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CHAPTER 27: NURSE DUCKETT
Nurse Duckett is a tall, attractive woman who is "able, prompt, strict and intelligent." One morning while Duckett is smoothing the sheets at the foot of Yossarian’s bed, Yossarian puts his hand under her dress, and Dunbar grabbed her bosom from behind. The commanding colonel scolds Yossarian for taking indecent liberties with his nurses. Dunbar claims responsibility for the attack on Duckett. The colonel thinks that Yossarian is crazy. He sends Major Sanderson, the psychiatrist, to see Yossarian.
Yossarian claims to have had a dream about a live fish. Major Sanderson tries Freudian analysis, and realizes that Yossarian contradicts himself. Yossarian claims that everything reminds him of sex. Major Sanderson tells him that his promiscuous pursuit of women is an attempt to assuage his "subconscious fears of sexual impotence." Because of the "pulling rank" game that Yossarian and Dunbar play earlier, Sanderson believes that Yossarian suffers from feelings of inadequacy and rejection. He believes that Yossarian has a split personality because he denies that he is Fortiori. He explains that Yossarian has deep-seated survival anxieties, has a morbid aversion to dying, and is a manic-depressive. He concludes that Yossarian is crazy. He decides to send him home. By mistake, Fortiori is sent home instead of Yossarian.
Yossarian returns to combat. He meets Daneeka who tells him that the Germans are retreating everywhere. The Allies have captured Paris and the German air force has been destroyed. Daneeka is afraid that the Germans will surrender and that the men at Pianosa will be sent to the Pacific. Yossarian tells Daneeka, that he has been diagnosed as insane, and therefore should be sent home. Daneeka retorts that only a crazy man would agree to fly another mission.
Yossarian’s attack on Nurse Duckett is in response to the nurse’s facade of sexual propriety. Though Yossarian’s actions are improper, they are not unexpected. This episode is a prelude to the physical relationship Yossarian later enjoys with her.
The psychiatrist’s analysis of Yossarian’s "fish dream" is a witty parody of Freudian psychoanalysis. The exchange begins with Sanderson trying to discover Yossarian’s insecurities and ends with the Major revealing his feelings of inadequacy. The roles of patient and doctor are reversed for a while. Sanderson is, himself, mentally unstable, and is unable to accept the reality of his condition. He labels Yossarian crazy, but is himself, going nuts.
The entire irrational exercise comes to its logical end when Fortiori is sent home instead of Yossarian. Daneeka’s answer to Yossarian’s pleas to be sent home is truly the only rational statement in this chapter. These events occur just before the end of the war in Europe.