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Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 6 : Hungry Joe | Summary



Hungry Joe has had more tours of duty than any other air force hero, but he's a mess. He's cracking under the stress of waiting to be shipped home. He lapses into insanity every time he finishes a combat mission; his screaming nightmares keep the whole squadron awake. Yossarian believes that Hungry Joe's nightmares are perfectly sensible. "It made sense to cry out in pain every night."

A complicated and confusing fight breaks out mid-chapter. One result of the fight is that Chief White Halfoat is moved into Doc Daneeka's tent. General Dreedle wants him fit enough to punch Colonel Moodus, Dreedle's son-in-law, whenever Dreedle gives the order. Chief White Halfoat would rather have stayed in the trailer he shared with Captain Flume, whom he used to torture by threatening to cut his throat.

Yossarian asks ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen what would happen if he refused to fly. Wintergreen says, "We'd probably shoot you." When Yossarian asks whose side Wintergreen is on, Wintergreen retorts, "If you're going to be shot, whose side do you expect me to be on?"


It is starting to become clear that Yossarian is not a madman or that, if he is, he's not the only one. Hungry Joe, who's flown far more missions than Yossarian, is in even worse shape. Paradoxically, he can relax only when he has to fly another mission; otherwise he spends all his time dreading it.

This chapter provides the first mention of the bridge-bombing mission that killed Kraft. (Readers rarely learn a character's first name; in the military, it's customary to use only last names in conversation.) Heller hints that Yossarian believes Kraft's death to be his fault. When his plane flew over the bridge the first time, Yossarian was unable to drop his bombs. When his plane flew over the target a second time, antiaircraft fire had already begun. Heller does not state outright that Yossarian was to blame for the crash. What he does state is that Aarfy, the navigator, was "confused." Aarfy's confused about a lot of things, and his confusion will have terrible consequences.

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