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Catch-22 | Chapter 28 : Dobbs | Summary

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Summary

While Yossarian was in the hospital, Orr's plane was shot down. Orr managed to land it in the ocean so skillfully that none of the crew was hurt. Unfortunately, none of their life jackets worked because Milo had stolen the carbon-dioxide cylinders to make ice cream sodas. Sergeant Knight tells Yossarian that Orr stayed oddly happy throughout the crisis, even trying to row the six-man life raft home with a little oar he found.

In the tent he and Yossarian share, Orr asks why Yossarian never flies with him. But he already knows that it's because Yossarian thinks he's a bad pilot. He urges Yossarian to reconsider, reminding him that no one has ever been hurt in his plane and that Yossarian needs more experience making crash landings.

It's the men's last conversation. On his next flight, Orr's plane is shot down again. Alone on a raft, he drifts away and disappears.

Analysis

When Heller steps away from satire and writes with realism, his passages are invariably moving. Here, he offers a "day in the life" interaction between Orr and Yossarian that is sweet and poignant—all the more so because it will be the last time the roommates talk.

We watch their friendly bickering as Orr tinkers with their stove. Yossarian asks impatiently why Orr is working so hard when the weather is still warm. Orr answers, "I'd like to get this all finished for you while there's still time." Orr knows that with any luck he'll be escaping soon. The cozy scene he imagines for Yossarian shows his heartwarming desire to leave his friend with something to comfort him in the cold.

Because Orr has been giggling through much of the chapter, it's startling when he suddenly looks straight into Yossarian's face and asks, "Why don't you ever fly with me?" He speaks "without bitterness or reproach, but with injured humility." Orr adds that, if Yossarian had any brains, he would request to fly all his missions with Orr. Only in the book's last chapter do we find out that Orr really meant it. He was asking Yossarian to come with him. Yossarian half-realizes that Orr is hinting at something, but the moment of intimacy passes.

Orr's incessant giggling and weird facial tics distract the reader from the sweetness of his character. But it should be noted that, when he and his men are stranded on a raft, he manages to make them all forget the danger and believe instead that they're on a fun adventure.

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