he enjoys shooting field mice at night.
Huple - A fifteen year-old pilot; the pilot on the mission to Avignon
on which Snowden is killed. Huple is Hungry Joe's roommate, and his cat
likes to sleep on Hungry Joe's face.
Washington Irving - A famous American author whose name Yossarian signs
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