Chapter 16 – 18
In Rome, Yossarian meets a young Italian woman named Luciana. She is forceful about getting him to dance with her and buy her dinner, but she announces that she will not sleep with him till the next morning. He does not believe she will show up, but she does. Hungry Joe tries to get into the room when he realizes there is a naked woman in there because he likes to take photographs of naked women. Luciana gives Yossarian her address, even though she predicts “Youll tear it up into little pieces the minute Im gone and go walking away like a big shot because a tall, young, beautiful girl like me, Luciana, let you sleep with her and did not ask you for money” (172). She is correct, but then Yossarian regrets throwing away her address and tries in vain to find her again. When he returns to the base on Pianosa, he finds out that Colonel Cathcart has raised the number of missions once again, and so he is too far behind to complete all of the missions and be able to stop flying. He heads for the hospital, where he has learned he is safe.
Yossarian likes the hospital because “There was a much lower death rate inside the hospital than outside the hospital, and a much healthier death rate. Few people died unnecessarily” (175). He has, of course, seen some illogical things in the hospital, as this is a military hospital. One man the other patients call “The Soldier in White” because he is completely wrapped in bandages. The nurses periodically exchange the jar of clear fluid flowing into him with the jar of clear fluid flowing out of him and take his temperature twice a day. One day, they find out he is dead when they take his temperature.
Yossarian saw another man die in a hospital when he was a cadet in training. This was “The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice.” Yossarian was imitating this mans symptoms to try to stay in the hospital when the man died. So, the doctors brought in the young mans family to visit Yossarian, since their son died before they could get there to see him. What follows is an absurd conversation in which the family simply accepts that their son is this different man named Yossarian.
Although the exact nature of Snowdens death is not yet revealed, there have now been several hints that his death was terrible. In chapter 17, Yossarian claims hospitals are preferable because there people do not “freeze to death in the blazing summertime the way Snowden had frozen to death after spilling his secret to Yossarian in the back of the plane” (176). Something about Snowdens death has affected Yossarian.
After the soldier in white dies, the men in the hospital lament that “there just doesnt seem to be any logic to this system of rewards and punishment” (180). They seem to all have gotten punishments or rewards that in a just system would go to someone else. While it is humorous to try to determine whether Yossarian has the case of the clap that the warrant officer should have gotten instead of malaria, there is a more serious point to this conversation. War hands out the good and the bad indiscriminately, with some men dying for no reason and other men being promoted for no reason. This is part of the terror of war; the men do not feel they have any control over whether they live or die because nothing they do affects it.
This is in part due to the fact that men are dispensable in war because they are pretty much interchangeable. When the doctors encourage Yossarian to see the family of the soldier who sees everything twice, they explain, “As far as were concerned, one dying boy is just as good as any other, or just as bad” (192). Even the boys family does not really seem to mind the switch, as they came to see a dying boy and get to see one. Everyone sees these men as simply numbers who can be traded for one another.
Chapter 16 – 18