Catch-22

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Catch-22 Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Yossarian goes into the hospital following his 32nd and then his 38th missions, hoping not to fly anymore. He finds he can always check into the hospital because of his minor liver condition. He likes that, in the hospital, Death can be “made to behave,” if not eliminated entirely. Patients tend to die quietly, in “orderly fashion.”
Again, Yossarian’s liver condition tends only to crop up when Yossarian is too depressed to fly. It is never explained what causes this condition, and it is not hinted that Yossarian drinks heavily, causing strain on his liver.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Yossarian recalls his first time meeting The Soldier in White. This soldier was wrapped entirely in gauze, with only a hole for his mouth, in which a thermometer sat. Many patients fear what will happen if the Soldier in White begins moaning. The Texan is the only patient willing to talk to this soldier.
Gallows humor. The Soldier in White scenes are funny—especially when the liquids dripping into and out of the casts are described—but of course the suffering of the man inside is very real.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Nurses Cramer and Duckett tend to the Soldier in White and wash his bandages. Yossarian asks Cramer how she knows a man is even in there—this angers her. The patients in Yossarian’s ward explain how they each have the other’s ailments: one jokes that he should have clap, not malaria, and Yossarian claims he got the other man’s clap.
The first talk of venereal disease in the novel. Many of the soldiers are having promiscuous sex while in Rome, and without precautions taken, these sexual escapades have led to other visits to the hospital.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Yossarian thinks about all the ways he can die in war, and runs through a list of fatal diseases that could kill him. Doc Daneeka also worries about rare diseases, and Yossarian wonders if it isn’t better simply to wait in the hospital for one of these diseases to be found and treated.
Daneeka’s hypochondria, if not ironic, is nevertheless striking for a doctor. Yossarian’s thought that maybe it’s just better to stay in the hospital highlights the general dangerousness of the world, especially during wartime.
Themes
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Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
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Yossarian recalls how he asked Doc Daneeka to ground him from flying, since Major Major asserted only Daneeka could deem him medically unfit to fly. Daneeka says he won’t do it—grounding any soldiers will result in his getting sent to the Pacific, and he fears the novel diseases to be found there.
The Pacific, again, is a place of terrifying diseases and more serious battles, resulting in the loss of far more soldiers. The men on Pianosa absolutely dread having to fight the Japanese, who are reputed to be ruthless enemies.
Themes
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War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Daneeka tells Yossarian to actually finish a tour—the required number of missions—before he asks to be grounded again. Yossarian agrees that this is a better option. The number of missions has been raised to 55. Yossarian realizes he’s dodged death every day of his life so far—this, in some sense, is his primary mission, no different from the way he avoids death in war.
Daneeka gives this advice to Yossarian as a kind of strategic plan. If Yossarian has actually flown the required number of missions, he will be in a better bargaining position. Of course, Cathcart knows how many Yossarian has flown, and can always raise the number just before Yossarian reaches his goal. Again Yossarian thinks about how death can come at any time, and in so doing he realizes that war in some way is not so different from normal life—it is just an effort to avoid death. Yossarian appears to be resigning himself to fighting in the war.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon