Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In Chapter 27 of Catch-22, what does Major Sanderson reveal about himself?

Major Sanderson is a good example of the stereotypical psychiatrist who's more disturbed than his patients. He sees phallic symbols everywhere. He assumes that Yossarian's sex-crazed subconscious directs all his thinking. He reads far too much into Yossarian's chance remarks. When Yossarian says he doesn't especially like fish, Major Sanderson "triumphantly" asks Yossarian why he has such a morbid aversion to fish. He tells Yossarian what kind of dreams to have. Most revealingly, he seizes any chance to describe his own problems to Yossarian. There is an instance of role reversal in this scene. Yossarian acts as psychiatrist and listens to patient Sanderson's problems.

In Chapter 28 of Catch-22, Yossarian's roommate, Orr, is forced to land a damaged airplane into the sea. How does this scene develop the character of Milo Minderbinder?

The life jackets are designed to be inflated by twin carbon-dioxide cylinders. Unfortunately, the downed airmen discover that Milo Minderbinder has removed the cylinders to make ice cream sodas for the officers. Milo has replaced all the cylinders with mimeographed notes announcing that what's good for his syndicate is good for the country. Milo's skewed idea of patriotism and blatant disregard for the men's safety could have resulted in their death. The men on this mission survive, but toward the book's end, Milo's bad habit of helping himself to the airmen's supplies and his self-serving attitude will have tragic consequences.

In Chapter 29 of Catch-22, Orr pilots a damaged bomber into the sea and then takes command of the life raft. Consider how his odd character affects his success.

Orr is a strange person, and his behavior on the life raft—though competent—is also strange. He giggles at every new misfortune "like a crazy little freak," reports one of the men later on. He opens up different compartments in the raft and finds food for the men, even managing to make tea for them. He sprinkles shark repellent around the raft and throws marker dye into the water to make the raft easier for rescuers to spot. He discovers some fishing line and bait and immediately starts fishing. Oddest of all, he tries to row the raft—which is holding a combined weight of 900 pounds—with a small oar. On balance, his unsuspected skill at handling this emergency will serve him well later in the book.

In Chapter 29 of Catch-22, why is General Peckem's idea about bomb patterns problematic?

General Peckem loves the idea that an idle concept he dreamed up is being taken seriously. He has told his staff that on bombing missions the men should be sure to drop the bombs so that they'll explode close together, producing more attractive aerial photographs. "It means nothing," he says, "but you'd be surprised at how rapidly it's caught on." The concept of bomb patterns is chilling for many reasons. Among them: A general in wartime thought it worthwhile to trick his staff into believing that he actually supports an inane and shallow idea. The same general has so little regard for life on the ground that he's untroubled by the idea that bomb patterns might endanger civilians. Colonel Cathcart fell in so readily with Peckem's suggestion. Though it came from a superior, the idea was so clearly ridiculous—and exposed the men in the planes to such needless risk—that no sane person would consider it a reasonable request.

In Chapter 29 of Catch-22, why does Captain Orr work so hard to finish the stove he's building?

Orr says he wants to finish the stove "for you"—Yossarian—while there's still time. Becase Orr and Yossarian share a tent, the reader might expect him to say "for us." And what does he mean by "while there's still time"? He means that he won't be around once the cold weather comes. He wants to finish the stove before the cold weather sets in and he goes AWOL. Orr makes this intention even clearer when he suggests that Yossarian "go right to Piltchard and Wren and tell them you want to fly with me. ... I'm just about the best pilot around now when it comes to ditching or making crash landings."

In Chapter 29 of Catch-22, how do Doc Daneeka's character traits lead to confusion for others?

Doc Daneeka's fear leads to confusion over his fate. Because Doc Daneeka hates flying so much, McWatt often includes him on the flight log as a favor. That way Daneeka can fulfill his flight requirements without actually having to get into a plane. On the flight that kills Kid Sampson, two new pilots and Doc Daneeka are listed as being aboard with McWatt. Everyone sees the two pilots parachute out of the plane before McWatt crashes it. Because Sergeant Knight doesn't see Doc Daneeka jump, he assumes that the doctor has been killed along with McWatt. By doing him a favor, McWatt unwittingly causes more trouble for Doc Daneeka and his wife down the road.

In Chapter 31 of Catch-22, "not even the chaplain could bring Doc Daneeka back to life." Why not?

No one can bring Doc Daneeka back to life because he's not dead. Because he was listed as a passenger on the plane and no one saw him parachute to safety, he is considered dead—even though he never got on the plane. Although the doctor is still visibly alive, everyone treats him as if he were dead. The living Doc Daneeka can't be treated as if he's alive because he's already been crossed off the list of squadron personnel. It's interesting to see how military rules are enforced even when they make no sense. Doc Daneeka's physical presence makes no difference—the military still refuses to acknowledge the fact that he's still alive.

In Chapter 33 of Catch-22, Nately's whore finally falls in love with him. Almost immediately, the budding romance is derailed. What does this reveal about the woman's characterization?

Now that he and his girl are an official couple, Nately is suddenly filled with propriety. His new sense of virtue extends to his girlfriend, and he orders her to stop streetwalking. However, she is unable to change. She can't understand Nately's new attitude. He already knows she's a prostitute, so what difference does it make if she keeps working? What is she supposed to do all day? For his part Nately can't understand why the girl doesn't see his point. He's willing to give her all the money she needs; why should she still hustle? Nately also wants her to stop associating with the dissolute old man who owns the brothel. This she flatly refuses to do.

In Chapter 34 of Catch-22, what does the chaplain's deception about Wisconsin shingles reveal?

There's no such condition as Wisconsin shingles: the chaplain has invented them so that he too can be admitted to the hospital with his friends. He's proud of himself for having pulled off this imposture. It makes him feel like one of the gang. Besides, he's so happy to be in the hospital that lying and evading his responsibilities can't possibly be sins. The chaplain believed he "had mastered, in a moment of divine intuition, the handy technique of protective rationalization, and he was exhilarated by his discovery." Although his conscience will return, he won't forget how good it felt to sin.

In Chapter 35 of Catch-22, Milo begs Colonel Cathcart to let him fly more combat missions. Consider the nature of this request and its consequences.

As always, Milo is being devious here. He doesn't actually want more combat missions. What he wants is to be freed from having to think about combat missions. He achieves this goal by asking Colonel Cathcart for more missions and hinting that Cathcart might have to take over running the syndicate while Milo is flying. Cathcart agrees eagerly—until Milo gives him such a long, tedious list of responsibilities that Cathcart backs down and offers to find someone else to fly Milo's missions. Cathcart adds that, if one of the replacement pilots happens to get a citation for heroism, it will be passed along to Milo.

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