Doc Daneeka shares a tent with Chief White Halfoat, a Native American soldier whom Daneeka hates. Daneeka tells Yossarian his medical practice at home was just starting to make money before the war, mostly from abortions.
An instance of black humor. It is both darkly comic and also obviously awful that Daneeka sees abortions as a way to make money. Yet those who make money supplying war material, which also directly kills people, don’t get criticized in the same way.
Doc Daneeka tells Yossarian a story of two newlyweds who once came into his office: it turned out they could not conceive because the woman was still a virgin, even though they thought they were having sex “properly” the whole time. When Daneeka explains intercourse to the couple, the man comes in a few days later and punches Daneeka without explanation. Daneeka and Yossarian are confused, and the narrator never explains the joke.
An instance not of gallows humor but of sexual humor. It is clear that whatever information Doc Daneeka has provided the couple comes as a real surprise to them, particularly to the husband. Part of the humor in Heller’s retelling depends on the fact that the punch line to the joke is never provided.
Chief White Halfoat is the assistant intelligence officer to Captain Black, although Halfoat cannot read or write. He blames his lack of education on “the white man,” who kept moving his family around in Oklahoma, since oil was continually found on Native American land there, and the profits from it were seized by the white population. Despite his own oppression, Halfoat expresses mistrust, even hatred, of other non-white ethnic groups.
Halfoat also serves as a comedic character throughout much of the novel—even his death from pneumonia is treated humorously—and his family history is no exception. Although white oppression of Native Americans is no laughing matter, Halfoat’s many moves around the country are described in light, slapstick fashion.
Yossarian flies another mission, then asks Daneeka to ground him from flying, owing to insanity. Daneeka says he cannot grant this wish because Yossarian asked, therefore he is behaving rationally (in order to avoid death in war), therefore he is not crazy. Daneeka explains that this is a catch in the system—he calls it “Catch-22.”
An important scene in the novel. Daneeka introduces a term that will apply to the soldiers on Pianosa in many contexts. At first, as in this scene, the Catch-22 applies to the soldiers’ dealings with an absurd and self-interested military bureaucracy.
Daneeka explains, further, that Orr could be grounded, since he is mentally unstable, but he’d have to ask—and if he asked, he’d be behaving rationally, thus he’d be sane and forced to fly more missions. Yossarian remarks that “Catch-22” is a “powerful” catch, and Daneeka agrees.
Mental illness in the novel is often described in jest. It is interesting to note that some of the characters, including Hungry Joe, do suffer from undiagnosed “shell shock,” or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Yossarian is reminded of a discussion he once had with Orr about Appleby, another soldier and a great Ping-Pong player. Appleby, Orr claims, has “flies in his eyes,” but doesn’t know it, because the flies in his eyes keep him from seeing the flies. Yossarian tells Appleby about the flies, but Appleby mis-hears and believes Yossarian says he has “sties in his eyes.”
Of course it would make far more sense for someone to have sties, rather than flies, in his eyes. But having sties would make it more difficult to see, and it is alleged that Appleby has extra-accurate eyesight, allowing him to be a champion Ping-Pong player.
The conversations ends as Yossarian and the others are forced to go on a bombing mission. They fly in B-25s, enormous bombing planes, and Yossarian, as lead bombardier, must sit in a tiny plexiglass nob of the plane, from which he sights the target. This nob is connected to the rest of the plane via a crawlway, which Aarfy, another soldier and the plane’s navigator, always seems to block.
The first bombing mission described in detail. Heller often shifts abruptly from conversations “on land” to conversations in the air, perhaps to highlight the speed with which soldiers can be whisked into combat situations.
Yossarian flies with McWatt as co-pilot—the two exchange instructions about the bombing runs while Aarfy, a former “fraternity man” in college who is not very intelligent, smokes a pipe and waits placidly in the plane. Yossarian believes Aarfy is too dumb to be afraid of the missions on which he flies.
Aarfy is first introduced as a dumb, if harmless, “fraternity man,” with rather impolitic attitudes toward women. It is revealed he is capable of acting out this distasteful views later on, in Rome.
Yossarian is a master of evasive action—avoiding enemy flak—because he is terrified of dying. He recalls, for the first time in the novel, a bombing run over Avignon, when he screamed evasive directions to his co-pilot McWatt, while, over their intercom, Dobbs (another soldier) yelled that someone in the plane had been hurt. Yossarian says he’s all right, as is everyone else in the plane, except for a man named Snowden, who lies wounded, quietly, in the back of the plane.
An interesting interplay between “courage” and “cowardice.” Yossarian is afraid of flak, therefore he learns to fly quite bravely—or at least it appears so from the ground. This notion that courage and cowardice are often linked, or blurred, will be explored in various combat situations as the novel progresses.