Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 1: THE TEXAN
The novel begins with Yossarian in the hospital. He suffers from a pain in the liver. The doctors do not know what to make of Yossarianís illness. Yossarian is enjoying his stay. His meals are brought to him in bed, and he is served more food than at camp.
Yossarian writes letters to his friends and relatives, telling them that he has been sent on a "very dangerous mission," and then never writes to them again. While in hospital, Yossarian is given the dreary task of censoring letters written by enlisted-men patients. He finds this a monotonous job and begins to tamper with the material in these letters to keep himself amused. On one of the letters he signs the name of his groupís chaplain, Tappman. On others he signs the name "Washington Irving." A C.I.D man is sent into the hospital to find out who is responsible for the tampering of letters.
Dunbar, too, is in the ward. A Texan is brought in who is "good- natured, generous and likable" and neither Dunbar nor Yossarian like him. There is also a "soldier in white," a patient who is encased from head to toe in plaster and gauze. One day the soldier dies, and Dunbar and Yossarian charge the Texan with his murder.
The chaplain comes to visit Yossarian. He is genuinely concerned about Yossarianís health. Yossarian confesses that he is not really sick.
Yossarian and Dunbar claim that they are well, and leave the hospital to escape the Texan. However, the C.I.D. man has fallen sick and remains in hospital.
The reader is immediately introduced to the main character, Yossarian. He is shown trying to avoid going back on duty by feigning illness. This is not a very flattering picture of him, but it is realistic. Dunbar and others also pretend to be physically sick in order to survive the war.
The doctors and nurses stand for bureaucratic and governmental indifference. They appear heartless, clinically detached, and brutally inefficient. The sense of decay and death is already evident. A soldier in white dies in the hospital ward. The chaplain, who comes to visit the patients, is ill at ease in such surroundings. It is evident that the soldier has died because of the incompetence of the doctors.
It is not certain why Yossarian and Dunbar hate the Texan. Perhaps they hate him because he is good-natured and generous, and Yossarian and Dunbar have come to be wary of such people.