“Catch-22” (Post 2/4)


[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/4

Post 3/4

Post 4/4


They were men who had finished their fifty missions. There were more of them now than when Yossarian had gone into the hospital, and they were still waiting. They worried and bit their nails. They were grotesque, like useless young men in a depression. They moved sideways, like crabs.


[12] Reference:

From Battery Park to Fulton Street, he was known as a dependable man for a fast tax write-off.



Fulton Street is located in Lower Manhattan in New York City in the Financial District, a few blocks north of Wall Street (and within a mile of Battery Park.)

[13] Joke type #3 (which crosses over often with the second listed in Post 1 note [3]): Showing the idiocy of men in charge.

“Men,” Colonel Cargill began in Yossarian’s squadron, measuring his pauses carefully. “You’re American officers. The officers of no other army in the world can make that statement. Think about it.”

Sergeant Knight thought about it and then politely informed Colonel Cargill that he was addressing the enlisted men.



“I’ll tell you what justice is. Justice is a knee in the gut from the floor on the chin at night sneaky with a knife brought up down on the magazine of a battleship sandbagged underhanded in the dark without a word of warning. Garroting. That’s what justice is when we’ve all got to be tough enough and rough enough to fight Billy Petrolle. From the hip. Get it?”

“No, sir.”


Nose-thumbing at military higher-ups (by a veteran, no less) must have been a bold move when Catch-22 was first released. In this post-M*A*S*H, post-Vietnam world, giving shit to the man and lampooning authority is a generally accepted pastime. It’s hard to read Catch-22 from a modern perspective and see these bits as risky or unique so the joke, once made, loses charm with repetition.

[14] Reference:

He dumdummed the bullets with a hunting knife before he fired them at the field mice.



Expanding bullets are projectiles designed to expand on impact. They were given the name Dum-dum or dumdum after an early British example produced in the Dum Dum Arsenal near Calcutta, India. The use of the term “Dum-dum” is considered slang by most ammunition and ballistic sources. Expanding bullets can be soft point or hollow point.

Havermeyer is probably dumdum-ing his bullets by hollowing a point through one end (?).

[15] Reference:

He flew straight and level all the way from the I.P. to the target.



I.P. stands for “initial point,” which in this context refers to a well-defined point, easily distinguishable visually and/or electronically, used as a starting point for the bomb run to the target. (From militaryfactory.com)


His only mission each time he went up was to come down alive.


[17] One sentence (see also Post 3, note [96]):

The men had loved flying behind Yossarian, who used to come barreling in over the target from all directions and every height, climbing and diving and twisting and turning so steeply and sharply that it was all the pilots of the other five planes could do to stay in formation with him, leveling out only for the two or three seconds it took for the bombs to drop and then zooming off again with an aching howl of engines, and wrenching his flight through the air so violently as he wove his way through the filthy barrages of flak that the six planes were soon flung out all over the sky like prayers, each one a pushover for the German fighters, which was just fine with Yossarian, for there were no German fighters any more and he did not want any exploding planes near his when they exploded.


[18] Reference:

All those except Yossarian reporting on sick call with temperatures below 102 had their gums and toes painted with gentian violet solution.



Gentiana is a genus of flowering plants. They are notable for their mostly large, trumpet-shaped flowers, which are often an intense blue. Gentian is used in herbal medicines to treat digestive problems, fever, wounds, cancer, and malaria, although studies have shown no efficacy beyond that of a placebo.


Doc Daneeka hated to fly. He felt imprisoned in an airplane. In an airplane there was absolutely no place in the world to go except to another part of the airplane.


[20] Translate:

Ou sont les Neigedens d’antan?



French: where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan (“Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear”) is a line from the 16th century poem “Ballade des dames du temps jadis” (“Ballade of the Ladies of Times Past”).

Yossarian is playing on the poem to make a point about Snowden’s death (he has already said the sentence twice in English before he presents it in French).


Clevinger, the corporal, and Colonel Korn agreed that it was neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never questioned anything.


[22] Vocabulary:

General Peckem roused himself after a moment with an unctuous and benignant smile.


I assumed this was a Heller-ism (he is occasionally a word-cobbler), but this is a real word:

adjective – 1: kindly and benevolent

2: (medicine) – less common term for benign.

(archaic) – having a good effect; beneficial.


He had opposed his daughter’s marriage to Colonel Moodus because he disliked attending weddings.



Shooting skeet eight hours a month was excellent training for them. It trained them to shoot skeet.



“Well, maybe it is true,” Clevinger concluded unwillingly in a subdued tone. “Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it’s to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?”

“I do,” Dunbar told him.

“Why?” Clevinger asked.

“What else is there?”


[26] Vocabulary:

Hung out there in front like some goddam cantilevered goldfish in some goddam cantilevered goldfish bowl.




noun – a long projecting beam or girder fixed at only one end, used chiefly in bridge construction.

verb – support by a cantilever or cantilevers.


Aarfy was a dedicated fraternity man who loved cheerleading and class reunions and did not have brains enough to be afraid.


[28] Vocabulary:

Hungry Joe was a throbbing, ragged mass of motile irritability.



adjective – (zoology; botany) – (of cells, gametes, and single-celled organisms) capable of motion.

(psychology) – of, relating to, or characterized by responses that involve muscular rather than audiovisual sensations.

[29] Vocabulary:

He could never decide whether to furgle them or photograph them.



verb – (slang; British?) – have sex with.


Kraft was a skinny, harmless kid from Pennsylvania who wanted only to be liked, and was destined to be disappointed in even so humble and degrading an ambition. Instead of being liked, he was dead.


[31] Idiom:

Even though Chief White Halfoat kept busting Colonel Moodus in the nose for General Dreedle’s benefit, he was still outside the pale.



The idiom is usually said as “beyond the pale.” From pale (“jurisdiction of an authority; territory under an authority’s jurisdiction”), suggesting that anything outside the authority’s jurisdiction was uncivilized.

[32] Reference:

“I have a Garnett-Fleischaker syndrome.”


Invented by Yossarian.


That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance.



Clevinger was one of those people with lots of intelligence and no brains.



He knew everything about literature except how to enjoy it.



To Yossarian, the idea of pennants as prizes was absurd. No money went with them, no class privileges. Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, all they signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capable than anyone else.


[37] Reference:

Thumbing through Krafft-Ebing to her favorite passages.



Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840 – 1902) was an Austro-German psychiatrist. He wrote the foundational work Psychopathia Sexualis, which contained case histories of human sexual behavior and popularized the terms sadism and masochism.

[38] Reference (also in note [13]):

“In sixty days you’ll be fighting Billy Petrolle.”



Billy Petrolle (1905 – 1983) was an American world lightweight boxing title contender.

I have no idea why the colonel continues to reference Petrolle when (I think) he is referring to Italians.

[39] Reference:

A ton of an unloaded rifle.


I can’t find any definition of “ton” that describes a part of a rifle.

[40] Reference:

Like Miniver Cheevy, he had been born too late.



Miniver Cheevy” is a narrative poem written by Edwin Arlington Robinson, first published in 1910. The poem relates the story of a hopeless romantic who spends his days thinking about what might have been if only he had been born earlier in time.

Robinson (1869 – 1935) was an American poet who won three Pulitzer Prizes.

[41] Vocabulary:

Rain splashed from a moiling sky.




verb – (North American; archaic) – work hard.

move around in confusion or agitation.


Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.



Major Major’s father had a Calvinist’s faith in predestination and could perceive distinctly how everyone’s misfortunes but his own were expressions of God’s will.



Because he needed a friend so desperately, he never found one.



He was told that he should not kill, and he did not kill, until he got into the Army. Then he was told to kill, and he killed.


[46] Like Snowden and Avignon, other scenes are repeated from different threads and point of views. Major Major’s promotion to squadron commander is shown twice:

Also outside the pale was Major Major, the squadron commander, who had found that out the same time he found out that he was squadron commander from Colonel Cathcart, who came blasting into the squadron in his hopped-up jeep the day after Major Duluth was killed over Perugia. Colonel Cathcart slammed to a screeching stop inches short of the railroad ditch separating the nose of his jeep from the lopsided basketball court on the other side, from which Major Major was eventually driven by the kicks and shoves and stones and punches of the men who had almost become his friends.

“You’re the new squadron commander,” Colonel Cathcart had bellowed across the ditch at him. “But don’t think it means anything, because it doesn’t. All it means is that you’re the new squadron commander.”

And Colonel Cathcart had roared away as abruptly as he’d come.



Major Major enjoyed every gamboling moment right up till the day Colonel Cathcart roared up in his jeep after Major Duluth was killed and made it impossible for him to ever enjoy playing basketball there again.

“You’re the new squadron commander,” Colonel Cathcart had shouted rudely across the railroad ditch to him. “But don’t think it means anything, because it doesn’t. All it means is that you’re the new squadron commander.”


Heller explored this same circling style to great effect in his next book Something Happened and failed utterly with it in God Knows.

[47] Reference:

Stricken the very next day with the worst case of Pianosan crud.


An uncommon definition of crud is “an ill-defined bodily ailment.”


Clevinger was dead. That was the basic flaw in his philosophy.


[49] Reference:

He was interested in shards and Hepplewhite furniture.



George Hepplewhite (~1727 – 1786) was a cabinetmaker. No pieces of furniture made by Hepplewhite or his firm are known to exist but he gave his name to a distinctive style of light, elegant furniture that was fashionable in the late 18th century.


“I used to get a big kick out of saving people’s lives. Now I wonder what the hell’s the point, since they all have to die anyway.”

“Oh, there’s a point, all right,” Dunbar assured him.

“Is there? What is the point?”

“The point is to keep them from dying for as long as you can.”

“Yeah, but what’s the point, since they all have to die anyway?”

“The trick is not to think about that.”

“Never mind the trick. What the hell’s the point?”



Each time Captain Black forged ahead of his competitors, he swung upon them scornfully for their failure to follow his example. Each time they followed his example, he retreated with concern and racked his brain for some new stratagem that would enable him to turn upon them scornfully again.



“You are talking about winning the war, and I am talking about winning the war and keeping alive.”

“Exactly,” Clevinger snapped smugly. “And which do you think is more important?”

“To whom?” Yossarian shot back. “Open your eyes, Clevinger. It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead.”


[53] Reference:

The new Lepage gun that the Germans had moved in.



John Lepage (1779 – 1822) was a French gunsmith. He was the inventor of fulminate percussion systems for firearms, which superseded the flint-lock mechanism and opened the way to modern firearms.

The Lepage gun described here is another Yossarian invention.


“You know, that might be the answer – to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That’s a trick that never seems to fail.”


[55] In the breathless rush of Catch-22, some literary and poetic pieces slip though:

Along the ground suddenly, on both sides of the path, he saw dozens of new mushrooms the rain had spawned poking their nodular fingers up through the clammy earth like lifeless stalks of flesh, sprouting in such necrotic profusion everywhere he looked that they seemed to be proliferating right before his eyes. There were thousands of them swarming as far back into the underbrush as he could see, and they appeared to swell in size and multiply in number as he spied them. He hurried away from them with a shiver of eerie alarm and did not slacken his pace until the soil crumbled to dry sand beneath his feet and they had been left behind. He glanced back apprehensively, half expecting to find the limp white things crawling after him in sightless pursuit or snaking up through the treetops in a writhing and ungovernable mutative mass.


[56] The first unbroken sequence is the bombing run of Bologna. Aarfy’s nightmarish refusal to communicate with Yossarian or get the fuck out of the nose contains more stress and intensity than most 300-page thrillers.

Yossarian had forgotten about Aarfy. “Get out!” he shouted at him. “Get out of the nose!”

Aarfy smiled politely and pointed down toward the target in a generous invitation for Yossarian to look. Yossarian began slapping at him insistently and signaled wildly toward the entrance of the crawlway.

“Get back in the ship!” he cried frantically. “Get back in the ship!”

Aarfy shrugged amiably. “I can’t hear you,” he explained.



“Jesus Christ!” he screamed at Aarfy in tortured amazement. “Get the hell out of the nose! Are you crazy? Get out!”

“What?” said Aarfy.

“Get out!” Yossarian yelled hysterically, and began clubbing Aarfy backhanded with both fists to drive him away. “Get out!”

“I still can’t hear you,” Aarfy called back innocently.



“I still couldn’t hear you,” Aarfy said.

“I said get out of here!” Yossarian shouted, and broke into tears. He began punching Aarfy in the body with both hands as hard as he could. “Get away from me! Get away!



“What did you say?” Aarfy asked.

“Get away from me,” Yossarian answered, pleading with him now. “Go back in the plane.”

“I still can’t hear you.”

“Never mind,” wailed Yossarian, “never mind. Just leave me alone.”

“Never mind what?”



Aarfy was like an eerie ogre in a dream, incapable of being bruised or evaded, and Yossarian dreaded him for a complex of reasons he was too petrified to untangle.


Post 3/4


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