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Free Study Guide-Catch-22 by Joseph Heller-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)

The novel begins with Yossarian in a Pianosa hospital feigning illness in order to escape flying dangerous missions. There, he is given the task of censoring the letters written by all the enlisted men in the ward. To break the monotony of the job, Yossarian invents little games: he blacks out specific words and phrases in the letters; he blacks out all but the salutation; he signs the chaplain’s name to the love letters of the enlisted men; and he signs one letter, "Washington Irving."

The only end in sight for Yossarian is not the end of the war, but the end of his own life. He desperately confides to Clevinger: "They’re trying to kill me." Outside the hospital, Yossarian imagines that there is "a dead man" in his tent. Actually, only the dead man’s possessions are left in the tent. The man, Mudd, has been killed on a mission while flying along side Yossarian. Yossarian complains about "the dead man" to Major Major, only to find that Major Major has jumped out of his office window in order to avoid him.

Yossarian asks Doc Daneeka to ground him since there is a rule saying he has "to ground anyone who’s crazy." The doctor replies that there is a catch-22: "Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy." Yossarian sees the illogical and absurd Catch-22 in all its "spinning reasonableness."

When he was a cadet in Santa Ana, California, Yossarian hated the tiresome Sunday Parades organized by Lieutenant Scheisskopf. To liven up matters, Yossarian had a series of promiscuous encounters with various women. These included Dori Duz, "a lively little tart," and the Lieutenant’s wife, Mrs.Scheisskopf, "a plump, pink and sluggish girl" who could not count to twenty-eight each month and thus kept announcing that she was pregnant.


Much later, during the war, Yossarian has a love encounter with Luciana, a girl he meets while on leave in Rome. He even proposes to her but she refuses him because she cannot believe that he can love a girl who is not a virgin. Hungry Joe rudely intrudes upon their love-making along with his nasty camera. Yossarian shoves him out. Yossarian tears up the address that Luciana gives him, but later searches frantically for her. He cannot find her and so makes frenetic love to the maid in lime- colored panties.

As Yossarian believes that the enemy is "anybody who’s going to get you killed"; he hates Cathcart who keeps increasing the number of missions. Cathcart raises the figure from 40 to 50 to 60 and finally to 70 missions. When he is awarded a medal for bombing the target a second time over Ferrara, Yossarian turns up naked at the ceremony. He also appears naked and sits in a tree during Snowden’s funeral. As his clothes were soaked with Snowden’s blood, he swears never to wear a uniform again. Later, Dobbs wants Yossarian to join him in a plot to murder Cathcart, but Yossarian rejects his offer.

Yossarian also begins moaning "oooooh!" when he sees General Dreedle’s nurse at the briefing room. Back in the hospital, Yossarian and Dunbar molest Nurse Duckett. Then, Yossarian tells the psychiatrist, Major Sanderson, about his dream in which he holds a live fish in his hand. The scene is a brilliant parody on psychoanalysis, as the doctor who questions Yossarian is ultimately analyzed by his patient.

Yossarian believes he is going to die. After Snowden’s death, Orr has disappeared and is presumed dead. McWatt flies low over the beach and accidentally slices Sampson to smithereens. McWatt then crashes his own plane into the hillside in an act of expiation. Nately volunteers to fly more than seventy missions and is killed as his plane has no parachute since Milo Minderbinder has taken out all the parachutes.

All this while, Milo is involved in crazy black-market operations which reach alarming proportions of greed and corruption. He even agrees to bomb his own unit when the Nazis offer him large sums of money. The chaplain, Tappman, is interrogated by the military police who suspect that he is the mysterious "Washington Irving." However, the real culprit is not apprehended.

Following Nately’s death, Yossarian refuses to fly any more missions. He marches backward with his gun on his hip outside headquarters as a mark of protest. He goes to Rome to meet Nately’s mistress and tells her about Nately’s death. She blames Yossarian for Nately’s death and viciously attacks him. Yossarian returns to Pianosa and is offered a deal by Colonel Korn. The Colonel is willing to send Yossarian home if he presents a fine account of his commanding officer when he reaches the U.S. At first, Yossarian accepts the offer, but later, after he is attacked by Nately’s whore and lands in a hospital, he changes his mind. On hearing of Orr’s escape to Sweden, Yossarian is inspired to follow. Aided by the chaplain, he boards an aircraft bound for Rome, and bails out while the plane is in Flight.

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