Catch-22: Chapters 14-18

Chapters Read:14. Kid Sampson, 15. Piltchard and Wren, 16. Lucina, 17. The Soldier in White, 18. The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice

Page reached:: 171 of 448 (38.17%).

Status Report: A few welcome diversions in this block of chapters, fueling speculation that this thing might have a plot after all. Piltchard and Wren contains an actual action sequence. Lucina, meanwhile, is a break from the chapters devoted solely to the foibles of the military and the men therein.

Yossarian is shaping up to be a pretty great antihero. Craven, carnal, self-absorbed, and downright dangerous at times, he often reflects on and epitomizes the ridiculousness of the war. The central problem, of course, is that every character is looking out for himself alone, and therefore butting heads with all the other vain and self-serving characters strewn throughout the book. By getting us to sympathize with one, Heller demonstrates that, individually, everyone is acting sanely, insofar as their only aim to to advance their own interests. It’s only when you look at the “Big Picture” that you see that the whole is much, much less than the sum of its parts–a bunch of rational actors to collectively make up the enormous clusterfuck of war..

Favorite Passage:”Don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued, hurtling on over her objection. “There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else He’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about – a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”

“Pain?” Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife pounced upon the word victoriously. “Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.”

“And who created the dangers?” Yossarian demanded … “Why couldn’t He have used a doorbell instead to notify us?”

Words Looked Up:

  • Slattern: 1. a slovenly, untidy woman or girl; 2. a slut; harlot.
  • Fructified: to bear fruit; become fruitful.
  • Effulgent: shining forth brilliantly; radiant.
  • Somnolently: 1. sleepy; drowsy; 2. tending to cause sleep.
  • Lachrymose: suggestive of or tending to cause tears; mournful.
  • Sententiously: 1. abounding in pithy aphorisms or maxims; 2. given to excessive moralizing; self-righteous; 3. of the nature of a maxim; pithy.
  • Fillip: 1. to strike with the nail of a finger snapped from the end of the thumb; 2. to tap or strike smartly.
* * *

16 comments.

  1. That is definitely my favorite passage from my favorite book ever.

    I’ve never actually taken the time to, like, analyze it, or anything, though.

  2. i finished monday pm. good book, but glad to be done.

    in my world, a ‘fillip’ is a ‘ping’.

  3. Your analysis of Yossarian’s function as an antihero was enough to make the whole NaNoReMo thing worthwhile for me. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Thank you.

  4. “They couldn’t dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her behave. They had taught her manners. They couldn’t keep Death out, but while she was in she had to act like a lady. People gave up the ghost with delicacy and taste inside the hospital. There was none of that crude, ugly ostentaion about dying that was so common outside the hospital.”

    Interesting picture of Death made to be a lady in the hospital I think. This book is certainly getting darker and it is making more sense to me now too. Maybe I am just getting used to Heller’s style.

  5. Slow down, Darnit! I will never catch you up at this rate!

  6. Just wanted to let you know that I’m still in. Haven’t blogged about it, but then again I’ve not blogged about anything for a while. I do enjoy the writing, though I can sympathize with the drop-outs; it does feel a bit like the same thing over & over again.

    I’m surprised that you’ve not mentioned M*A*S*H yet. In almost every chapter I find myself thinking, oh so *that’s* where they got the idea for that episode!

  7. The Soldier in White and The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice.

    was this sentence supposed to have more to it?

  8. Fructified? that’s a tough word. Beware the typo!

  9. I tried, and failed, to come up with a good excuse to repeat one of my favorite lines from the book: “I see everything once!”

  10. First time poster here–I’m not reading the book, as I’ve read it twice recently, but I’m enjoying following along with the posts here. I also hadn’t considered the anti-hero “collective of individuals” angle of Yossarian, I’ll have to wrap my brain around that one.

  11. I have tried to add a little something to Matthew’s observations about Yossarian’s selfishness here:
    http://heroesinrehab.ca/blog/2007/11/14/wheres-an-essay-eating-dog-when-you-need-one/

  12. Great! You just quoted the start of my favorite part! I’ve actually felt the call to read that aloud at a few events figuring it wraps up a bunch of theological commentary into a very tidy irrefutable package.

  13. I really like your analysis of Yossarian as an anti-hero and Heller’s attempt to get us to identify with him. Very insightful.

    (One off-topic suggestion–please consider changing the body text font of your blog to a serif font to make it more readable. Sans-serif fonts should only be used for headings, and never for body text because they are hard on the eye and difficult to read at small point sizes. For example, I read the word “clusterfuck” several times before I realized that you weren’t trying to invent the new word “dusterfuck”, which admittedly is actually quite a funny new word that I intend to use from now on.)

  14. There is a word Heller used, early on, in C-22 that means “pear-shaped,” which is obviously a terrific word to know, yet I have forgotten what it is. I read thru the first five or six chapters, yet somehow missed it. I am sure it’s in there. Has anyone come across it?

  15. @jai – is the word you are thinking of “orotund”? I haven’t checked to see whether that’s in the beginning of the book or not, but I think it means something close to “pear shaped”, at least insofar as it pertains to sounds or speech.

  16. Thanks Junior. It’s close, but I am not sure it is the word. I think I am going to have to break out a copy and start reading.

    So much to read, so little time.