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Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 2 : Clevinger | Summary



Fresh from the hospital, Yossarian returns to active duty. The reader meets his squadron roommate, Orr, who has added still more improvements to their luxurious tent. Several of the other soldiers are also introduced: Havermeyer, McWatt, Nately, Appleby, and Clevinger.

Clevinger and Yossarian have a fierce argument in which Yossarian maintains that everyone is trying to kill him. Clevinger tries without success to persuade him that his suspicions are unfounded: that, in fact, he's crazy. But Yossarian is certain that he's the only sane person in the war. After all, he's literally surrounded by people who want to kill him; isn't that the definition of war?


At this early point in the story, readers have to take Yossarian's word that he's the only sane person in an insane world. Of course people are shooting at him—he's in a war! He enlisted; what did he expect would happen? It seems childish and self-centered of him to expect better treatment than all the other soldiers around him.

Besides, some of the things Yossarian tells Clevinger are nutty. "They couldn't touch him because he was Tarzan, Mandrake, Flash Gordon. He was Bill Shakespeare. He was Cain, Ulysses." The list goes on and on, and Yossarian sounds more and more like the stereotyped "mental case" who believes he's Napoleon. Clevinger is right when he describes Yossarian's beliefs as symptoms.

Yossarian hasn't yet made his case. Readers will need more exposure to the crazy world around him before they begin to take his side.

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