Try a Little Love

Obviously Yossarian isn’t the only character who realizes what Cathcart and Milo are doing, and he isn’t the only one who resists. Other characters try to resist in different ways. For instance, when ordered to drop bombs on the village of innocent Italians, Dunbar defies Cathcart’s orders:

Yossarian no longer gave a damn where his bombs fell, although he did not go as far as Dunbar, who dropped his bombs hundreds of yards past the village and would face a court-martial if it could ever be shown he had done it deliberately. Without a word even to Yossarian, Dunbar had washed his hands of the mission. The fall in the hospital had either shown him the light or scrambled his brains; it was impossible to say which.

Instead of directly defying Cathcart’s orders, he merely ignores them, a safer, though perhaps less effective way, of dealing with problems we’re afraid that we can’t overcome. I’ve been known to use the same technique with administrators who couldn’t see any possible way but their own. I’m afraid all of us have been guilty of this approach at least a few times in our lives. It is, after all, the path of least resistance.

The chaplain uses a similar approach to dealing with those he is afraid to defy:

The chaplain had sinned, and it was good. Common sense told him that telling lies and defecting from duty were sins. On the other hand, everyone knew that sin was evil and that no good would come from evil. But he did feel good; he felt positively marvelous. Consequently, it followed logically that telling sins and defecting from duty could not be sins. The chaplain had mastered, in a moment of divine intuition, the handy technique of protective rationalization, and he was exhilarated by his discovery. It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it ; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.

Of course when Yossarian, did precisely this earlier in the novel it seemed much funnier. Paraphrasing an earlier quote, this isn’t the kind of minister I don’t believe in . The minister I don’t believe in is a noble person who stands up for the truth and his principles, no matter how fantastic those beliefs may seem to those of us looking from a different perspective. I know I’ve tried this technique, too, probably more times than I realize, because rationalizations seem to work that way. After awhile they become so imbedded that we have trouble distinguishing them from the truth. Of course, that may be what makes them so damn dangerous.

I suspect that far too many of us deal with these problems idealisticaly as Major Danby does:

“I try not to think of that,” Major Danby admitted frankly. “I try to concentrate on only the big result and to forget that they are succeeding, too. I try to pretend that they are not significant.”
“That’s my trouble, you know,” Yossarian mused sympathetically, folding his arms. “Between me and every ideal I always find Scheisskopfs, Peckems, Korns and Cathcarts. And that sort of changes the ideal.
“You must try not to think of them,” Major Danby advised affirmatively. “And you must never let them change your values. Ideals are good, but people are sometimes not so good. You must try to look up at the big picture.”

Well, that’s certainly me in a nutshell. As an INTP, I’m far more interested in the theoretical than the actual, anyway. Think the Republicans are gone, and it’s almost the same as having them gone, right? At least that way I don’t have to go around knocking on doors and reminding people to vote. It’s easier that way. Give the Democrats $100 and the problem is solved, at least theoretically. The trouble, of course, is that I keep seeing Bush on TV, and he’s still President.

Of course, before he makes his final decision, Yossarian does try various ways of avoiding confronting Milo and Cathcart. One of the pleasantest ways is having an affair with Nurse Duckett:

Nurse Sue Ann Duckett despised Aarfy, and that was another one of the numerous fetching traits about Nurse Duckett that Yossarian enjoyed. He enjoyed Nurse Sue Ann Duckett’s long white legs and supple, callipygous ass; he often neglected to remember that she was quite slim and fragile from the waist up and hurt her unintentionally in moments of passion when he hugged her too roughly. He loved her manner of sleepy acquiescence when they lay on the beach at dusk. He drew solace and sedation from her nearness. He had a crav- ing to touch her always, to remain always in physical communication. He liked to encircle her ankle loosely with his fingers as he played cards with Nately, Dunbar and Hungry Joe, to lightly and lovingly caress the downy skin of her fair, smooth thigh with the backs of his nails or, dreamily, sensuously, almost unconsciously, slide his proprietary, respectful hand up the shell-like ridge of her spine beneath the elastic strap of the top of the two-piece bathing suit she always wore to contain and cover her tiny, long-nippled breasts. He loved Nurse Duckett’s serene, flattered response, the sense of attachment to him she displayed proudly. HungryJoe had a craving to feel Nurse Duckett up, too, and was restrained more than once by Yossarian’s forbidding glower. Nurse Duckett flirted with Hungry Joe just to keep him in heat, and her round light-brown eyes glimmered with mischief every time Yossarian rapped her sharply with his elbow or fist to make her stop.

If you haven’t tried love as an escape from life’s harsh realities, you have my deepest sympathies. Unfortunately, there never were enough nurses to go around in Vietnam, and I sure as hell wasn’t willing to get my legs blown away to meet one. I’m sure there’s no better cure, but unfortunately, as shown by Nately’s dilemma, people like Milo and Cathcart can use that love to further entrap you:

For the first time in his life, Yossarian prayed. He got down on his knees and prayed to Nately not to volunteer to fly more than seventy missions after Chief White Halfoat did die of pneumonia in the hospital and Nately had applied for his job. But Nately just wouldn’t listen.

“I’ve got to fly more missions,” Nately insisted lamely with a crooked smile. “Otherwise they’ll send me home.”


“I don’t want to go home until I can take her back with me.”

“She means that much to you?”

Nately nodded dejectedly. “I might never see her again.”

“Then get yourself grounded,” Yossarian urged. “You’ve finished your missions and you don’t need the flight pay. Why don’t you ask for Chief White Halfoat’s job, if you can stand working for Captain Black?”

Nately shook his head, his cheeks darkening with shy and regretful mortification. “They won’t give it to me. I spoke to Colonel Korn, and he told me I’d have to fly more missions or be sent home.”

Of course, Natley’s love in the end leads directly to his death, offering further proof, if you really needed it, that even love can’t save you from the selfishness and greed driving our world.

One could conjecture, though, that Nately’s love, or at least his martyrdom for love, in the end does trump Milo’s and Cathcart’s greed, but it demands the sacrifice of more than Nately to do so.