Study Guide

Catch-22 Chapter 39

By Joseph Heller

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Chapter 39

  • Yossarian flies to Rome to find the kid sister. He doesn't have official leave.
  • Milo flies the plane. During the whole flight, he berates Yossarian for being a coward and abandoning his country and being ungrateful to his superiors.
  • Yossarian only nods silently. He doesn't want to argue.
  • Rome is in ruins. The American troops have razed it to the ground.
  • An old woman in the shambles of the brothel despairs that everyone is "gone." She keeps repeating "gone" when questioned by Yossarian.
  • Then surprisingly, she invokes Catch-22. Yossarian is stunned that she, an Italian woman, knows about it.
  • Yossarian asks Milo to help him find the kid sister. He describes her as a twelve-year-old virgin, but Milo just tries to sell him another girl.
  • Milo brings Yossarian to the Italian police headquarters. We find out that Milo is a marquis (or "marchese" in Italian).
  • The police commissioner, Luigi, informs Milo that he would do everything in his power to help Yossarian, but all his men are currently busy busting illegal tobacco traffic. Milo is all ears and then abandons Yossarian to get in on the tobacco trade.
  • Yossarian is left to wander the city. As he does, he gets depressed thinking of all the death and misery in the world and the unfairness of it all.
  • As he wanders, he sees many people being victimized. He does not stop to help them, but only keeps on walking.
  • Yossarian discovers Aarfy hiding in the officers' apartment. He has raped and killed a maid named Michaela, and then thrown her body out the window. Witnesses circle the body and point up at Aarfy, who is hiding near the window.
  • Yossarian is aghast that Aarfy has murdered someone. He hears police sirens nearing and tells Aarfy that they're coming for him. Aarfy, obviously scared, tries to deny it.
  • But the police break into the room and put handcuffs on Yossarian. He is being arrested for being in Rome without official permission.
  • They fly him back to Pianosa and take him to Colonel Cathcart.
  • Colonel Cathcart declares that they are sending Yossarian home. Jaws drop.

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