Catch-22; Excerpts and Assignments 1


Read the excerpts below and answer the questions:

Tip: When you point at a word and it highlights like this, you’ll see its Dutch meaning underneath.

When Colonel Cathcart learned that Doc Daneeka too had been killed in McWatt’s plane, he increased the number of missions to seventy.
The first person in the squadron to find out that Doc Daneeka was dead was Sergeant Towser, who had been informed earlier by the man in the control tower that Doc Daneeka’s name was down as a passenger on the pilot’s manifest McWatt had filed before taking off. Sergeant Towser brushed away a tear and struck Doc Daneeka’s name from the roster of squadron personnel. With lips still quivering, he rose and trudged outside reluctantly to break the bad news to Gus and Wes, discreetly avoiding any conversations with Doc Daneeka himself as he moved by the flight surgeon´s slight sepulchral figure roosting despondently on his stool in the late-afternoon sunlight between the orderly room and the medical tent. Sergeant Towser’s heart was heavy ; now he had two dead men on his hands – Mudd, the dead man in Yossarian’s tent who wasn’t even there, and Doc Daneeka, the new dead man in the squadron, who most certainly was there and gave every indication of proving a still thornier administrative problem for him.
Gus and Wes listened to Sergeant Towser with looks of stoic surprise and said not a word about their bereavement to anyone else until Doc Daneeka himself came in about an hour afterward to have his temperature taken for the third time that day and his blood pressure checked. The thermometer registered a half degree lower than his usual subnormal temperature of 96.8. Doc Daneeka was alarmed. The fixed, vacant, wooden stares of his two enlisted men were even more irritating than always.
‘Goddammit’, he expostulated politely in an uncommon excess of exasperation, ‘what’s the matter with you two men anyway? It just isn’t right for a person to have a low temperature all the time and walk around with a stuffed nose.’ Doc Daneeka emitted a glum, self-pitying sniff and strolled disconsolately across the tent to help himself to some aspirin and sulphur pills and paint his own throat with Argyrol. His downcast face was fragile and forlorn as a swallow’s, and he rubbed the back of his arms rhythmically. ‘Just look how cold I am right now. You’re sure you’re not holding anything back?’
‘You’re dead, sir, ‘ one of his two enlisted men explained.
Doc Daneeka jerked his head up quickly with resentful distrust.
‘What’s that?’
‘You’re dead, sir, ‘ repeated the other. ‘That’s probably the reason you always feel so cold.’
‘That’s right, sir. You’ve probably been dead all this time and we just didn’t detect it.’
‘What the hell are you two talking about?’ Doc Daneeka cried shrilly with a surging, petrifying sensation of some onrushing unavoidable disaster.
‘It’s true, sir, ‘ said one of the enlisted men. ‘The records show that you went up in McWatt’s plane to collect some flight time. You didn’t come down in a parachute, so you must have been killed in the crash.’
‘That’s right, sir,’ said the other. ‘You ought to be glad you’ve got any temperature at all.’
Doc Daneeka’s mind was reeling in confusion. ‘Have you both gone crazy?’ he demanded. ‘I’m going to report this whole insubordinate incident to Sergeant Towser.’
‘Sergeant Towser’s the one who told us about it,’ said either Gus or Wes. ‘The War Department’s even going to notify your wife.’
Doc Daneeka yelped and ran out of the medical tent to remonstrate with Sergeant Towser, who edged away from him with repugnance and advised Doc Daneeka to remain out of sight as much as possible until some decision could be reached relating to the disposition of his remains.
‘Gee,  I guess he really is dead,’ grieved one of his enlisted men in a low, respectful voice. ‘I’m going to miss him. He was a pretty wonderful guy, wasn’t he?’
‘Yeah, he sure was, ‘ mourned the other. ‘But I’m glad the little fuck is gone. I was getting sick and tired of taking his blood pressure all the time.’
Mrs Daneeka, Doc Daneeka’s wife, was not glad that Doc Daneeka was gone and split the peaceful Staten Island night with woeful shrieks of lamentation when she learned by War Department telegram that her husband had been killed in action.
There was nowhere else to turn but to his wife, and she scribbled an impassioned letter begging her to bring his plight to the attention of the War Department and urging her to communicate at once with his group commander, Colonel Cathcart, for assurances that – no matter what else she might have heard – it was indeed he, her husband, Doc Daneeka, who was pleading with her, and not a corpse or some impostor. Mrs Daneeka was stunned by the depth of emotion in the almost illegible appeal. She was torn with compunction and tempted to comply, but the very next letter she opened that day was from that same Colonel Cathcart, her husband’s group commander, and began:
Dear Mrs, Mr, Miss, or Mr and Mrs Daneeka: Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father or brother was killed, wounded or reported missing in action.

Mrs Daneeka moved with her children to Lansing, Michigan, and left no forwarding address.


Copy-paste these questions to a Word document and answer them:

  1. Comment on the logic of Colonel Cathcart’s new order, when he heard what had happened to Doc Daneeka. (“When Colonel … to seventy”)
  2. Why do the people Doc Daneeka meets, refuse to believe he is alive? What makes Doc’s problem worse?
  3. What has Doc Daneeka become the victim of, in other words what part of the military system is ridiculed? (The first … for him)
  4. Look at Colonel Cathcart’s letter to Mrs Daneeka. (Dear Mrs … in action.) How does the Colonel make a fool of himself?

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