Catch-22 By Joseph Heller Summary and Analysis Chapters 5-6

Summary

Doc Daneeka shares a tent with Chief White Halfoat, a Native American ("half-blooded Creek") from Oklahoma who never learned to read or write because his family was always on the move. Wherever the family located, oil was discovered; as the petroleum companies moved in, the Halfoats were forced out. Explaining why Orr can't be grounded, Doc Daneeka reveals "Catch-22" to Yossarian. Hungry Joe, a former photographer for Life magazine, develops an unusual aversion to being grounded. Flashbacks reveal traumatic events in Yossarian's recent past.

Analysis

Chapter 5 is one of the most important in the novel because it is here that we find the standard explanation of the meaning of "Catch-22." Yossarian is trying to understand why his friend Doc Daneeka won't ground anyone. Yossarian suggests his roommate Orr as an example:

"Is Orr crazy?"

"He sure is," Doc Daneeka said.

"Can you ground him?"

"I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That's part of the rule."

"Then why doesn't he ask you to?"

"Because he's crazy," Doc Daneeka said. "He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he's had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to."

"That's all he has to do to be grounded?"

"That's all. Let him ask me."

"And then you can ground him?" Yossarian asked.

"No, then I can't ground him."

"You mean there's a catch?"

"Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy. . . ."

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he [Yossarian] observed.

"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.

"There was only one catch," the narrator tells us, "and that was Catch-22."

The novel later suggests other aspects of Catch-22, but this is its prime example: Orr can be grounded if he's crazy; but if he wants to be grounded, he must be sane. No matter where Yossarian or his friends turn, the military has them in its grip — and it all makes perfect sense.

Heller extends his sardonic approach to "military intelligence." Chief White Halfoat is unable to read or write; therefore, he is placed in military intelligence. The Chief couldn't attend school as a child because his family was constantly on the move. It was constantly on the move because, everywhere it went, oil was discovered: "Our whole family had a natural affinity for petroleum deposits," the Chief explains. As soon as oil was discovered, the family was sent packing. Soon the oil companies were following the Halfoats everywhere they went. Just as there was nowhere left to flee, war broke out; the Chief found a home in the Army Air Forces as an assistant intelligence officer.

The character Hungry Joe is an aberration, which is beginning to seem like the norm in Yossarian's world. When he has missions to fly, Joe is just fine. His problems begin when he has completed the number of missions required to send him home. Then, apparently from the frustration of knowing that the number of missions will be raised before he can leave, Joe experiences "eerie, ear-splitting nightmares" that keep the squadron awake. Relief comes only when Colonel Cathcart raises the number of missions again and sends Joe back to the war.

Time is temporarily out of joint in these chapters as the narrator flashes back to two deadly events in Yossarian's service with the 256th Squadron. The first occurred early in his tour of duty, when Yossarian directed his flight of six planes over the target at Ferrara for a second run. The group's bombs had missed the bridge at Ferrara for a seventh straight day, and Yossarian just wanted to stop the missions. Yossarian was unable to release his bombs the first time around. The second run was successful, but it resulted in the death of a young airman named Kraft, "a skinny, harmless kid from Pennsylvania who wanted only to be liked." Yossarian was promoted to Captain and awarded a medal for the mission, but Kraft's death haunts him. He is also haunted, increasingly throughout the novel, by something that happened on a mission to Avignon, in France, when Dobbs lost control of himself and the plane. Dobbs yelled over the intercom, "Help him, help him, help . . . the bombardier." Confused, Yossarian answered, "I'm the bombardier. I'm all right." But things were not all right, as we learn in the final words of Chapter 5, which foreshadow a major event in the novel: "Snowden lay dying in back."

Glossary

Four-F a selective service designation for individuals unfit for the military.

pugnacious eager and ready to fight; quarrelsome; combative.

terse concise; free of superfluous words.

I.P. Initial Point: the place at which the squadron begins its actual run on the target.

cacophony harsh, jarring sound; dissonance.

cajolery coaxing with flattery or insincere talk.

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