Study Guide

Catch-22 Chapter 4

By Joseph Heller

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Chapter 4

  • Yossarian tries to help Hungry Joe, but Joe won't listen to him. Yossarian goes to Doc Daneeka for help.
  • The Doc is…not helpful. This is becoming a habit. Instead, he rants about his own troubles. This is also becoming a habit. He worries about his own health and has his health workers constantly check his temperature, which stays at 96.8 degrees all the time.
  • The health workers have a precise system worked out to care for sick men based on their body temperatures. Doc Daneeka is never consulted.
  • We learn that Doc Daneeka hates to fly but must put in flight hours to get paid. So Yossarian helps him out by persuading McWatt to mark Doc Daneeka's name on the flight log even when he hasn't flown.
  • Still, Doc Daneeka doesn't ever help Yossarian out.
  • Changing topics completely, we learn that Clevinger used to hold educational sessions in which soldiers were allowed to ask questions. Yossarian attends them because he wants to learn why everyone is trying to kill him.
  • Clevinger is always bombarded by nonsense questions after his sessions, for which he never has answers.
  • So to make sure you're up to date: The doctor never helps his patients, and the teacher never teaches his students. OK.
  • This alarms Group Headquarters because they don't want free speech (among other basic human liberties). So Colonel Korn issues a rule stating that only people who never ask questions are permitted to ask questions. This renders Clevinger's sessions ineffective and they are cancelled.
  • General Dreedle requires all his men to spend eight hours at the skeet-shooting range to have fun. Yes, he requires them to have fun. Yossarian is terrible at shooting skeet and gambling. Which makes it not so fun.
  • Colonel Cargill admires him, saying it takes brains not to make money at gambling. He says any fool with talent can make money. Then he challenges anyone to name a poet (a brain) who makes money.
  • Nobody can until Wintergreen anonymously calls in and says, "T.S. Eliot," and hangs up. Nobody understands what this means (because Wintergreen doesn't give it any context) so General Peckem uses it to play a prank on General Dreedle.
  • He prank-calls him, says "T.S. Eliot," and hangs up. This leaves Dreedle in the same situation.
  • Dreedle thinks it is some new code and asks Communications about it. They deny it, so Dreedle asks Wintergreen about it – all in vain. When this falls through, Dreedle thinks that it's all made up by Peckem.
  • We learn in this chapter that Dreedle opened Colonel Cathcart's private skeet-shooting range to the men.
  • Dunbar loves to shoot skeet because it makes time pass more slowly. He is paranoid about getting old. So everything he does is aimed at slowing down time. When Clevinger asks why, Dunbar explains his theory of time.
  • Clevinger remarks that by Dunbar's logic, in order for one to live a long life, it has to be full of unpleasant conditions to make it seem long. He asks why anyone would want such a miserable existence.
  • Dunbar replies with a question: "What else is there?"
  • This is an important passage and you should definitely take note of it.

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