Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 38 : Kid Sister | Summary

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Summary

Yossarian now walks around backward so that no one can sneak up on him. He's announced that he's done flying combat missions, but that doesn't mean he feels safe on the ground. To Yossarian, everyone looks like an assassin.

Colonel Korn is unimpressed with Yossarian's decision and makes it clear that "he has to fly more missions. He has no choice." He does suggest that Yossarian be given a few days' leave in Rome. There, Yossarian has to tell Nately's whore that Nately has died. She goes into a frenzy of grief and rage and takes out these feelings on Yossarian. From then on all she wants is to kill him. With surreal frequency she begins popping up in front of him with a knife in her hand.

Others are lying in wait for Yossarian as well. His fellow soldiers all want to ask him about his decision to stop flying and to wish him good luck. The soldiers never approach Yossarian by day, and he knows it's because they're different people when it's dark. Meanwhile, he's waiting to hear what punishment he'll get.

Just back from Rome, Captain Black cheerily informs Yossarian that Nately's whore and her kid sister have been thrown out on the street.

Analysis

By this point, Yossarian is about 90 percent paranoid. Modern readers may feel that the attacks from Nately's whore are so cartoonlike that they lose much of their surprise and suspense. The nighttime pop-ups from his friends are much more dramatically effective. Because so many of Yossarian's close friends have died, it is comforting (to the reader) to see his acquaintances connect with him. Yossarian is too wound up to appreciate their support.

Besides, the people who want to talk to Yossarian at night ignore him completely during the day. "Yossarian understood that they were different people together in daylight than they were alone in the dark." Under cover of darkness, the soldiers feel freer to share their vulnerability with Yossarian. Sadly, they can show their more tender qualities only when no one can see them. This goes contrary to the conventional literary notion that night brings out the darkness in people's souls.

But darkness will assume its traditional guise in the next chapter, where Yossarian will suffer the worst night of his life.

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