Catch-22

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Catch-22 Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sergeant Knight, another officer in the group, sparks a panic about Bologna when he requests extra flak jackets for the campaign. Heavy rainstorms delay the start of the bombing, and the pilots hope the rains will never stop.
Only one officer is required to spark a panic. Heller appears to be sending up the tendency for information in wartime to become exaggerated. Wars operate on rumor and misinformation, especially regarding enemy tactics. Meanwhile, Yossarian and his friends just want to live.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
A placard is set up showing ground-troop movements near Bologna. Clevinger remarks to Yossarian that some officers are secretly hoping the bomb-line on the map will move, meaning the US Army has advanced to Bologna and removed the need for the bombing mission. In the night, Yossarian moves the bomb-line up on the map, hoping this will cause the Army to advance in real life.
Yossarian doesn’t mind that this is “magical thinking”—an assumption that changing a symbol for the US line might change the actual line in combat. He figures that, if it distracts the higher-ups for long, it delays the Bologna campaign and extends his life that many days.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Yossarian’s night activity causes the higher-ups to believe the Army has advanced. Black reports to Korn who reports to Cathcart. No high-ranking officers seem to want to fly the bomb campaign over Bologna.
Black does not refer to any actual intelligence to check this “line movement.” Cathcart and Korn, characteristically, have little idea of the enemy’s activity. The army believes its own information and itself, and never checks itself or thinks critically about nearly anything.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
In the meantime, Yossarian has a conversation with Wintergreen, who is selling black-market Zippo lighters. They begin talking about Milo’s activities selling other goods on the black market. It is revealed that Milo has bought all the cotton in Egypt, and is now looking for a market to unload it in—otherwise he will lose a great deal of money.
It is typical, in jest, to state that one is really unwilling to do something by saying, “not for all the tea in China.” Milo’s actual purchase of all the Egypt in cotton is a literalization of what is meant to be taken only as humor.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
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Yossarian asks Wintergreen to fake an order keeping Yossarian from flying, for medical reasons. Wintergreen says he can’t do that—it would be untruthful. Wintergreen tells Yossarian it is Yossarian’s job to die in combat, and that Yossarian must do his job. Clevinger, later, says something similar, arguing that the higher-ups understand the war better than they do, and must know that Bologna is of strategic importance.
Wintergreen’s assertion that it is Yossarian’s duty to die is of course incorrect—he is supposed to be part of the fight to defeat fascism. And yet the novel suggests, through the incompetent, venal, and yet all-powerful bureaucracy that in fact it is each individual soldier’s duty to die, however the army tells him to. Clevinger still has an idealistic belief in the wisdom of the higher-ups, but Yossarian has lost any such trust.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
They continue fighting: Clevinger accuses Yossarian of aiding the enemy by not wanting to fly; Yossarian replies that “the enemy” is “anyone who wants to get you killed.” This includes high-ranking US officers, like Cathcart.
Yossarian’s statement here is remarkable, and is perfectly logical. It also recasts war as a battle against the individual soldier, in which both the enemy and the soldier’s own army are trying to get him killed. And, at the most basic level, there is truth to such an assertion, especially if the commanding officers are petty and selfish.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
The officers become anxious during the lead-up to the Bologna mission, after it is determined that the US Army has not, in fact, advanced to the city. Yossarian gets drunk one night at the officers’ club and makes up a “glue gun,” newly-developed by the Germans, with the power to glue together planes in mid-air. The higher-ups believe him.
Like the movement of the battle line on the map, Yossarian’s “glue gun” rumor is believed naively by the military brass. This is only more evidence to show that the officers on Pianosa have a tenuous grasp of real war-time conditions.
Themes
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War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Outside the club, Chief White Halfoat shows up, drunk, driving Captain Black’s jeep, and tells Yossarian, Nately, and Dunbar to hop in—they’re going to go for a ride in the rain. Nately keeps reminding Halfoat to put on his headlights, but Halfoat refuses. Halfoat crashes and the car lands on its side.
In war, many dangerous activities seem quite a bit less dangerous when compared to the terror of flying combat missions. Yossarian does not seem too concerned about getting into a car at night with a very inebriated driver.
Themes
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Everyone is unhurt though roughed up. Clevinger and McWatt happen upon them in their own staff car. Clevinger yells at them for their irresponsible behavior, and McWatt drives the whole crew back to the officers’ club. It stops raining, and the men know the Bologna mission is coming.
Clevinger acts as the voice of reason in this instance. After his chastening run in with military authority during boot camp, he appears more willing to follow orders, now, on Pianosa. Meanwhile, they have just escaped death in the jeep accident only to face it again on the Bologna run.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
That night, Hungry Joe has a loud nightmare that his roommate Huple’s cat is sleeping on his face, stopping his breathing. He awakes and the cat is on him—he threatens to shoot it before other officers intervene. Yossarian says Hungry Joe and the cat should have a “fair fight,” but when the fight begins, the cat runs away; Hungry Joe is declared the winner.
A comic scene. If Hungry Joe is afraid of the cat, Yossarian’s (joking) reasoning goes, then he should fight the cat fair and square. But the cat is, naturally, a “scaredy cat”—he runs away. Yossarian, too, mostly wants to avoid a fight with the enemy in the skies.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon