Catch-22 Chapters 17-21 Summary

After Yossarian returned from Rome, he was told by Hungry Joe that the colonel had raised the amount of missions needed to go home to forty missions. As Yossarian has thirty-two missions, he went to the hospital in order to get out of having to fly any more missions. His supposed liver condition is his ticket to his stay in the hospital. After all, when people are in the hospital the chances of them dying was a lot less than their chances of dying outside the hospital. The one person everyone except the Texan were afraid of was the man encased in white. He was covered in gauze and had his limbs encased in casts, so the only thing visible was a slash where his mouth was supposed to be. He finally died, but the nurses didn't discover this until he had been dead for a while because they could only tell he was alive was by taking his temperature.

Yossarian's penchant for retreating to a hospital whenever the Army required him to do something he found unpalatable started when he was in cadet training at Santa Anna, California. He first played sick after he was told he would have to participate in calisthenics because he did not like physical exercise. It was then that Yossarian was given the possible diagnosis of a problematic liver. He also liked the soldier who suddenly saw double because the rest of the soldiers at the hospital were quarantined. So when Yossarian was about to be released, he also claimed to see double. This worked out well for him until he saw the other soldier die, which made him rethink this strategy. A doctor who knew he was faking promised not to report Yossarian if he would pretend to be the dead soldier for a while. It seems the dead soldier's family thought he was still alive and were coming to see him on his death bed. Yossarian, disguised by bandages and low lighting, managed to fool the family.

Chapter nineteen is about Colonel Cathcart and his need for recognition. He is a man of many contradictions, such as his best friend is Cornel Korn, but he also distrusts Cornel Korn. He is also always trying to find ways to receive a promotion to General. He saw an editorial in the Saturday Evening Post about a squadron which had its chaplain say a prayer before every mission. He thought this might be a good way to receive the same recognition for himself. His chaplain was happy to say a prayer until he learned the Colonel wanted it to be a humorous prayer about a tight flying formation, with no mention of God and no enlisted men present. The chaplain said that might be difficult to do as all his prayers involved God. The chaplain also told him that keeping the enlisted men out of the prayer meeting would possibly work against the goal of the colonel. The colonel decided then to leave the whole thing go.

In chapter twenty, Corporal Whitcomb's attitude toward the chaplain is explained. Corporal Whitcomb is an atheist, so this in itself does not make him the best person to help the chaplain. He also does not believe in what the chaplain is trying to do to help the men. The corporal does receive a great deal of satisfaction in making the chaplain's life miserable. He blames the chaplain for the lack of attendance at the weekly services and the chaplain's inability to connect with the men. Corporal Whitcomb's objective is to depose the chaplain and run things the way he wants them done. It does not seem to matter to the corporal that he is an atheist.

Corporal Whitcomb has been talking to the C.I.D. man who broke his nose He has convinced the C.I.D. man that the chaplain is the person who has been signing Washington Irving's name to the papers sent to Major Major and he has also been intercepting Major Major's confidential papers.

In chapter twenty-one, Colonel Cathcart is upset about Yossarian and the number of times he has made him look foolish in the eyes of General Dreedle. He had stood naked while waiting to receive his Distinguished Flying Cross medal, the Colonel felt he was the one who moved the bomb line for the Bologna mission, and he had also made the second run at the bridge at Ferrara causing a plane to be lost. Colonel Cathcart hated Yossarian and wanted to make him pay for his actions.

Also, the Colonel needed to make a good impression on General Dreedle. This was not easy since General Dreedle hated him. General Dreedle had been in the army most of his life, but now that the country was at war he was stuck with his son-in-law, Colonel Moodus, as his aide. The General also always traveled with his nurse, who did more than provide nursing duties for the General. She was a nice looking woman who inspired the men to think about her more than was good for them. At the mission briefing for the Avignon bombing raid, the admiration grew to such a state that the men started to moan. This did not go down very well with the General. Of course, it was Yossarian who started the moaning.

These chapters show how different people deal with their need to be in charge, from Cathcart trying to get in the Saturday Evening Post to Whitcomb trying to undermine the chaplain. Once again, Yossarian is a burr in the side of Colonel Cathcart through his various misdeeds. Heller is as always showing how the need to win the war is placed second to the desires of the officers to get ahead.

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Catch-22 Chapters 22-26 Summary
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