Summary and Analysis Chapter 38



Yossarian refuses to fly any more missions. He feels that the world is out to kill him, and he walks around the squadron backward "because he was continually spinning around as he walked to make certain no one was sneaking up on him from behind." When Colonel Korn learns that Yossarian won't join in the bomb runs, he sends the recalcitrant officer to Rome for a few days to get him off the base. Once in Rome, Yossarian finds Nately's whore and tells her the tragic news of her fiancé's death. The young woman directs all of her pain and anger at Yossarian, making every effort to kill him. Even when he returns to Pianosa, she is somehow there waiting to assassinate him. Yossarian captures her, and Hungry Joe flies the two of them over northern Italy where they drop the woman by parachute. Back at the base, Yossarian is treated like a hero, by the airmen, for his refusal to fly any more missions. However, the commanding officers feel that something must be done with him; or he might lead the whole squadron in revolt. But first Yossarian has to rush back to Rome. He hears that military police have raided the brothel and chased the inhabitants into the street. Yossarian fears for the welfare of Nately's whore's kid sister. "She doesn't know anybody else in the whole city," he says. "What's going to happen to her?"


Nately's death nearly kills the chaplain because of his intense compassion for his young friend. It nearly kills Yossarian for a different reason. One of Yoosarian's first responsibilities when he arrives in Rome is to find Nately's girlfriend to tell her of the tragic news concerning the raid on La Spezia. She does not take it well. For whatever reason, the woman ferociously attacks Yossarian and repeatedly tries to kill him. First she goes after him with a potato peeler. Then she rakes him with her long fingernails. She charges at him from the kitchen with a bread knife. She kicks him in the groin. A large ashtray and a full wine bottle turn into weapons. Every time Yossarian thinks he has subdued her, she surprises him again like some almost-comic avenger. Yossarian wonders if all this could be because he broke Nately's nose or if it's because she somehow blames him for the death. Perhaps it's just because he is the only one there. When the woman's kid sister arrives, she comes after Yossarian with a bread knife. The Captain escapes to a nearby Red Cross building. Bleeding all over, he washes up in the men's room. Upon exiting, he is assaulted again; this time, the woman uses a silver steak knife. Yossarian gets away and spends three hours finding Hungry Joe so that they can fly back to Pianosa. When they land on the island, Nately's whore is already there, disguised in mechanic's green coveralls. They fly her back to Rome and dump her on the landing strip before taking off immediately for Pianosa. Late that night, Yossarian spots her in the bushes near his tent, disguised as a farmer and carrying a huge carving knife. Finally, he and Hungry Joe fly her over northern Italy, well behind enemy lines; strap a parachute on her; and push her out of the plane.

By the end of the week, Yossarian misses the attacks and is worried about the kid sister. He is uncomfortable with his celebrity status on base and annoyed by the questions of other airmen who would also like to stop flying missions. When Yossarian learns that the brothel in Rome has been raided by military police and that the kid sister probably is homeless, he goes AWOL to see if he can help her.


Achilles Greek warrior and leader in the Trojan War; hero in Homer's Iliad who temporarily refuses to fight.

cajole to coax with flattery or insincere talk.

ululating moaning or lamenting loudly.

cara mio (Italian) "my dear."

grazie, grazie (Italian) "thank you, thank you."

stolid having or showing little or no emotion or sensitivity.

Old Blood and Guts nickname for General George Smith Patton (1885–1945), commander of the Seventh and Third Armies during World War II; the comparison is sardonic.