Catch-22

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Catch-22 Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Yossarian, back in his tent, grouses to himself about the dead man and his personal effects, which Major Major, the squadron commander, won’t acknowledge. Orr is fixing the gas line to the stove he is building. Orr tells a story: when he was young, he would stuff crabapples in his cheeks, and when Yossarian asks why, Orr answers that “they were better than horse chestnuts.” Yossarian is infuriated by Orr’s strange, disconnected manner of speaking.
Orr tends to speak in “tautologies,” or statements that are logically true but which provide no real or useful information. Yossarian is asking why Orr stuffed anything in his cheeks at all, but Orr chooses to answer the question in a manner that hides the real reason for stuffing his cheeks at all.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Orr reveals that he simply wanted big cheeks—but that he carried around a rubber ball to distract others who might ask him why he had anything in his cheeks at all. Yossarian grows even more frustrated with the behavior of his bizarre tent-mate. Orr reminds Yossarian of a scene in Rome, when a naked prostitute beat Orr over the head with her shoe. Orr says he will tell Yossarian why he was beaten, but Yossarian decides to end their conversation.
Here Orr explains that he wanted big cheeks, but he never says why he wanted them. This is an important distinction: Orr is saying that the important thing is that he did it because he wanted to, while Yossarian is focused on the why behind the action. The scene with the prostitute in Rome will be repeated by Orr throughout the novel, although Yossarian does not realize its significance until far later.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
The narrator briefly describes a feud between General Peckem and General Dreedle, two commanders competing for influence in the Army Air Force. Peckem is in charge of arranging USO shows—entertainment for the troops—and he asks Colonel Cargill, another officer, to drum up interest in the shows among the men.
Not much information is ever given about Dreedle and Peckem, apart from their hatred for one another, and their desire each to outrank the other in the military hierarchy. No evidence is ever given of their making decisions related to military strategy or winning the war against the enemy. They merely battle each other in the military bureaucracy, affecting the lives of their men in their petty efforts to gain power over each other.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Cargill gives a confusing speech to the soldiers, saying that USO shows are optional, but that they must attend—it’s an order. Yossarian complains about the USO shows to Doc Daneeka, who is himself always complaining, in turn, about his health and his financial problems at home. Yossarian tells Doc Daneeka to be more like Havermeyer, the best bombardier in the group, perennially happy and uncomplaining.
Cargill’s speech is another example of a catch-22. The show is optional but it is assumed that the soldiers will go, because if they do not go, their commanding officers will look stupid for planning an unpopular show. This is more evidence that the commanding officers want only to make themselves look good; they spend very little time worrying about the war itself or the welfare of their men.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
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Havermeyer is so talented a bomber because he is fearless—he flies directly at the targets and “never takes evasive action.” His fellow officers hate him, because they think he puts them in unnecessary danger. Yossarian, on the other hand, has begun to fly strictly to avoid flak (enemy fire); this makes him a very inaccurate bomber, though the men appreciate his life-saving, evasive efforts.
Havermeyer, in this case, is Yossarian’s exact opposite. He does not worry about preserving his own health—he flies because he enjoys flying, and is not concerned with getting home early. For him, war is like a game. Havermeyer’s opinion will change later, however, when his fellow soldiers begin dying and disappearing.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Havermeyer baits mice with candy bars and fires at them with a .45 rifle. One night, before a major bomb run over Bologna, Havermeyer shoots so close to Hungry Joe, a soldier tormented by terrible dreams, that Hungry Joe runs out of the tent, shrieking, and hides in a rainy ditch.
The reasons for Hungry Joe’s nightmares are never explained, but it seems clear that he suffers from what might have been called, at the time, shell shock (known today as post-traumatic stress disorder).
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon