Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 31 : Mrs. Daneeka | Summary



It's reported that Doc Daneeka was also killed when McWatt flew the plane into the mountain, but Doc was not actually in the plane when it crashed. His name is on the manifest, but that's all. McWatt added the name so that Doc, who hates flying, would be able to collect his flight pay every month. Unfortunately for Doc, Sergeant Towser hears that Doc's name is on the manifest, assumes he's dead, and removes his name from the roster of squadron personnel. As far as the army is concerned, Doc no longer exists.

Back in Staten Island, Doc Daneeka's wife gets the news that her husband is dead. A week later she receives a letter from Doc himself, begging her to ignore any rumors of his death. Overjoyed, she writes him back and tells the War Department about the mistake. The War Department insists that Doc is dead. The letter Mrs. Daneeka sent him is returned stamped KILLED IN ACTION.

Mrs. Daneeka's grief gradually fades as she begins to receive the money she's owed as a veteran's widow. She moves to a new state with her children so that Doc won't be able to track her down.


No, it couldn't happen in real life. But in Catch-22, Doc Daneeka's death is a firm fact. Doc Daneeka can't be paid because he's officially crossed off the roster. He's dead even though people can see him and talk to him—though fewer and fewer people want to talk to him now that they've been told he's dead.

It seems that regulations and paperwork are what really govern the military. Not even a living, yelling Doc Daneeka can persuade the army to restore his life. To make things worse, all of Doc's former companions fall away from him once they know that he's been declared dead. Doc's wife ends up accepting the fact he is dead as evidenced by the form letter from Colonel Cathcart despite receiving a letter from Doc himself.

Heller can only sustain the farcical nature of Chapter 31 by keeping Yossarian offstage. It's inconceivable that Yossarian, the enemy of military bureaucracy, would go along with the idea that Doc Daneeka had died. So Heller leaves him and several other main characters out of the chapter entirely.

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