Chapter 29: Peckem
Orr does not return the next day, and Sergeant Whitcomb prepares to send a letter to his kin indicating that Orr has died. Meanwhile, Colonel Scheisskopf's announcement about not having a parade this Sunday creates a fury, for there are no parades on Sunday. General Peckem is delighted now to have two full colonels. Peckem is a handsome man of 53 who suffers from verbosity and overuse of bureaucratic language.
Scheisskopf and Peckem do not get along. Scheisskopf does not respond to his jokes and fails to grasp Peckem's concept of delegation of responsibility. Instead, Scheisskopf is still obsessed about parades and whether his wife can see him. Peckem cuts out the sentimental business and proceeds to explain to Scheisskopf the war against General Dreedle. Scheisskopf is still upset about the parades, and Peckem compromises, agreeing to let Scheisskopf postpone the nonexistent parades. Colonel Cargill is upset, but General Peckem delegates to him the power to put off the U.S.O. shows. General Peckem then sets both of them against each other for his own amusement.
Peckem then begins to discuss with Scheisskopf the issue of bomb patterns and Dreedle's pointless mission in bombing a mountain town so small that it cannot be seen on the map. In the briefing room, McWatt discovers that the people have not been warned and will be killed. Dunbar points out that any roadblock they make will be cleared within two hours. Havermeyer exposes Major Danby by saying the men do want to bomb the village. Yossarian accuses Colonel Korn of cruelty, but Colonel Korn only sneers back that war is cruel and orders the mission to proceed.
Colonel Korn kicks Major Danby out when Danby argues that a looser bomb pattern would be more effective. When Cathcart arrives, he takes over the meeting and imitates Dreedle in an attempt to ingratiate himself to General Peckem. Only too late does he remember that both generals hate each other. Colonel Cathcart panics for a second as he thinks of Scheisskopf's rivalry, but at the last minute he exhorts his men to dedicate their mission to General Peckem.
Chapter 30: Dunbar
The fall in the hospital has scrambled Dunbar's brains. He drops the bombs far away from the target and wastes away into a snarling nasty creature. The chaplain worries about Dunbar and Yossarian, especially since the latter has rejected his roommates and lives alone. Yossarian is glad to have McWatt as his new pilot but still becomes frustrated at him, especially when McWatt flies only inches from the ground. Once McWatt is singing so buoyantly that he cannot hear Yossarian over the intercom. Yossarian enters into a deadly rage and looks around for any weapon with which he can kill McWatt. He stands behind McWatt's seat and threatens to choke him to death if McWatt does not move the plane up. McWatt immediately obeys Yossarian and takes the episode with humor. After Yossarian has calmed down, McWatt tells Yossarian that he is really losing it. Yossarian admits that he is but that there is nothing he can do about it.
The men go to the beach quite often. The men generally are nude but wear trunks out of regard for Nurses Duckett and Cramer. Nurse Duckett enjoys flirting with Hungry Joe and lying on the sand as the men play cards and lounge. Nurse Cramer sits ten yards away, in silence and disapproval of her friend's fling with Yossarian. Still, she comes because Nurse Duckett is her best friend. Yossarian grows fond of Nurse Duckett's body and takes her out to the beach at night to make love to her. Nurse Duckett also becomes fond of Yossarian and tries to shape him as a person.
One day when Yossarian is staring over the skyline and wondering where Clevinger and Orr are, McWatt suddenly skims over the surface of the water and slices Kid Sampson in half with his propeller. Chaos ensues at the grotesque sight. Yossarian yells futilely at McWatt to come down. His cries are useless as McWatt flies higher and higher and then flies into a mountain. In response to these deaths, Colonel Cathcart increases the number of missions to sixty-five.
Chapter 31: Mrs. Daneeka
When Colonel Cathcart finds out that Doc Daneeka is dead, he increases the number of missions to seventy. Sergeant Towser is the first one to realize Doc Daneeka is dead. He tells Gus and Wes, and when they take Doc Daneeka’s temperature, it is half a degree lower that the usual 96.8 degrees--when Doc Daneeka, who is actually still alive, complains about being cold, they point out that he has been dead all this time, but never realized it until now. Doc Daneeka screams with anger when they say they will tell his wife that he is dead. At first, Mrs. Daneeka is very upset when she finds out. She then receives conflicting letters from her husband and from the War Department regarding the life of her husband. But as Mrs. Daneeka begins to receive widow pensions and other monetary benefits, she appreciates her new measure of wealth.
Meanwhile, Doc Daneeka is considered dead by the squadron, and he has to depend on Milo and Sergeant Towser for food. He is ostracized by everyone and almost starves to death. He writes a final intense appeal to his wife, but she moves away with the children when she receives the generic official notification from the army of his death.
Chapter 32: Yo-Yo's Roomies
No one has the courage to bury the sliced Kid Sampson. Yossarian thinks of Kid Sampson's rotting body, which reminds him of Snowden's death and continues to lead him to ponder about death. The cold weather is alleviated by Orr's finally warm stove, and everything is perfect except for Yossarian’s memories of Orr and the new roommates who have replaced Kid Sampson and McWatt.
The new guys are intolerable. They are empty-headed, noisy, overconfident, and self-centered. Yossarian argues to Sergeant Towser that he is already living with the dead Mudd. The exasperated Towser refuses to listen, and the new roommates move in. They drink too much, pester him, admire both of the Colonels, and call Yossarian “Yo-Yo.” Even worse, their visiting friends are equally as terrible and come in droves. Yossarian is especially angry because he can no longer sleep with Nurse Duckett in the tent, and the weather is too bad to sleep outside.
Yossarian tries to get Chief White Halfoat to come to scare off his roommates with his disgusting habits, but Halfoat is dying of pneumonia. Meanwhile, Doc Daneeka has been forbidden to practice, and Halfoat laughs at him for dying of greed. Daneeka blames Cathcart and Korn. Yossarian once again asks Halfoat to help him kick out his roommates. The chief suggests that he get Captain Black to help him instead. Upon remembering the bullying Captain Black, Yossarian rushes back in pity for his roommates, only to discover that they have set Orr's birch logs on fire and have thrown out the dead man. This frightens Yossarian, and he rushes off with Hungry Joe to Rome.
Chapter 33: Nately's Whore
Yossarian misses Nurse Duckett and begins to look for Luciana. Instead, he finds Aarfy, who did not go with the others to rescue Nately's whore. She is being held captive by some military men who want her to say uncle, but she does not understand what the word "uncle" means or why she has to say it, so the men are infuriated and think they are being mocked.
Suddenly, Dunbar, Dobbs, and Hungry Joe break in. They accuse the naked American colonel of being a German spy, threaten to take him to the station house, and throw away his room key. The other captors, Ned and Lou, are amused that all of their uniforms have also been thrown out. At last, they agree to let the girl go. Meanwhile, the whore has fallen asleep; Nately takes her home to take care of her.
Problems quickly arise because the whore refuses to put on her clothes and give up hustling. She obstinately mocks Nately, and her little sister imitates her. When Nately leaves, she misses him and becomes extremely upset at Yossarian for hitting Nately in the nose.
Chapter 34: Thanksgiving
At Thanksgiving dinner, the men act recklessly, shooting themselves and knifing others. Yossarian goes to bed early to avoid the trouble, but he wakes up when he realizes that someone is shooting at him with a machine gun. In fear, he falls to the floor and becomes determined to kill whoever has played such a terrible joke on him. As he runs outside with his loaded 0.45, Nately tries to stop him. However, Yossarian breaks free and badly injures Nately in the process.
Dunbar has also come out infuriated. He recognizes one of the men as Sergeant Knight. By this time, Yossarian has calmed down and searches for Nately. He finds Nately in the hospital the next morning, his nose bandaged and his two eyes blackened. He also discovers that Nurse Duckett is no longer interested in him because she wants to marry a doctor now.
Suddenly, a terrible commotion sets in when the men realize that the soldier in white is back. Dunbar screams aloud that the case is empty--that he was stolen. At first, the nurses dismiss this as nonsense, but Hungry Joe agrees. Suddenly, doctors break in with guns and guards. Nurse Duckett anxiously grabs Yossarian, crying to him that Dunbar is going to be “disappeared.” Yossarian demands to know what she means, but she replies that she does not know. Yossarian goes off to find Dunbar, but he is already gone.
Chapter 35: Milo the Militant
Yossarian prays for Nately to fly no more missions, but Nately insists he must if he wishes to stay and see his whore. Yossarian goes to ask Milo for help. Milo has earned the respect and admiration for his enterprise; he even coerces the officers to pay exorbitant prices for his food. One day, though, he approaches Colonel Cathcart and requests that he fly more missions to meet the required number of missions. Colonel Cathcart admits that even he has flown only four missions. Nevertheless, Milo insists upon flying the missions.
Cathcart offers to take the syndicate, but upon hearing Milo's complex directions, tells Milo he is indispensable. He then offers to get someone else to fly his missions for him. Milo enthusiastically volunteers Nately, and Colonel Cathcart also decides to send Yossarian back to combat. Milo tries to defend Yossarian, saying that he is greatly in debt to Yossarian. But Cathcart says that everyone must be treated fairly. Milo gives in.
Cathcart decides to increase the number of missions to eighty. Without any warning, he announces this and then immediately packs off his squadron to prevent them from running off. They are sent to bomb a disabled Italian cruiser. Unfortunately, for once the intelligence reports against the mission are quite accurate, and the flak is quite bad. Even Havermeyer freaks out and takes wild evasive action. It is too late, and Nately is killed.
Chapter 29 dwells not only on the ineffectiveness of the military bureaucracy but also on the abuse of power by its officers, who seek only to glorify themselves at the expense of others' lives. Two figures appropriately represent these problems in the military bureaucracy: General Peckem and Colonel Korn. Peckem's verbosity suggests the bombastic language of a general who is in the military for the wrong reasons. As the general himself admits, he really has no skills and is utterly incompetent. Rather, he attempts to cover up his lack of skills by “delegating responsibilities,” handing the work off and hoping that someone else can do it. His conversation with Lieutenant Scheisskopf demonstrates the enormous contrast between the two characters. Peckem tries to show off his brilliance through absurd, incomprehensible statements and superficially ingenious literary allusions. Scheisskopf, for his part, is unbelievably practical and concerned only with parades. His defiant attitude and unhealthy obsession is the opposite of Colonel Cathcart's subservient adulation. Ironically, the promotion to general will not be determined by any merit or pleasing General Peckem. Instead, it will depend upon some seemingly unimportant paperwork.
Colonel Korn's speech at the end of the chapter shows an attitude remarkably similar to Colonel Cathcart's continuous increase of the mission quota. Just as Korn feels that the enemy brought their misery upon themselves and thus the troops should not feel guilty about bombing them, Cathcart feels that the troops have brought their misery upon themselves and must fly whatever number of missions he requires. The planned mission to bomb a small, almost invisible Italian mountain village highlights the seeming emptiness of some military operations. Moreover, the officers have no consideration for the lives of the innocent civilians or military strategy. Dunbar's and McWatt's practical advice is completely ignored, and Cathcart is more interested in getting a tight bomb formation to look good rather than achieving any real meaningful military action. Such a short-sighted, self-centered viewpoint only underscores the waste of human life for those who are fighting and the officers' desire to be promoted at just about any cost.
As the incidents in the book slowly begin to come together, Chapter 30 more directly addresses an underlying issue that has been feeding the tension throughout the entire book: how an “automated” war brings out the primitive side and murderous rage of human beings. The description of the machine gun here is particularly apropos. It comes to represent the perfect killer--it has no emotions, regrets or qualms about death, and it kills simply when pointed in the proper direction. Such cold-blooded ruthlessness naturally incites Yossarian's memory of Snowden's death.
The introduction of this machine beautifully correlates with the incident of Kid Sampson's gruesome death. The well-tested soldiers are horrified at what death means. As members of the Air Corps, the men often do not witness death firsthand. But the gruesome slicing apart of Kid Sampson reminds them of the blood and guts that are shed when victims die.
In this chapter, the reader also witnesses the physical decay of Dunbar, which reflects his mental decay from playing constantly on the skeet-shooting range. His behavior has now degenerated from human to that of a primitive being. His loss from the human race results in his complete disregard for his superior. The primitive behavior of Dunbar at the beginning of the chapter parallels Yossarian's murderous behavior in the airplane. Yossarian’s sudden rage indicates his internal decay; he has moved from being a civilized comrade who lovingly cared for the dying Snowden to being the senseless madman who tries to kill Dunbar. When McWatt and Yossarian converse immediately afterwards, McWatt's pathetic demise exemplifies the dangers of becoming a person who has lost all his powers of judgment for various situations and independent thinking to such a point that he now acts without discretion and even insanely.
The only brief light note in this otherwise bleak and horrid chapter is Yossarian's intimacy with Nurse Duckett. His constant need to enjoy and touch her body represents his desire for any physical relief from the physical and mental torment he suffers from the war and his memories of Snowden's death. Even in these brighter times, Yossarian is plagued with thoughts of death as he looks for the body of Orr or Clevinger in the water. Ironically, the body in the water turns out to be the sliced corpse of Kid Sampson.
In Chapter 31, after much ado, Doc Daneeka symbolically dies. This episode touches upon three important concepts. First, the military bureaucracy only believes in its own paperwork and completely disregards any contradictory evidence. Second, Doc Daneeka has been emotionally dead for the entire book anyway, as reflected in his inhumane responses to Yossarian's pleas for help and his own obsession with his nonexistent illness. As the men point out, quite bitterly but correctly, he has been dead the entire time, but they never realized it until now. Third, as Daneeka's wife discovers, for those who remain alive, corpses are far more profitable than living bodies. When she realizes that her husband's death earns her an unbelievable pot of wealth, she decides to ignore her husband's existence and leave. Such a cruel, materialistic attitude is only just reward for Doc Daneeka, who likewise ignored Yossarian's pleas for help.
This chapter craftily hints upon the horrible question: who is really a human being? Yossarian's roommates are introduced as oblivious, innocuous people. Like Aarfy, they fail to recognize what is wrong with the war and see it as nothing but a game. This empty-headedness differs greatly from the madness of Orr, Yossarian's former roommate. While Orr engaged in eccentric activities, his stupidity had a point. The new roommates, though, lack the peculiar insanity that will allow them to recognize the dangerous logic of Catch-22. Maybe they are too new to be up to speed yet. Just like average soldiers, these men are easily indoctrinated into believing the military's precepts. As the roomies are dead because they lack “brains,” Doc Daneeka is also dead because he lacks a heart and kindness for his fellows. Finally, Chief White Halfoat, who is constantly intoxicating himself throughout the chapter, represents the victim who is unable to deal with the horror of the war and simply is physically killing himself by drinking himself to death. Yossarian comes to represent the human in this book because he is alive in these three crucial aspects: he has the brains to recognize how the war is endangering his identity; he has the heart to care for his other humans, such as Snowden, and thus is not just a selfish worm but a warm-hearted person; and finally, he has the sense to physically preserve himself, such as when he takes evasive action and realizes the dangers of the poisoned mess food. These characteristics will give Yossarian the courage to make the crucial decision in the final chapter of the book.
Chapter 33 focuses on the problems of men suffering from romantic passions and the roles of women when men are in such a state. Yossarian is confused and absurd. He longs for Nurse Duckett but tries to pursue Luciana and the maid in the lime-colored panties. Likewise the officers who hold Nately's whore captive are suffering from distorted, confused emotions. They do not want sexual pleasure but simply to have a woman at beck and call. They see the whore as simply another target in their lives, much like their military targets. The entire strange episode in which the officers are infuriated by the whore's apathy symbolizes the soldiers' need for control of something in their chaotic world. Unfortunately, the easiest, most satisfying object to purchase is often a woman.
The episode in which Nately's whore falls asleep and then wakes up a transformed woman, now in love with Nately, has almost a fairy tale quality. This dream only lasts briefly. Nately tries to force the whore to become someone she is not, and her adamant retention of the old man's friendship demonstrates her independent thinking. Nately has clearly turned into love's fool as he dreams of an ideal world independent of social rank and situation. He envisions all the other officers falling in love with the whores and everyone living quite happily together ever after.
Ironically, Nately is stuck in a war in which the military hierarchy is everything. The only attempt to reject the military hierarchy is when Yossarian and his friends throw out the officers' uniforms. For once, they find themselves without rank or respect--or clothes. Yossarian's threat to turn them in as German spies demonstrates that there is very little difference between men, and it is the uniform with the fanfare surrounding it that tends to blow small differences out of proportion.
Comparing the characters of Nately and the whore is critical here. After Nately has won this seemingly unattainable object, he begins to try to control her because “he is the man” in the relationship. The boy who seemed to be sweet, pleasant, and even docile turns out to be just as controlling and dictatorial as Colonel Cathcart or General Peckem. Oddly, for a woman of the streets who supposedly is experienced, the whore appears to be very naive in some ways, having no conception of how a normal woman should act. Walking about naked in front of other men is perfectly acceptable to her, and she cannot understand why Nately objects to what seems normal to her.
This entire chapter is filled with horrifying irony and probes more deeply at disturbing questions only touched on previously. Whereas Thanksgiving should be a time to celebrate prosperity and good fortune, the military celebration turns out to be not only debauched but on the verge of anarchy. Instead of respecting life and being grateful for what they have, the men instead change this celebration into a world of madness in which people's pleasure is to destroy each other. What should be a time of safety from all the dangers of war instead becomes even more dangerous than the battle zone itself, as Yossarian is almost killed in his sleep.
Two character issues, Yossarian's murderous rage and the chaplain's inner personal struggles, are expanded upon here as well. Nately, the idealist who tries to intervene for Yossarian's sake, is severely injured by the very man he is trying to help. The madness that McWatt had witnessed earlier is not just an arbitrary episode but part of a behavior pattern that indicates that Yossarian is indeed going mad.
Perhaps the most important character is the resurfaced soldier in white. This time, everyone realizes the danger that he presents. While the shape is different from the first time the result is the same: this man is an omen of the dark and terrible fate of those who remain in the war, an empty man who feeds upon his own waste. Unfortunately, the man who realizes this and has the audacity to say so publicly, Dunbar, is punished by being “disappeared.” This inexplicable, strange punishment reflects the lack of rationalization behind the war, another casualty of the illogic of Catch-22.
Chapter 35 is filled with various ironic incidents, and at times, the reader begins to wonder whether the characters have changed. First, there is an unexpected twist in Milo's behavior, for he wishes to sell off his very profitable M&M Enterprises in order to fly more missions. Milo's behavior appears genuine, but this new attitude is short-lived after Colonel Cathcart offers him a deal which will allow both men to profit. This deal foreshadows a similar agreement made between Yossarian and the other officers in chapter 40.
The La Spieza mission indicates that the men are coming to their senses, as foreshadowed by Dunbar's behavior and Kid Sampson's death. Even Havermeyer sees that this war is no longer worth fighting and thus resorts to terrible evasive action. Terribly, Nately has finally lost his bet with Death and, after surviving so many missions and so much danger, is killed. To worsen the matter further, Nately flew the extra missions because he wanted to stay with the whore with whom he was so madly in love.