Catch-22

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Catch-22 Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Yossarian knows that Hungry Joe is truly crazy—his bad dreams occur every night—but he does not know how to help him. Doc Daneeka complains about his own health—he fears constantly that he is getting sick. Daneeka has a system for treating patients in the group: if their temperatures, taken by two assistants, are above 102, the patients are admitted to the hospital; if their temperatures are below 102, they’re given a laxative and basic treatment (their gums are painted purple, for no apparent reason), then sent back to their tents.
Another instance of bizarre medical treatment. Regardless of the soldiers’ actual complaints, if they have a temperature below 102 they are given a laxative and have their gums painted. Doc Daneeka has his assistant do this to make less work for himself. Although Daneeka is a figure sympathetic to Yossarian, he, like other officers, wants to do as little work as possible.
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
Daneeka worries he will be sent to the Pacific theater of the war; he fears the diseases he might contract in that climate. Daneeka is also afraid of flying, so he asks other officers, including Yossarian, to put his name in the flight logs without his actually flying in the planes. He claims he will do Yossarian a favor in return for this white lie.
Throughout the novel, the Pacific theater is mentioned in hushed tones. In addition to disease, it is implied that pilots die more quickly there, that enemy resistance is tougher, and that so many men die others have to be sent to the Pacific to dig their graves. Daneeka’s white lie here will have consequences for him later on.
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
Yossarian asks his comrades about a soldier named Snowden, who is not identified by the narrator. His commanding officers worry Yossarian asks too many questions; Colonel Cathcart and his assistant, Korn, make a rule that only soldiers without any questions are permitted to ask questions.
The first extended mention of the Snowden incident. It is treated glancingly here, but will become increasingly important to Yossarian, especially once his friends begin dying and disappearing.
Themes
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War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Colonel Cargill, preparing an inspirational memo for the soldiers, asks: what man doesn’t want to make money? And what man of brains makes money? Wintergreen, a man working in the Rome headquarters, answers “T. S. Eliot,” and General Peckem and Cargill, not knowing who Eliot is, assume Wintergreen is speaking in code.
Another literary reference. Heller implies that the officers are not well-read enough to know that Eliot was a major English-language poet of the time. Heller, who taught college composition for several years, clearly enjoys making reference to texts common to the English major’s curriculum.
Themes
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War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
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Peckem calls General Dreedle and his assistant and son-in-law, Moodus, to see if they know anything about the “T. S. Eliot” code. They know nothing about it, and check with the Communications department, which also has no knowledge of a T. S. Eliot code.
T. S. Eliot is only a “code” inasmuch as it is a name neither Dreedle, Moodus, nor Peckem recognize. It is later noted that Peckem considers himself well-read, making this lack of knowledge even more ironic.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Dunbar and Clevinger, back in Pianosa, get into an argument about time. Dunbar says that it really helps to bore himself, since making time go more slowly does lead to a longer life. Clevinger disagrees, but Yossarian tells Clevinger to let Dunbar live his own way. When Clevinger asks why Dunbar wants his life to be longer—why he wants to avoid death—Dunbar answers that life is all they, the soldiers, have.
Dunbar’s belief, that even the torments of life are preferable to death, represents a profound optimism that Yossarian appears to share, though not explicitly, as Dunbar does. Both Dunbar and Yossarian want to protect their own lives at any cost, whereas soldiers like Havermeyer seem more willing to risk their lives to experience the “thrill” of warfare.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon