The Effects of Catch 22

Justin Suissa
November 05,1996


In literature sometimes a character can be helped or hindered by the
economic, social, or political conditions of the day. In the novel Catch 22 by
Joseph Heller, the character Doc Daneeka illustrates this idea perfectly because
the conditions surrounding him greatly hindered him. Catch 22 takes place during
WWII on an island named Pianosa that is close to Italy. Doc Daneeka is adversely
affected by the war in the end because when it began he was making a profit from
it as other doctors had been drafted, but then his day came too. Doc Daneeka was
also hindered by the war because of what he had to endure throughout it. He
hated his two medical assistants and his bunkmate. Doc Daneeka had to fly
frequently on airplanes which he detested. Doc Daneeka's two assistants failed
ever to find anything wrong with him, which deeply perturbed him. The war also
caused Doc Daneeka to lose his wife after his "death." The war that was imposed
on Doc Daneeka ravaged his life and terminated all of his chances to become a
normal, practicing doctor.
Before the war arrives on Doc Daneeka's doorstep, it appears to have
benefitted him. Doc Daneeka was making a nice sum of money from various illegal
means. He received kickbacks from drug stores in the area that ran an illegal
operation. He also utilized beauty parlors to perform two or three abortions a
week to bring in more revenue. When the war begins, Doc Daneeka's practice
starts to pick up because of the lack of other doctors. Originally, he thought
of the war as a "godsend"; however what he did not realize was that, the war
would catch up with him soon enough. One day someone from the draft board came
to check on Doctor Daneeka, who was in perfect health, to make sure that his
story about having an amputated leg and being bedridden with arthritis was true.
The doctor explains to Yossarian, a major character in the novel, that he was
outraged that the government would not take a doctor's word, especially a doctor
that was in good standing with the Better Business Bureau. After they uncovered
the doctor's lie, they sent him to Pianosa to act as a flight surgeon.
The doctor hated flying on airplanes. In his own words he said, "I
don't have to go looking for trouble in an airplane.". Doc Daneeka felt that
trouble comes after him so there is no reason to take any actions that might get
him involved in more trouble. This statement reflects one of Doc Daneeka's major
characteristics, cowardice. It is ironic that Doc Daneeka was drafted as a
flight surgeon since he hated flying. To alleviate this problem Doc Daneeka asks
Yossarian to list his name on the flight logs even if he doesn't actually go on
the flights. Doc Daneeka never returns the favor because he would not declare
Yossarian insane so he doesn't have to fly any more missions and he can go home.
However, he knows that Yossarian cannot ask to be declared insane because
concern for your own safety is a trait of a sane person. This "favor" that
Yossarian does later causes the doctor problems. When a plane crashes, the army
lists him as being dead because he was on the flight log. This shows how flying
is just another way that the war adversely affected the doctor.
One of the many horrible conditions the doctor was subjected to during
the war was his bunkmate and his two medical assistants. Chief White Halfoat
lived with Doc Daneeka, and the doctor hated every second of it. He believed the
Chief was a moron because he felt that if he kept on digging he would hit oil.
The doctor was also preoccupied, for no apparent reason, with thoughts of what
the Chief's liver would look like. Besides the Chief and probably even worse
than him were the doctor's two assistants, Gus and Wes. They were worthless
medical assistants who were horrible diagnosticians. All the doctor ever wanted
from them was to find something, anything wrong with him that would make him
eligible to be sent home. They were complete idiots because they could never
really assist the doctor with anything important, and they interpreted all of
his orders too literally. The doctor was reported as killed in action because he
was listed on the flight log of a crashed plane. When he went to talk to his as
sistants to see if there