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CHAPTER 31: MRS. DANEEKA
Sergeant Towser strikes Daneeka’s name from the roster of squadron personnel. The records show that Daneeka was in McWatt’s plane to collect flight time . Since only the two trainee pilots parachute out of McWatt’s plane, it is believed that Daneeka has died in the crash. In reality, he is very much alive, but no one will believe this, not even his assistants, Gus and Wes, who tell him that he is dead, and should have no temperature at all.
Meanwhile, in America, Mrs. Daneeka receives a telegram stating that her husband has been killed in action. Initially, Mrs. Daneeka is heartbroken by the news and wonders how she will manage to look after herself and her children. She receives a letter which bears her husband’s signature telling her that he is alive. The war department again notifies Mrs. Daneeka that her husband is dead and that the letter she received is a forgery.
Mrs. Daneeka’s grief is soon mitigated by the huge amounts of money she receives from her husband’s life insurance. The husband’s of her closest friend begins to flirt with her.
Back in Pianosa, Daneeka is having a terrible time trying to convince people that he is alive. He no longer receives his pay or rations and depends for survival on the charity of Towser and Milo. Cathcart refuses to see him. Even Captain Flume recoils from him. Daneeka comes to the conclusion that for all practical purposes, he is dead. He writes an impassioned letter to his wife begging her to bring his plight to the attention of the war department. Mrs. Daneeka is tempted to reply, but the same day she receives a letter of condolence from Cathcart and decides to move with her children to Michigan, leaving no forwarding address.
This chapter is a humorous and absurd satire on military bureaucracy. The officers can see Daneeka moving around, but they do not accept that he is alive. They take as true only what they see on paper, and Daneeka’s name is mentioned in the manifest McWatt had filed.
At first Daneeka’s wife is truly sorrowful, but once the insurance money starts pouring in, she is quite willing to flirt with her friend’s husband and dye her hair. When she receives the second letter from Daneeka, she does not really appear as concerned as she was before. By running off to Michigan without leaving a forwarding address, she makes sure that Daneeka will not be able to contact her again. Daneeka becomes the opposite of Mudd, the dead man in Yossarian’s tent; Daneeka is alive, but is considered to be dead.