It is revealed that Clevinger is dead; he disappeared during a mission flown over Elba, and his plane was never recovered or seen again. Yossarian believes Clevinger has gone AWOL (absent without leave), deserting the military, and he reports this to Wintergreen.
AWOL becomes a running theme throughout. Yossarian later comes to believe that Orr has gone AWOL when he disappears—and then Yossarian goes AWOL intentionally, in very public fashion, at the novel’s end.
Wintergreen has gone AWOL so many times, he is continually cut down to the lowest rank, private, and forced to dig holes. Wintergreen minds neither going AWOL and getting caught nor digging holes. He believes he is doing his patriotic duty by breaking the rules and serving his punishment. Wintergreen identifies this situation as a Catch-22.
This is perhaps not exactly a catch-22, but more like an absurd assertion. It is hard to argue that going AWOL and getting punished could be seen as doing one’s duty. But Wintergreen never shirks his punishment, and in this sense, he is a good soldier.
Appleby, the great Ping-Pong player, attempts to see Major Major, who is in his office and therefore admitting no visitors. Sergeant Towser, Major Major’s assistant charged with turning away all guests, begins to think about the dead man in Yossarian’s tent. It turns out the man’s name was Mudd, and Towser wonders whether it isn’t cruel, and genuine bad luck, that Mudd was brought to Pianosa only to die two hours later, before he had officially settled in his tent.
An important moment of empathy in the novel. Sergeant Towser is not a very important character, but he is genuinely upset when he considers that Mudd (the dead man) did not even spend enough time with the group to learn anyone’s name. Mudd was, of course, a real person with feelings and a family of his own. The military refuses to recognize these facts in asserting that, officially, he died before he could “join” the group.
Cathcart has volunteered the group for a large mission over Bologna, a well-defended region known for its large stores of ammunition. All soldiers are required to fly these missions, and Doc Daneeka is no longer permitted to rest soldiers, and take them off duty, for petty ailments.
Bologna becomes a symbolic stand-in for any dangerous mission. In this sense it is opposed to the “milk runs,” or trips that encounter little enemy resistance, and are therefore safe. It is often not clear whether a mission will be a milk run or a “Bologna.”
Dunbar gets into a discussion with another doctor, Stubbs, who is also charged with closing his medical tent. Stubbs asks what the point is, administering medicine to soldiers who are put in harm’s way. Dunbar counters that the doctor’s obligation is to protect the men for as long as possible.
Stubbs, a foil to Daneeka, is in some ways less humane than his colleague. His wondering about whether it’s necessary for a doctor to work to save soldiers who will die in battle regardless again points to the insanity of war, which is predicated on the deaths of its participants.
Dunbar is asking Stubbs for codeine, so he can give the codeine to Yossarian. Yossarian needs the drug because he is terrified to fly the dangerous Bologna mission. Stubbs has heard that Yossarian, who others believe is crazy, is threatening not to fly any missions that might endanger his life. Stubbs argues that this makes “that crazy bastard [Yossarian] the only sane one left.”
An interesting inversion of the Catch-22. Yossarian is crazy because he is sane enough to recognize the absurdity of the military hierarchy. This will recur, later, when Yossarian has what he feels to be a sane conversation with the psychiatrist Sanderson, who considers Yossarian’s sanity to be “insanity.”