Chapter 5 -8
Chief White Halfoat is an American Indian who shares a tent with Doc Daneeka. Doc Daneeka is terrified of him, as was his former roommate, Captain Flume, whose throat Chief White Halfoat had threatened to slit some night while he was sleeping. This turned Captain Flume into a terrified introvert, and “Chief White Halfoat proudly regarded the new Captain Flume as his own creation” (66). The Chief tells Yossarian about how his family kept moving to land that was on top of underground oil, so they kept getting kicked off property, until men in the oil business followed them around, assuming they would find oil wherever they settled.
Another man on the base is Hungry Joe, who once finished the twenty-five missions required to get sent home. However, while he was waiting around for his orders to go home, Colonel Cathcart took over the base and raised the required number of missions to thirty. Now, the colonel keeps raising this number by five, frustrating the men. Hungry Joe keeps accomplishing the required number of missions, and then the strain of wondering whether his orders will come before the number is raised again gets him so tense he has screaming nightmares every night. Only when the number is raised and he is flying again does Hungry Joe settle down.
Also on the base is Milo Minderbinder, who is the mess officer. He takes feeding the troops well extremely seriously. He develops a scheme to make money by selling some supplies and forming a syndicate, so that he can use those funds to help feed the troops really well.
Yossarian was in training with a man named Clevinger, who upset Lieutenant Scheisskopf by actually telling him what he thought. This lieutenant was obsessed with winning the training parades that they held around the base, so he ignored his wife and her marital indiscretions. Clevinger was then brought up on ridiculous charges and convicted of breaking all sorts of rules.
This section also explains the title of the book. Yossarian desperately wants to be declared crazy so that he can be sent home, but his friend Doc Daneeka is too self-absorbed to help. Trying to understand what it takes to be declared crazy, he asks if Orr is crazy, and Doc Daneeka says that he is because hed have to be crazy to keep flying all of those missions and putting himself in danger. Orr cannot be sent home for being crazy unless he asks to be sent home, according to the rules. However, once he asks to be sent home, Doc Daneeka can no longer ground him because theres a catch. “Catch-22,” Doc Daneeka explains. “Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isnt really crazy” (55). The armed forces have actually named the catch as Catch-22. “Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didnt, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didnt have to; but if he didnt want to he was sane and had to” (55). Yossarian realizes he is simply not going to get out of flying for being crazy.
The characters in Yossarians camp are all so absurd that they highlight the absurdity of war. War is not about ideological differences between warring powers. For these men, it is about the rules and regulations of the Air Force. Officers do not do things to fight for their country: they do things to compete with one another and satisfy their own egos. There is no point to the parade competition, yet Lieutenant Scheisskopf cares passionately about it. There is actually little point to a lot of what is done on this base, yet the men keep doing it because it is what they are supposed to do.
Heller uses humor to demonstrate the silliness of it all, yet he juxtaposes jokes with a description of the fear the men feel while up on a mission. The men feel trapped in the plane and simply want to be finished as quickly and safely as possible. That they just do not care about the political “reasons” for the war is evident in the fact that ideology is not mentioned. Rather than wanting to drop bombs, “Yossarian longed to sit on the floor in a huddled ball right on top of the escape hatch inside a sheltering igloo of extra flak suits that he would have been happy to carry along with him, his parachute already hooked to his harness where it belonged” (58). The only reason he does not do this is “his unwillingness to entrust the evasive action out of the target area to anybody else. There was nobody else in the world he would honor with so great a responsibility. There was nobody else he knew who was as big a coward” (59). Hellers humorous description of Yossarians cowardice contrasts with the terror he describes this man feeling while on missions. Rather than causing the reader to take the fear lightly, this technique encourages the reader to recognize the real value of things. While people assume that bravery is the most valuable asset in combat, Yossarians perspective shows that, in such an absurd army, abstract ideals are meaningless. Instead, cowardice is valuable for keeping the men alive.
Catch-22 is the ultimate in army hypocrisy. It is designed to make sure the men are stuck flying more missions. While there are other instances of circular logic in the text that are labeled Catch-22, this one most exemplifies the predicament of the soldiers. Yossarian, who always admires logic that at first seems illogical, “was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22” (55). It is important to note that Heller invents the term “catch-22” in this text to be an Air Force regulation, and the term caught on. People now use the term to explain any instance of circular logic that cannot be escaped.
Chapter 5 -8