Catch-22

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Catch-22 Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Yossarian and Dunbar feel happy to be free of the Texan, whose cheerfulness they find to be “sick.” Clevinger, another officer in Yossarian’s flying group, accuses Yossarian of being insane (whatever caused him to say this about Yossarian is unexplained). Yossarian counters that he’s not crazy; rather, he’s only acknowledging the truth: that someone is trying to kill him—enemy planes are trying to shoot him down and kill him. He believes it is sane to want to avoid death in war.
Here the novel introduces, via Yossarian’s fight with Clevinger, the idea that Yossarian is crazy. At this point, Yossarian refutes the claim that he is crazy by pointing out that someone is trying to kill him—the enemy. Clevinger, of course, is thinking that that’s just the way war is. But Yossarian is essentially saying that it’s the war that’s crazy, and anyone who tries to pass it off as sane is too. Note, also, how later in the novel Yossarian will actively attempt to convince Doc Daneeka and his psychologist that he is crazy in order to avoid flying any more mission.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Yossarian lives in a “luxurious” tent with Orr, another officer, who is very handy and has outfitted the tent with a stove and other comforts. Yossarian lives near the following officers: Havermeyer, who likes peanut brittle; McWatt, a foolhardy and dangerously low-flying pilot; and Nately, who is in love with a prostitute in Rome. The narrator states, without explanation, that a dead man also lives with Yossarian and Orr.
Yossarian’s relationship with Orr is initially marked by Yossarian’s frustration, while Orr appears happy to speak with his tent-mate. Yossarian will realize, after Orr’s disappearance, that he misses Orr, and appreciates the fixes Orr has made to their tent. Yossarian’s friendships with McWatt and Nately also deepen over time.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
The argument between Clevinger and Yossarian is revealed. In the officers’ club, before Yossarian was in the hospital, Clevinger accused Yossarian of “anti-social” tendencies. Yossarian says someone has been trying to poison his food; Clevinger counters that this isn’t true. Clevinger says that Yossarian reminds him of Raskolnikov, the main character of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, because he is paranoid and suspicious of others.
An important reference to another major work of fiction: Raskolnikov, in Crime and Punishment, is eventually convicted of killing two women, and his anti-social tendencies derive, in part, from a gnawing guilt concerning this crime. Yossarian notably does not commit any crimes of this nature, but Aarfy, his navigator, later does, and is not punished.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Just after this encounter, Yossarian eats a sumptuous meal at the officers’ club and walks back to his tent, wondering if war isn’t so bad after all. But he realizes “they [the enemy] are trying to kill him” and resolves war is, in fact, terrible. He runs into the group doctor, Doc Daneeka, who informs Yossarian that Colonel Cathcart, commander of Yossarian’s group, has ordered 50 missions as the minimum for discharge—the old total used to be 45, and Yossarian has already flown 44.
Cathcart will end up raising the mission total a number of times over the rest of the novel, and Yossarian will always fall a few missions short. Yossarian’s knowledge that the enemy is trying to kill him is, psychologically speaking, the opposite of paranoia. For paranoiacs believe they are in danger when no danger is present. But Yossarian is fighting a war, and the enemy is in fact trying to shoot down his plane.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
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