Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 10 : Wintergreen | Summary



Clevinger is dead—vanished, along with his plane, on an otherwise uneventful mission. No trace of the plane has been found. Yossarian suspects he's gone AWOL.

In a quick flashback, the reader learns that the squadron's expert on going AWOL is ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, who—in his cadet days—spent all his time digging and filling holes as punishment for deserting. One day he struck open a water pipe and nearly drowned. Rumors spread that he had struck oil, and airmen started digging holes everywhere. Seven months later, in Pianosa, Yossarian recalls that the chaotic scene resembled the night Milo bombed his own squadron.


The "everyone is insane" theme is strengthened here. Major Major's assistant, Sergeant Towser, is thinking that every man in uniform is crazy. Towser is the only person besides Yossarian who understands about Mudd, the dead man in Yossarian's tent. Mudd, the pilot who had been assigned to that tent, was killed in combat before he got the chance to report for duty. The dead Mudd can't be discharged because he was never formally signed into the squadron. Because he never officially became a member of the squadron, he can't be removed from it, and his effects can't be collected. Mudd's life is made to seem so inconsequential that readers are likely to wonder if Heller had in mind the phrase "his name is mud" when naming him. This is yet another catch-22 exemplifying some of the absurdities of military protocol.

One week after Mudd is killed, Colonel Cathcart volunteers the group for a dangerous mission to well-defended Bologna, Italy. Sick call is canceled so that no one will shirk the assignment. This infuriates Dr. Stubbs, the medical man in Dunbar's squadron, and he vows to ground anyone who asks him. For his part, Dunbar is certain he'll die on the mission; so is Yossarian. When Dunbar asks for codeine for himself and Yossarian, Dr. Stubbs comments that Yossarian "may be the only sane one left." The insanity of war is revealed in what appears to be a suicide mission. Dr. Stubbs, realizing the futility of the colonel's orders knowing that many of the men will not return, sympathizes with their plight.

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