Study Guide

Catch-22 Chapter 17

By Joseph Heller

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Chapter 17

  • Yossarian takes refuge in the hospital, pretending he's sick, to keep from flying any more than the thirty-two missions he already has.
  • Yossarian likes living in the hospital because Death is tame and dignified there, unlike outside on the battlefield. However, the quality of the hospital has been decreasing as the war continues. He experienced the worst hospital conditions during his last visit, when the Texan and soldier in white were admitted. Both were creepy in their own special ways.
  • On second thought, Yossarian thinks it is more likely that Nurse Cramer killed the soldier in white by taking and then reporting his body temperature. Yossarian thinks that had she not done that, the soldier in white might still be "alive." Don't worry – you're supposed to be confused.
  • Though the other men were suspicious of the soldier in white, the Texan happily conversed with him, even though he never talked back.
  • The nurses enjoy cleaning the soldier in white daily.
  • Dunbar suggests that there's nobody inside all the white bandages and the administration just sent them here for a joke. This alarms Nurse Cramer.
  • This leads to a discussion about what the soldier in white did to deserve such a punishment. The men discuss the arbitrariness of Fate and how no man's reward or punishment ever matches up to his actions. They wish for a more rational universe. Don't we all? By the way, we think this passage is extremely important.
  • We learn that Yossarian had the chance to complete all his missions before Colonel Cathcart even arrived. He was close to completing Colonel Nevers's required twenty-five, but did not complete them in time because he slept with a woman and was laid up for ten days in the hospital with a venereal disease.
  • We learn that both Yossarian and Hungry Joe are obsessed with and paranoid about diseases. They study them with a macabre delight.
  • Yossarian has another discussion with Doc Daneeka trying to convince him to take him off duty. Again, Doc Daneeka refuses, invoking Catch-22.

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