Catch-22 By Joseph Heller Summary and Analysis Chapter 40

Summary

When Yossarian reports to Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn back at the base, they have a surprise for him: "We're sending you home." The catch is that Yossarian must agree to cooperate with his commanding officers and speak well of them to other members of the squadron as well as the press and others back in the States. Colonel Korn, who usurps Cathcart's authority in this scene, affably offers the deal. They will promote Yossarian to major, give him another medal, and send him home a hero. All that Yossarian needs to do, Korn says, is behave like a team player, promote their best interests, and indicate affection for his commanders: "Like us. Join us. Be our pal. Say nice things about us. . . . Become one of the boys."

If anyone asks why he refused to fly, Yossarian is to say that he had been told in confidence that he would soon return home; he didn't want to take any unnecessary risks. That's all. If Yossarian rejects the offer, however, he will be court-martialed. Yossarian makes his decision. While leaving the office, he is met with a further surprise.

Analysis

Yossarian is faced with an offer that is difficult to refuse. Colonel Korn, who is stronger, sharper, and more sinister than Cathcart, concedes that Yossarian has presented the commanding officers with a serious problem. On the one hand, they cannot simply send him home if it looks like a reward for not flying more missions — that would destroy morale. On the other hand, Korn and Cathcart are concerned about their own careers if Yossarian remains with the squadron, refuses to fly, and has other men following his example. For once, the tables have turned. Yossarian seems to have the system in a Catch-22. The commanding officers ask Yossarian, one more time, to recant and rejoin the war effort. He refuses. Cathcart, who spends most of the scene grousing around the perimeters, moans that he never should have promoted Yossarian to captain or honored him for the raid on Ferrara; he should have court-martialed him instead. Now, Yossarian refuses to obey orders but is difficult to deal with because he is supposed to be a hero. To Korn, Cathcart repeats a standard cliché of the time: "Doesn't he know there's a war going on?" Colonel Korn sardonically responds, "I'm quite sure he does. That's probably why he refuses to fly. . . ."

Still, Colonel Korn's offer to Yossarian is tempting. The Captain can go home a hero and never fly another mission. Yossarian wavers. Korn explains that he must accept or be court-martialed immediately for going AWOL to Rome. It is an open-and-shut case. The practical response for Yossarian is simple: Take the deal. But he is faced with a moral dilemma, the kind of conflict of conscience that Yossarian likes to laugh at publicly but privately takes seriously. He reflects that the agreement would be a "scummy trick" to play on the other men. Colonel Korn, with evil intent, quietly agrees that it is "odious." But Yossarian caves. He accepts the deal. Others will simply have to look out for themselves.

The three suddenly are pals. Colonel Korn insists that Yossarian use the colonels' nicknames: Korn is "Blackie; Cathcart is good old "Chuck." Yossarian cheerfully points out that his friends call him "Yo-Yo." The three plan to have dinner together soon. Yossarian exits "almost bursting into song." He starts for the staircase "with a jaunty and exhilarated air." He is free at last. A private in green fatigues salutes him. The private looks vaguely familiar. As Yossarian returns the salute, the private in green fatigues turns into Nately's whore and lunges at him with a bone-handled kitchen knife. Yossarian is already unconscious when Cathcart and Korn rush out of the office, frightening the assailant away.

Glossary

insouciant calm and untroubled; carefree; indifferent.

flaccid hanging in loose folds or wrinkles; flabby.

affably pleasantly; in a friendly manner.

'sprit de corps (French, esprit de corps) "spirit of the corps or group"; an attitude of enthusiasm and devotion among members of a group for each other, the group, and its cause.

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