Catch-22 By Joseph Heller Summary and Analysis Chapter 42

Summary

When Major Danby comes to the hospital to visit Yossarian, he announces to the Captain that Colonel Korn's "deal is still on. Everything is working out fine." Yossarian simply, bluntly responds, "No it isn't." Yossarian has decided to renege on Cathcart and Korn's offer. Danby warns that this could be very dangerous. The Captain doesn't care. Although the situation looks grim, Yossarian wants out of the deal. Chaplain Tappman bursts in with great news: Orr, Yossarian's tent mate and buddy who was thought lost at sea after ditching his plane, is alive and well in Sweden. Permanently liberated, Yossarian takes off for Sweden himself. He has one last threat to escape.

Analysis

In this final chapter, Heller ties up some loose ends and answers basic questions about his protagonist. Yossarian resolves the struggle of conscience that has been tormenting him. Orr's fate and his prior preparation are revealed. Yossarian makes his separate peace, and the chaplain declares his independence.

Yossarian initially thinks that he has Korn and Cathcart in a bind. He can refuse to cooperate with them, but they will still have to allow him to return home because they would not dare to court-martial the hero who officially saved their lives from a Nazi assassin. Major Danby, the operations officer who is visiting Yossarian in the hospital, has the sad responsibility of reminding Yossarian that they are all still playing by military rules: "But, Yossarian! . . . There's another official report that says you were stabbed by an innocent girl in the course of extensive black-market operations involving acts of sabotage and the sale of military secrets to the enemy." The commanding officers can make up as many "official" reports as they want and use them as they choose. In addition, the military establishment has arranged to have Aarfy testify that Yossarian and McWatt lied to get Yossarian his medal for the raid on Ferrara. In fact, the commanders have witnesses willing to perjure themselves for all sorts of claims against the captain, including rape. Danby and Yossarian debate the possibilities, the major insisting that the captain's arrangement with Colonel Korn is "a way to save yourself." Yossarian responds, "It's a way to lose myself, Danby. You ought to know that."

At the point of no apparent hope, Chaplain Tappman arrives with electrifying news: Orr is safe in Sweden. Yossarian realizes that his little buddy was nobody's fool and had been planning this escape all along. That's why he ditched his plane mission after mission. That's why he implored Yossarian to go along with him. Orr was a genius and the bravest one of all. Yossarian decides to join him. He will first go to Rome and find Nately's fiancée's kid sister. Then, somehow, they will get to Sweden. Danby warns that this is negative thinking, "escapist." But Yossarian laughs and tries to explain the paradox: "I'm not running away from my responsibilities. I'm running to them." Yossarian's growth is the discovery of his true self. Although initially caring only about his own comfort, he now rejects the "deal" because it is selfish and odious. Going along with the establishment is best for Korn and Cathcart and, superficially, for Yossarian. But it is not best for the rest of the squadron — and it is not the best of the captain's true self. To find himself, Yossarian must lose himself — in a commitment to the young girl, to peace, to discomfort, to risk, but ultimately to freedom.

Chaplain Tappman reveals a character as changed as any in the novel. He is now prepared to take on Yossarian's role as a thorn in the establishment's side: "I'll stay here and persevere. . . . I'll nag and badger Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn every time I see them. I'm not afraid. . . . I'll pick on General Peckem, and even on General Scheisskopf." The timid, frightened little soul has become a confident fighter. He even wants to take on his assistant, Whitcomb!

With Danby's blessing, as well as a wad of money from the major, Yossarian is out the door to his new life. It is very nearly very short: "Nately's whore was hiding just outside the door. The knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off."

Catch-22 is a satirical, comic novel based on World War II. It is not a morality play. It would be a mistake to conclude that good triumphs over evil or that Yossarian turns into any kind of classic hero. The war will go on, and other wars after this, and more good young men will die. We have a feeling, though, that corruption may be a little tougher for the Scheisskopfs, Peckems, Korns, Cathcarts, and Milo Minderbinders in this particular corner of this war.

Glossary

acquiesce to agree or consent quietly, without protest, but without enthusiasm.

exophthalmic eyes abnormal protrusion of the eyeballs, caused by various disorders.

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