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Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 12 : Bologna | Summary



The mission to Bologna keeps being postponed because of rain. This only makes things worse for the combat men in the squadron: now they have more time to dread it. When the rain finally stops, Yossarian secretly moves the bomb line on the map to make it appear that Bologna has already been captured. He also buys more time by poisoning the food to give everyone diarrhea.

The squadron's morale continues to disintegrate. One rainy night, Chief White Halfoat "borrows" Captain Black's jeep. He, Yossarian, and a few more men go for a drunken drive. The jeep rolls over an embankment. In the midst of their revelry, the men suddenly realize that the rain has stopped. There will be no getting out of the Bologna mission now.

Later that night, Hungry Joe tries to shoot Huple's cat because he believes that it was trying to suffocate him. Yossarian decrees that the cat and Hungry Joe must have a fair right. The cat dashes off, and Hungry Joe is declared the winner.


While most of the novel's chapters are the names of characters, this chapter is the name of a place. Bologna is an Italian city and the target of a raid that will have a big impact on Yossarian. This chapter shows how a soldier, in this case Yossarian, is able to delay military missions simply by moving a line on a map. The capture of Bologna is not verified, and the raid is canceled.

Even a cat seems menacing as the Bologna raid approaches. The men in Yossarian's squadron are so starved for distraction that they swarm around to watch Hungry Joe and the cat fight it out.

For the most part, Heller touches only lightly on what might be called "raucous behavior" in the squadron. He limits bad behavior to the scenes in Rome (the old man who runs the brothel in Rome should be debauched enough for anyone's taste). The drinking scene in this chapter comes as a pleasant novelty. The dialogue is hilarious. Even after their jeep rolls over, the soldiers keep partying.

Straight-arrow Clevinger scolds them. "You don't care if you drink yourselves to death or drown yourselves to death, do you?" Someone answers, "Just as long as we don't fly ourselves to death."

The men's drunken conversation gives Heller a chance to work in bits of information that would be hard to fit in anywhere else. We learn, for instance, that it always drove the men crazy when Flume rhymed at dinner. "No more of that 'Pass the salt, Walt.'" Such throwaway lines drive home the point that it's maddening for the men to have to share such close quarters and eat with the same people at every meal.

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