Yossarian comes to in the hospital, where he is surrounding by doctors discussing whether to operate on his wound. He has in fact been stabbed, but the cuts are shallow—he won’t die if treated. When the doctors ask him questions, however, he spars with them verbally, and they threaten not to help him, calling him a “smart aleck.”
Once again, Yossarian finds himself in the hospital, as he was at the beginning of the novel. But now he is truly injured. In these final two chapters, much of Yossarian’s life will come full circle—he will also begin to reckon with the memory of Snowden.
Yossarian is given total anesthesia and operated on. He wakes up to Korn, and then to the chaplain, visiting him once again in the hospital. The chaplain says he is glad to hear Yossarian will recover quickly.
Although the wounds appeared serious at first, Yossarian recovers quickly. His is once again lucky, in that his wound has missed a major artery.
The chaplain says he has spent a lot of time praying—he is trying to reclaim his faith. He also says he heard Yossarian was stabbed by a “Nazi assassin.” Yossarian informs the chaplain that it was merely Nately’s girlfriend. The chaplain says Cathcart and Korn have been telling the Nazi assassin story, making Yossarian sound like a hero.
Cathcart and Korn have every reason to make Yossarian a hero, as in the flight over Ferrara—it allows them to avoid a “black eye.” If Yossarian is a hero, given a hero’s discharge, then Cathcart and Korn are free to continue raising the number of mission for the men that remain.
Yossarian tells the chaplain of the deal he made with Cathcart and Korn in the previous chapter. The chaplain seems disappointed but tells Yossarian he must do what he feels is right. Yossarian begins to change his mind, wondering if he was wrong to accept the deal and “do business” with Cathcart and Korn.
The chaplain finally serves his function—offering moral advice to Yossarian simply by expressing dismay that Yossarian would accept any offer made by Cathcart and Korn. Yossarian clearly trusts the chaplain’s moral opinion. Note how Yossarian terms his agreement with Cathcart and Korn as “doing business”—those seeking profit from the war have been the subjects of the novel’s most biting satire, and Yossarian now realizes that in agreeing to the deal he has chosen personal profit as his primary objective as well.
The chaplain also tells Yossarian that Hungry Joe has died—in his sleep, of constant nightmares. This means that most of Yossarian’s comrades from the beginning of the novel have died or disappeared. Yossarian interprets a phrase he heard under anesthesia—“We’ve got your pal”—not just to refer to the presence of the chaplain at his bedside, but to the idea that the Army has taken away or killed most of his friends.
A final recognition that everyone he has cared for in the Army has died, of various ailments. Hungry Joe’s post-traumatic stress has finally claimed him entirely—perhaps because Cathcart has paused in raising the number of missions, offering Joe no relief (since Joe is only soothed when he has no hope of getting out of the army).
The chaplain leaves. Yossarian wakes up in the middle of the night and hears a sinister man saying to him, again, “We’ve got your pal.” Yossarian has a vision of the way Snowden died. He recalls walking to the back of his plane, over Avignon, to find Snowden. He went to the first aid kit to get morphine, but found that the morphine had been taken out—sold by Milo as part of M & M Enterprises.
An important moment, joining the comic hijinks of Milo’s cartel to the very serious events on Yossarian’s airplane. If the morphine had been present—if not for those seeking personal profit—it would not have saved Snowden’s life, but it would have made his final moments more bearable.
Yossarian attempted to calm Snowden regardless. He began tending to Snowden’s leg would, which was severe but not apparently life threatening. A tail gunner lying near Snowden, unwounded, kept fainting and waking back up, owing to the sight of Snowden’s blood.
Yossarian demonstrates a good deal of poise and bravery in this section. Although Snowden’s injuries are gruesome, Yossarian stays by the wounded man.
As he tends to Snowden’s leg wound, Snowden complains that he’s cold, and Yossarian tells him only, “There, there.” He finally sees that Snowden has been hit under his flak jacket, and opens up Snowden’s shirt. As Snowden’s insides pour out into the plane, Yossarian begins screaming, and the tail gunner faints once more.
But once Yossarian realizes just how seriously Snowden has been injured, he cannot control himself—the scene is simply too horrifying for him. This is the moment he has tried to suppress, since it is hard for him to process the seriousness of the carnage he has been made to witness.
Yossarian begins trying to tend to this wound, but realizes there is nothing he can do. He has a realization: that man is “only matter,” and this is what happens to man when he is put into warfare—man falls apart, quite literally and physically. He covers Snowden with his parachute, to keep him warm, and tells him, “There, there.”
Yossarian’s realization is a fundamental one in wartime, and in the novel—human beings can die in any of a number of ways, and in war, these deaths often happen in a split-second, without much explanation or time to react. War, Yossarian realizes, functions primarily to destroy individual men.