Joseph Heller


And suddenly it all made sense. Why not cry out every night indeed? It made sense to cry out in pain every night.

'The important thing is to keep them pledging,' he explained to his cohorts. 'It doesn't matter whether they mean it or not. That's why they make little kids pledge allegiance even before they know what 'pledge' and 'allegiance' mean.'

Yossarian worried frequently about Orr. Who would shield him against animosity and deceit, against people with ambition and the embittered snobbery of the big shot's wife, against the squalid, corrupting indignities of the profit motive and the friendly neighborhood butcher with inferior meat?

There were no more beautiful days. There were no more early missions. There was stinging rain and dull, chilling fog, and the men flew at week-long intervals, whenever the weather cleared. At night the wind moaned. The gnarled and stunted tree trunks creaked and groaned and forced Yossarian's thoughts each morning, even before he was fully awake, back on Kid Sampson's skinny legs bloating and decaying, as systematically as a ticking clock in the icy rain and wet sand all through the blind, cold, gusty October nights. After Kid Sampson's legs, he would think of pitiful whimpering Snowden freezing to death in the rear section of the plane, holding his eternal, immutable secret concealed inside his quilled, armor-plate flak suit until Yossarian had finished sterilizing and bandaging the wrong wound on his leg, and then spilling it out suddenly all over the floor. At night when he was trying to sleep, Yossarian would call the roll of all the men, women and children he had ever known who were now dead. He tried to remember all the soldiers, and he resurrected images of all the elderly people he had known when he was a child--all the aunts, uncles, neighbors, parents and grandparents, his own and everyone else's, and all the pathetic, deluded shopkeepers who opened their small dusty stores at dawn and worked in them foolishly until midnight. They were all dead too. The number of dead people just seemed to increase. and the Germans were still fighting. Death was irreversible, he suspected, and he began to think he was going to lose.

...for no craving for wealth or immorality could be so great, he felt, as to subsist on the sorrow of children.

He made Yossarian think of cripples and of cold and hungry men and women, and of all the dumb, passive, devout mothers with catatonic eyes nursing infants outdoors that same night with chilled animal udders bared insensibly to that same raw rain. Cows. Almost on cue, a nursing mother padded past holding an infant in black rags, and Yossarian wanted to smash her too, because she reminded him of the barefoot boy in the thin shirt and thin, tattered trousers and of all the shivering, stupefying misery in a world that never yet had provided enough heat and food and justice for all but an ingenious and unscrupulous handful. What a lousy earth! He wondered how many people were destitute that same night even in his own prosperous country, how many homes were shanties, how many husbands were drunk, and wives socked, and how many children were bullied, abused, or abandoned. How many families hungered for food they could not afford to buy? How many hearts were broken? How many suicides would take place that same night, how many people would go insane? How many cockroaches and landlords would triumph? How many winners were losers, successes failures, rich men poor men? How many wise guys were stupid? How many happy endings were unhappy endings? How many honest men were liars, brave men cowards, loyal men traitors, how many sainted men were corrupt, how many people in positions of trust had sold their souls to blackguards for petty cash, how many never had souls? How many straight and narrow paths were crooked paths? How many best families were worst families and how many good people were bad people? When you added them all up and then subtracted, you might be left with only the children, and perhaps Albert Einstein and an old violinist or sculptor somewhere.

The night was filled with horrors, and he thought he knew how Christ must have felt as he walked through the world, like a psychiatrist through a ward full of nuts, like a victim through a prison full of thieves. What a welcome sight a leper must have been!

Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden's secret. Ripeness was all.