Yossarian Part Five
This is part five of an appreciation of Catch 22. Parts one, two, three, four, six, and seven precede it.
XXV The Chaplain This is another existential quandary chapter. There is not a lot of action. The saving grace is that it makes fun of religion.
Chaplain Tappman is seen as a pathetic source of ridicule. The other men do not think he is wonderful, which always makes professional Jesus worshipers uncomfortable. Chaplain T is also having weird ideas. He sees a naked Yossarian in a tree during the memorial service for Snowdon, and thinks it is a vision. This is sort of like that lady in Rockdale county who kept having the Virgin Mary visit her. However, no one is under the impression that Yossarian is a virgin, or that he is the mother of Jesus.
So the Chaplain mopes about his uselessness, and decides to go see Major Major, who never sees anyone. The Chaplain takes a sneaky route back to his tent. He finds a man living in the woods. Flume is there because he thinks his tentmate is going to kill him.
After another humiliating encounter with tentmate Whitcomb, whose rank keeps changing, the Chaplain goes to see Colonel Cathcart. The Colonel is in no mood to talk to the Chaplain, and says the flyers are going to go to Avignon again so they can get some casualties.
One of the online cheat sheets has a good quote. “Complex questions of ontology perplex him, but “they never [seem] nearly as crucial to him as the question of kindness and good manners.” PG had never encountered the phrase ontology before. It seems to have something to do with existential questions about the nature of G-d and man. If you change the t to a c, you get oncology. This is the branch of medicine dealing with the treatment of cancer. As one practitioner said, it is the branch of medicine that no one makes jokes about.
With a c, you get oncology. This is the war against runaway cell growth, where the treatment is often treacherous and debilitating. The treatment is said to be as bad as the disease, which is saying something for a fatal malady. With a t, you get ontology. This is where you ask questions that no one really knows the answer to, although many make the claim. Instead of runaway cell growth, you have runaway rhetoric. One chemotherapeutic protocol for ontology is substantial applications of alcohol, which can make the disease worse, can make you puke, but will usually not make your hair fall out. At least there are no insurance hassles.
XXVI Aarfy Aarfy is really named aardvark, although it is unlikely that is on his driver’s license. He should be first on any list of characters, except that the online cheat sheets don’t list the characters alphabetically. In a story like this, there are a lot of characters. It is tough for a simple minded southerner like PG to keep up, and tools are needed.
In this chapter, Dunbar plays a key role. PG seemed to remember good things about him, but could not be sure. The first list of characters does not mention him. This is frustrating, since it is not alphabetized, and you have to go through the entire thing to see that Dunbar is not there.
Another character list does show something:Dunbar – A friend of Yossarian and the only other person who seems to understand that there is a war going on. Dunbar has decided to live as long as possible by making time pass as slowly as possible, so he treasures boredom and discomfort.”
There is some action in this chapter, and Aarfy is a key player. In the first part, Aarfy, Nately, and Yossarian are in a building in Rome. Nately confesses his love for a whore, and is ridiculed by Aarfy. Later, there is a mission, where Aarfy’s incompetence leads the plane into enemy fire. Yossarian is hit in the leg by flak, and winds up in the hospital.
When Yossarian tries to get out of bed, Nurse Cramer asks if he wants to lose his leg. “It’s my leg”"It’s certainly not your leg. That leg belongs to the U.S. Government. It’s no different than a gear or a bedpan. The army has invested a lot of money to make you an airplane pilot, and you’ve no right to disobey the doctor’s orders.”
XXVII Nurse Duckett Sometimes you have to stop dilly dallying and finish the job at hand. This series on Catch 22 has gone on since June, and has three more parts to go.
When PG decided to do a series on Yossarian, it was using two good eyes. A couple of weeks into July, there was an extra sensitivity to bright white light. When the right eye was covered, the left eye was a mass of blurred vision. Action needed to be taken. Research was done about ophthalmologists, insurance coverage was secured, and an appointment was made.
The first appointment revealed a broken blood vessel in the eye. The fancy name is branch retinal vein occlusion. The doctor lectured PG on the need for a medical exam, to determine the cause of this spillage. On the way home, PG made an appointment for a physical.
When the nurse takes your blood pressure, makes a face, and decides to take a reading from your other arm, that is not a good sign. Yes, the blood work came out fine, and hypertension is a less severe problem than diabetes or hiv. Clearly, some lifestyle changes were in order.
The second visit to the eye clinic was horrible. The nurse told PG that the dilation drops were going to be strong, and that his eyes would be dilated the next day when he woke up. Then, the retina specialist had to deal with an emergency, and PG had to wait, with compromised eyes, for what seemed like forever.
When PG got to see the retina specialist, there was a new name for the condition. Cystoid Macular Edema is not an improvement. The doctor said that she could not start treatment with the blood pressure as high as it was. The treatment she proposed was an intraocular injection of a cancer drug. An appointment was made for four weeks in the future.
On the way home from the eye clinic, PG stopped at the office of the other primary care dude. He was out of the office for two more days. PG sent an email explaining his situation, and the primary care dude called in a prescription for amlodipine.
PG had started to decipher the proposed diet, and made an effort to follow it. When you are skinny growing up, you get into the habit of trying to gain weight. Then you get older, and develop a pot belly. The concept of thinking about what to eat is new to PG, but he is trying.
The blood pressure readings began to improve. Better yet, the blurring in the left eye is improving. The next appointment at the eye clinic is the day after labor day. PG is hoping that an intraocular injection of a cancer drug will not be needed.
Ok, back to Yossarian. This chapter starts out with him in the hospital, taking liberties with a nurse. There is trouble, and a shrink is called in. The head doctor is crazier than Yossarian.
There is a tradition on english tests. You are given a quote, and you have to explain it. There are two wiki worthy quotes for chapter XXVII.
“Hasn’t it ever occurred to you that in your promiscuous pursuit of women you are merely trying to assuage your subconscious fears of sexual impotence?” “Yes, sir, it has.” “Then why do you do it?” “To assuage my fears of sexual impotence.” This is an exchange between the shrink and Yossarian.
BTW, not all therapists, or other rapists, appreciate being called shrink. One such person said to PG “I am not a shrinker, I am a grower”. He did not charge PG for that.
The last paragraph has a fun bit of wordplay. It has long been known that if you put a space three letters into therapist that you get the rapist. PG tried to make a joke about this, and said or other rapist. When he saw those letters on the screen, he realized that the, and or, is an anagram for other. Therapist spelled backwards is tsipareht. This will inhibit palindromic applications of this word.
“You have no respect for excessive authority or obsolete traditions. You’re dangerous and depraved, and you ought to be taken outside and shot!” Major Sanderson, the shrink, says this to Yossarian. This is another example of the satire in this book. It is not as heavy handed here as elsewhere, and consequently is more enjoyable. Satire can tire is applied without fire.
XXVIII Dobbs When PG was in sixth grade, a popular insult was Dob. Since it was a verbal insult, no one knew whether it had one bee or two. Hamlet said something about two bees or not two bees.
It turns out the special education teacher at Cross Keys was named Beatrice Dobbins. She was morbidly obese. The special ed students were called dobs. This tidbit of knowledge made its way to the sixth grade at Ashford Park.
The character Dobbs wants Yossarian to help him kill Colonel Cathcart. In this chapter, Yossarian agrees to help. Dobbs is now unwilling to kill the Colonel. Opportunity is a funny thing, as are most things with tuna in the middle.
This chapter is really about Orr, who is Yossarian’s tentmate. Orr is a tinkerer, which upsets Yossarian while it is going on. In later chapters, Yossarian will reap the benefits of Orr’s tinkering.
This is the last chapter that Orr appears in. He is flying a mission, and his plane goes into water. All the other men are in one lifeboat, and it is rescued. Somehow, the boat with Orr is never rescued.
There is a curious bit of cultural anthropology here. The life jackets the men carried were called Mae Wests. There was a movie star at that time who used that name. She had big boobs, which were probably real. There were rumors that Mae West was a man in drag. Miss West made a movie with W.C. Fields, where he was drunk all the time, and they had to shoot the movie around him.
There was a plane crash, and when the men tried to use the Mae Wests, they did not work. The MWs had a CO2 canister, which made them inflate. MiloHamilton Minderbinder borrowed these canisters to make whipped cream. There were no other comments about the syndicate in this chapter.
The Orr who perishes in this chapter had a double r last name. If you add Orr to the, you will get a nonsense word. Do not try this when on a Scrabble board.
There was a football player named Jimmy Orr. He caught passes from Johnny Unitas. Mr. Orr, with a double r, had a nightclub in the Peachtree Battle shopping center called “Jimmy Orr’s End Zone”.
In Super Bowl III, the Baltimore Colts tried a trick play called a flea flicker, The quarterback gives the ball to a running back, who tosses it back to the quarterback. Jimmy Orr was by himself in the end zone, and the quarterback threw an interception. This was the year Joe Namath, and the New York Jets, won the Super Bowl. They had no business winning, but they did. People who suspect that the Super Bowl is rigged point to this game as the first obvious example.
XXIX Peckum There is not much action in this chapter. Just of bunch of self important officers trying to impress each other. They all think they are succeeding, and that the others are failing. There is a synchronicity of stupidity.
When PG was at Redo Blue, he heard someone, named George, say “Frank thinks Phil is a fuckup”. The names have been changed to protect the guilty and the sensitive, even though it is unlikely that any of the three men involved will ever read this. It is not even certain that all three can read.
So, PG got to thinking about what George had said. You could take that statement, and insert blanks where the names are. _____ said that ____ thinks that ____ is a fuckup. You could take any of those three names, and insert it into any spot in the formula. All combinations of names would be true.
XXX Dunbar This chapter was made for the movies. There is a pilot named McWatt. He likes to fly low over people and scare them. At first, it is a harmless little habit. Then it annoys Yossarian so much that murder is contemplated.
Yossarian, it turns out, would rather make love than war. He starts to spend afternoons on the beach with Nurse Duckett. They both enjoy the company of the other.
While Yossarian and Nurse Duckett are making whoopee, the other men are swimming. One afternoon, McWatt decides to buzz the swimmers. Kid Sampson waves at him. For some reason, this distracts McWatt just enough to dip the plane a bit lower. Kid Sampson is cut in half. After McWatt sees what he has done, McWatt flies into a mountain.
Paywall capitalist bookrags has an interesting take: McWatt dips his wings in one final salute and flies into… (read more.)
Another facebooker contributes a bit of commodity wisdom: “Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life.” ~ Marc Chagall
I think Chagall’s words speak to those who find passion in their work–or that their work sustains their passion. I am privileged to be in that class of folks, but on this labor day I am mindful of those who work to survive and in doing so often find themselves endangered by the exploitation and greed of others.
There is a little bit of… there is a great word that describes this phenomenon that PG cannot remember … commodity wisdom that usually annoys PG. It sounds so good, is a clever turn of words, but is totally without meaning when you think about it. The platitude is “I work to live, I don’t live to work.”
The word is sophistry.
Does your heart stop beating when you go to work? We all know people whose brain ceases to function on the clock, but they continue to breathe. Often, when they exhale, these people make obnoxious noise, which is also part of being alive. The thing is, when you are at work, you are alive.
Work is a part of life. When you are a living human critter, you are going to do things that you don’t enjoy. But you do them because you have to. When PG is editing this, he will try to think of a good analogy for this silly saying. But don’t bet on it. This has gone on too long, and part five is finally, mercifully, finished. Pictures are by The Library of Congress. This was written like Dan Brown.