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Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 40 : Catch-22 | Summary



Colonel Korn tells Yossarian that they're sending him home because "there's nothing else we can risk doing to you at this time." They're just asking for a small favor in return—a favor, or else a court-martial. They want Yossarian to find it in his heart to like them, by which Korn means to praise them. As long as Yossarian acts friendly and doesn't mention the real reason he's being sent home, he'll live a happy and successful life. Why, he might even inspire the men to fly more missions!

Yossarian pauses, realizing what a nasty trick he's playing on the other men. But if they want to stop flying, they can stand up for themselves the way he did. He'll play along. After agreeing to meet Korn and Cathcart in the group dining room for dinner, he exits Cathcart's office.

Nately's whore, knife in hand, is waiting for him outside the building.


Chapter 40 could have been shorter and punchier; the colonels seem to babble on and on. Nevertheless, the point is made. Yossarian is free to go—as long as he conceals any sign that his act of rebellion is the real reason he gets to leave.

Readers may sense that Heller has painted himself into a corner here. He needs to set up a situation that will allow Yossarian to realize that, no matter how much he wants to go home, the moral price is too high. Because Catch-22 is satire, Heller can play for time by supplying the colonels with shallow, self-serving dialogue to make the chapter a respectable length. But he really wants to move on, and so does the reader.

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