American Literature books summary
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Jack Burden describes driving down Highway 58 with his boss, Governor
Willie Stark, in the Boss's big black Cadillac--Sugar-Boy is driving, and in the car with them were the Boss's wife Lucy, son Tommy, and the
Lieutenant Governor, Tiny Dufiy. Sugar-Boy drives them into Mason City, where Willie is going to pose for a press photo with his father, who lives on a nearby farm. The Cadillac is followed by a car full of press men and photographers, overseen by Willie's secretary, Sadie Burke. It is summer,
1936, and scorching hot outside.
In Mason City, Willie immediately attracts an adoring throng of people. The group goes inside the drugstore, where Doc pours them glasses of Coke. The crowd pressures Willie for a speech, but he declines, saying he's just come to see his "pappy". He then delivers an efiective impromptu speech on the theme of not delivering a speech, saying he doesn't have to stump for votes on his day off. The crowd applauds, and the group drives out to the Stark farm.
On the way, Jack remembers his first meeting with Willie, in 1922, when Jack was a reporter for the Chronicle and Willie was only the County
Treasurer of Mason County. Jack had gone to the back room of Slade's pool hall to get some information from deputy-sherifi Alex Michel and Tiny Dufiy
(then the Tax Assessor, and an ally of then-Governor Harrison). While he was there, Dufiy tried to bully Willie into drinking a beer, which Willie claimed not to want, instead ordering an orange soda. Dufiy ordered Slade to bring Willie a beer, and Slade said that he only served alcohol to men who wanted to drink it. He brought Willie the orange soda. When Prohibition was repealed after Willie's rise to power, Slade was one of the first men to get a liquor license; he got a lease at an exceptional location, and was now a rich man.
At the farm, Willie and Lucy pose for a picture with spindly Old Man
Stark and his dog. Then the photographers have Willie pose for a picture in his old bedroom, which still contains all his schoolbooks. Toward sunset,
Sugar-Boy is out shooting cans with his .38 special, and Jack goes outside for a drink from his ask and a look at the sunset. As he leans against the fence, Willie approaches him and asks for a drink. Then Sadie Burke runs up to them with a piece of news, which she reveals only after Willie stops teasing her: Judge Irwin has just endorsed Callahan, a Senate candidate running against Willie's man, Masters.
After dinner at the Stark farm, Willie announces that he, Jack, and Sugar-
Boy will be going for a drive. He orders Sugar-Boy to drive the Cadillac to
Burden's Landing, more than a hundred miles away. Jack grew up in Burden's
Landing, which was named for his ancestors, and he complains about the long drive this late at night. As they approach Jack's old house, he thinks about his mother lying inside with Theodore Murrell--not Jack's first stepfather. And he thinks about Anne and Adam Stanton, who lived nearby and used to play with him as a child. He also thinks about Judge Irwin, who lives near the Stanton and Burden places, and who was a father figure to
Jack after his own father left. Jack tells Willie that Judge Irwin won't scare easily, and inwardly hopes that what he says is true.
The three men arrive at Judge Irwin's, where Willie speaks insouciantly and insolently to the gentlemanly old judge. Judge Irwin insults Jack for being employed by such a man, and tells Willie that he endorsed Callahan because of some damning information he had been given about Masters. Willie says that it would be possible to find dirt on anyone, and advises the judge to retract his endorsement, lest some dirt should turn up on him. He heavily implies that Judge Irwin would lose his position as a judge. Judge Irwin angrily throws the men out of his house, and on the drive back to Mason
City, Willie orders Jack to find some dirt on the judge, and to "make it stick."
Writing in 1939, three years after that scene, Jack re ects that Masters-- who did get elected to the Senate--is now dead, and Adam Stanton is dead, and Judge Irwin is dead, and Willie himself is dead: Willie, who told Jack to find some dirt on Judge Irwin and make it stick. And Jack remembers:
"Little Jackie made it stick, all right."
Chapter 2 Summary
Jack Burden remembers the years during which Willie Stark rose to power.
While Willie was Mason County Treasurer, he became embroiled in a controversy over the building contract for the new school. The head of the city council awarded the contract to the business partner of one of his relatives, no doubt receiving a healthy kickback for doing so. The political machine attempted to run this contract over Willie, but Willie insisted that the contract be awarded to the lowest bidder. The local big- shots responded by spreading the story that the lowest bidder would import black labor to construct the building, and, Mason County being redneck country, the people sided against Willie, who was trounced in the next election. Jack Burden covered all this in the Chronicle, which sided with
After he was beaten out of offce, Willie worked on his father's farm, hit the law books at night, and eventually passed the state bar exam. He set up his own law practice. Then one day during a fire drill at the new school, a fire escape collapsed due to faulty construction and three students died.
At the funeral, one of the bereaved fathers stood by Willie and cried aloud that he had been punished for voting against an honest man. After that,
Willie was a local hero. During the next gubernatorial election, in which
Harrison ran against MacMurfee, the vote was pretty evenly divided between city-dwellers, who supported Harrison, and country folk, who supported
MacMurfee. The Harrison camp decided to split the MacMurfee vote by secretly setting up another candidate who could draw some of MacMurfee's support in the country. They settled on Willie. One day Harrison's man,
Tiny Dufiy, visited Willie in Mason City and convinced him that he was
God's choice to run for governor.
Willie wanted the offce desperately, and so he believed him.Willie stumped the state, and Jack Burden covered his campaign for the Chronicle. Willie was a terrible candidate. His speeches were full of facts and figures; he never stirred the emotions of the crowd. Eventually Sadie Burke, who was with the Harrison camp and followed Willie's campaign, revealed to Willie that he had been set up. Enraged, Willie gulped down a whole bottle of whiskey and passed out in Jack Burden's room. The next day, he struggled to make it to his campaign barbecue in the city of Upton. To help Willie overcome his hangover, Jack had to fill him full of whiskey again. At the barbecue, the furious, drunken Willie gave the crowd a fire-and-brimstone speech in which he declared that he had been set up, that he was just a hick like everyone else in the crowd, and that he was withdrawing from the race to support MacMurfee. But if MacMurfee didn't deliver for the little people, Willie admonished the hearers to nail him to the door. Willie said that if they passed him the hammer he'd nail him to the door himself. Tiny
Dufiy tried to stop the speech, but fell off the stage.
Willie stumped for MacMurfee, who won the election. Afterwards, Willie returned to his law practice, at which he made a great deal of money and won some high- proffle cases. Jack didn't see Willie again until the next election, when the political battlefield had changed: Willie now owned the
Democratic Party. Jack quit his job at the Chronicle because the paper was forcing him to support MacMurfee in his column, and slumped into a depression. He spent all his time sleeping and piddling around--he called the period "the Great Sleep," and said it had happened twice before, once just before he walked away from his doctoral dissertation in American
History, and once after Lois divorced him. During the Great Sleep Jack occasionally visited Adam Stanton, took Anne Stanton to dinner a few times, and visited his father, who now spent all his time handing out religious iers. At some point during this time Willie was elected governor.
One morning Jack received a phone call from Sadie Burke, saying that the
Boss wanted to see him the next morning at ten. Jack asked who the Boss was, and she replied, "Willie Stark, Governor Stark, or don't you read the papers?" Jack went to see Willie, who offered him a job for $3,600 a year.
Jack asked Willie who he would be working for--Willie or the state.
Willie said he would be working for him, not the state. Jack wondered how
Willie could afiord to pay him $3,600 a year when the governorship only paid $5,000. But then he remembered the money Willie had made as a lawyer.
He accepted the job, and the next night he went to have dinner at the
Chapter 3 Summary
Jack Burden tells about going home to Burden's Landing to visit his mother, some time in 1933. His mother disapproves of his working for Willie, and
Theodore Murrell (his mother's husband, whom Jack thinks of as "the Young
Executive") irritates him with his questions about politics. Jack remembers being happy in the family's mansion until he was six years old, when his father ("the Scholarly Attorney") left home to distribute religious pamphlets, and Jack's mother told him he had gone because he didn't love her anymore. She then married a succession of men: the Tycoon, the Count, and finally the Young Executive. Jack remembers picnicking with Adam and
Anne Stanton, and swimming with Anne. He remembers arguing with his mother in 1915 over his decision to go to the State University instead of to
That night in 1933, Jack, his mother, and the Young Executive go to Judge
Irwin's for a dinner party; the assembled aristocrats talk politics, and are staunchly opposed to Willie Stark's liberal reforms. Jack is forced to entertain the pretty young Miss Dumonde, who irritates him. When he drives back to Willie's hotel, he kisses Sadie Burke on the forehead, simply because she isn't named Dumonde. On the drive back, Jack thinks about his parents in their youth, when his father brought his mother to Burden's
Landing from her home in Arkansas. In Willie's room, hell is breaking loose: MacMurfee's men in the Legislature are mounting an impeachment attempt on Byram B. White, the state auditor, who has been involved in a graft scandal. Willie humiliates and insults White, but decides to protect him. This decision causes Hugh Miller, Willie's Attorney General, to resign from offce, and nearly provokes Lucy into leaving Willie. Willie orders
Jack to dig up dirt on MacMurfee's men in the Legislature, and he begins frenetically stumping the state, giving speeches during the day and intimidating and blackmailing MacMurfee's men at night. Stunned by his aggressive activity, MacMurfee's men attempt to seize the offensive by impeaching Willie himself. But the blackmailing efiorts work, and the impeachment is called off before the vote can be taken. Still, the day of the impeachment, a huge crowd descends on the capital in support of Willie.
Willie tells Jack that after the impeachment he is going to build a massive, state-of-the-art hospital; Willie wins his next election by a landslide.
During all this time, Jack re ects on Willie's sexual conquests--he has begun a long-term afiair with Sadie Burke, who is fiercely jealous of his other mistresses, but Lucy seems to know nothing about it. Lucy does eventually leave Willie, spending time in St. Augustine and then at her sister's poultry farm, but they keep up the appearance of marriage. Jack speculates that Lucy does not sever all her ties with Willie for Tommy's sake, though teen-aged Tommy has become an arrogant football star with a string of sexual exploits of his own.
Chapter 4 Summary
Returning to the night in 1936 when he, Willie, and Sugar-Boy drove away from Judge Irwin's house, Jack re ects that his inquiry into Judge Irwin's past was really his second major historical study. He recalls his first, as a graduate student at the State University, studying for his Ph.D. in
American History. Jack lived in a slovenly apartment with a pair of slovenly roommates, and blew all the money his mother sent him on drinking binges. He was writing his dissertation on the papers of Cass Mastern, his father's uncle.
As a student at Translyvania College in the 1850s, Cass Mastern had had an afiair with Annabelle Trice, the wife of his friend Duncan Trice. When
Duncan discovered the afiair, he took off his wedding ring and shot himself, a suicide that was chalked up to accident. But Phebe, one of the
Trices' slaves, had found the ring, and taken it to Annabelle Trice.
Annabelle had been unable to bear the knowledge that Phebe knew about her sin, and so she sold her. Appalled to learn that Annabelle had sold Phebe instead of setting her free--and appalled to learn that she had separated the slave from her husband--Cass set out to find and free Phebe; but he failed, wounded in a fight with a man who insinuated that he had sexual designs on Phebe.
After that, he set to farming a plantation he had obtained with the help of his wealthy brother Gilbert. But he freed his slaves and became a devout abolitionist. Even so, when the war started, he enlisted as a private in the Confederate Army. Complicating matters further, though a Confederate soldier he vowed not to kill a single enemy soldier, since he believed himself already responsible for the death of his friend. He was killed in a battle outside Atlanta in 1864. After leaving to find Phebe, he had never set eyes on Annabelle Trice again.
One day Jack simply gave up working on his dissertation. He could not understand why Cass Mastern acted the way he did, and he walked away from the apartment without even boxing up the papers. A landlady sent them to him, but they remained unopened as he endured a long stretch of the Great
Sleep. The papers remained in their unopened box throughout the time he spent with his beautiful wife Lois; after he left her, they remained unopened. The brown paper parcel yellowed, and the name "Jack
Burden,"written on top, slowly faded.
Chapter 5 Summary
In 1936, Jack mulls over the problem of finding dirt on Judge Irwin. He thinks the judge would have been motivated by ambition, love, fear, or money, and settles on money as the most likely reason he might have been driven over the line. He goes to visit his father, but the Scholarly
Attorney is preoccupied taking care of an "unfortunate" named George, and refuses to answer his "foul" questions. He visits Anne and Adam Stanton at their father's musty old mansion, and learns from Adam that the judge was once broke, back in 1913. But Anne tells him that the judge got out of his financial problems by marrying a rich woman.
At some time during this period, Jack goes to one of Tommy's football games with Willie. Tommy wins the game, and Willie says that he will be an All-
American. Tommy receives the adulation of Willie and all his cohorts, and lives an arrogant life full of women and alcohol. Also during this time,
Jack learns from Tiny Dufiy that Willie is spending six million dollars on the new hospital. Soon after, Anne tells Jack that she herself had lunch with Willie, in a successful attempt to get state funding for one of her charities.
Jack decides to investigate the judge's financial past further. Delving into court documents and old newspapers, he discovers that the judge had not married into money, but had taken out a mortgage on his plantation, which he was nearly unable to pay. A sudden windfall enabled him to stop foreclosure proceedings toward the end of his term as Attorney General under Governor Stanton. Also, after his term he had been given a lucrative job at American Electric Power Company. After some further digging, Jack extracts a letter from a strange old spiritual medium named Lily Mae
Littlepaugh, from her brother George Littlepaugh, whom Judge Irwin replaced at the power company. The letter, a suicide note, reveals that the judge received a great deal of stock and the lucrative position at the power company as a bribe for dismissing a court case brought against the Southern
Belle Fuel Company, which had the same parent company as American Electric
Littlepaugh says that he visited Governor Stanton to try to convince him to bring the matter to light, but Stanton chose to protect his friend the judge; when Miss Littlepaugh visited the governor after her brother's suicide, he again protected the judge, and threatened Miss Littlepaugh with prosecution for insurance fraud. After seven months of digging, Jack has his proof.
Chapter 6 Summary
During the time Jack is investigating Judge Irwin's background, Tommy
Stark, drunk, wraps his car around a tree, severely injuring the young girl riding with him. Her father, a trucker, raises a tremendous noise about the accident, but he is quieted when he is reminded that truckers drive on state highways and many truckers have state contracts. Lucy is livid about
Tommy's crash, even though Tommy is unhurt; she insists that Willie make him stop playing football and living his rambunctious life, but Willie says that he won't see his son turn into a sissy, and that he wants Tommy to have fun.
Willie is, during this time, completely committed to his six-million-dollar hospital project, and he insists, to Jack's bemusement, that it will be completed without any illicit wheeling and dealing. Willie is furious when
Tiny Dufiy tries to convince him to give the contract to Gummy Larson, a
Mac-Murfee supporter who would throw his support to Willie if he received the building contract. (He would also throw a substantial sum of money to
Tiny himself.) But Willie insists that the project will be completely clean, and seems to think of it as his legacy--he even says that he does not care whether it wins him any votes. He insists as well that Jack convince Adam Stanton to run it.
Jack knows that Adam hates the entire Stark administration, but he visits his friend's apartment to make the offer nevertheless. Adam is outraged, but he seems tempted when Jack points out how much good he would be able to do as director of the hospital. Eventually, after Anne becomes involved,
Adam agrees to take the job. He has a conversation with Willie during which
Willie espouses his moral theory--that the only thing for a man to do is create goodness out of badness, because everything is bad, and the only reason something becomes good is because a person thinks it makes things better. Adam is wary of Willie, but he still takes the job--after he receives Willie's promise not to interfere in the running of the hospital.
During this time Jack learns that Anne has found out that Adam received the offer to run the hospital. She visits Jack, and says that she desperately wants Adam to take it. In a moment of bitterness, Jack tells her about how her father illegally protected Judge Irwin after he took the bribe. Anne is crushed; but she visits Adam with the information, and that is what prompts
Adam to compromise his ideals and take the directorship. Anne, Adam, and
Jack attend a speech Willie gives, during which he announces his intention to give the citizens of the state free medical care and free educations.
Anne asks urgently if Willie really means it, and Jack replies, "How the hell should I know?"
But something nags the back of Jack's mind: he is unable to figure out how
Anne learned that Adam had been offered the directorship of the hospital.
Adam didn't tell her, and Willie says that he didn't tell her, and Jack didn't tell her. He finds out that Sadie Burke told her, in a jealous rage—for Sadie says that Anne is Willie's new slut, that she has become his mistress. Jack is shocked, but when he visits Anne, she gives him a wordless nod that confirms Sadie's accusation.
Chapter 7 Summary
After learning about Anne's afiair with Willie Stark, Jack ees westward. He spends several days driving to California, then, after he arrives, three days in Long Beach. On the way, he remembers his past with Anne Stanton, and tries to understand what happened that led her to Willie. When they were children, Jack spent most of his time with Adam Stanton, and Anne simply tagged along. But the summer after his junior year at the State
University, when he was twenty-one and Anne was seventeen, Jack fell in love with Anne, and spent the summer with her. They played tennis together, and swam together at night, and pursued an increasingly intense physical relationship-- Jack remembers that Anne was not prudish, that she seemed to regard her body as something they both possessed, and that they had to explore together. Two nights before Anne was scheduled to leave for her boarding school, they found themselves alone in Jack's house during a thunderstorm, and nearly made love for the first time--but Jack hesitated, and then his mother came home early, ending their chance. The next day Jack tried to convince Anne to marry him, but she demurred, saying that she loved him, but seemed to feel that something in his unambitious character was an impediment to her giving in to her love. After Anne left for school, they continued to write every day, but their feelings dwindled, and the next few times they saw each other, things were difierent between them.
Over Christmas, Anne wouldn't let Jack make love to her, and they had a fight about it. Eventually the letters stopped, and Jack got thrown out of law school, and began to study history, and then eventually he was married to Lois, a beautiful sexpot whose friends he despised and who did not interest him as a person. Toward the end of their marriage, he entered into a phase of the Great Sleep, and then left her altogether.
After two years at a very refined women's college in Virginia, Anne returned to Burden's Landing to care for her ailing father. She was engaged several times but never married, and after her father died, she became an old maid, though she kept her looks and her charm. She devoted herself to her work at the orphanage and her other charities. Jack feels as though she could never marry him because of some essential confidence he lacked, and that she was drawn to Willie Stark because he possessed that confidence.
Jack also feels that because he revealed to Anne the truth of her father's duplicity in protecting Judge Irwin after he accepted the bribe, he is responsible for Anne's afiair with Willie. But he tries to convince himself that the only human motivation is a certain kind of biological compulsion, a kind of itch in the blood, and that therefore, he is not responsible for
He says this attitude was a "dream" that made his trip west deliver on its promise of "innocence and a new start"--if he was able to believe the dream.
Chapter 8 Summary
Jack drives eastward back to his life. He stops at a filling station in New
Mexico, where he picks up an old man heading back to Arkansas. (The old man was driven to leave for California by the Dust Bowl, but discovered that
California was no better than his home.) The old man has a facial twitch, of which he seems entirely unaware. Jack, thinking about the twitch, decides that it is a metaphor for the randomness and causelessness of life-- the very ideas he had been soothing himself with in California, ideas which excused him from responsibility for Willie and Anne's afiair--and begins to refer to the process of life as the "Great Twitch."
Feeling detached from the rest of the world because of his new "secret knowledge," as he calls the idea of the Great Twitch, Jack visits Willie and resumes his normal life. He sees Adam a few times and goes to watch him perform a prefrontal lobotomy on a schizophrenic patient, which seems to him another manifestation of the Great Twitch. One night, Anne calls Jack, and he meets her at an all-night drugstore; she tells him that a man named
Hubert Coffee tried to offer Adam a bribe to throw the building contract for the new hospital to Gummy Larson. In a rage, Adam hit the man, threw himout, and wrote a letter resigning from his post as director of the hospital.
Anne asks Jack to convince Adam to change his mind; Jack says that he will try, but that Adam is acting irrationally, and therefore may not listen to reason. He says he will tell Willie to bring charges against Hubert Coffee for the attempted bribe, which will convince Adam that Willie is not corrupt, at least when it comes to the hospital. Anne offers to testify, but Jack dissuades her--if she did testify, he says, her afiair with Willie would become agrantly and unpleasantly public. Jack asks Anne why she has given herself to Willie, and Anne replies that she loves Willie, and that she will marry him after he is elected to the Senate next year.
Willie agrees to bring the charges against Coffee, and Jack is able to persuade Adam to remain director of the hospital. That crisis is averted,but a more serious crisis arises when a man named Marvin Frey--a man, not coincidentally, from MacMurfee's district--accuses Tom Stark of having impregnated his daughter Sibyl. Then one of MacMurfee's men visits
Willie and says that Marvin Frey wants Tom to marry his daughter--but that
Frey will see reason if, say, Willie were to let MacMurfee win the Senate seat next year. Willie delays his answer, hoping to come up with a better solution.
In the meantime, Jack goes to visit Lucy Stark at her sister's poultry farm, where he explains to her what has happened with Tom. Lucy is crestfallen, and says that Sibyl Frey's child is innocent of evil and innocent of politics, and deserves to be cared for.
Willie comes up with a shrewd solution for dealing with MacMurfee and Frey.
Remembering that MacMurfee owes most of his current political clout, such as it is, to the fact that Judge Irwin supports him, Willie asks Jack if he was able to discover anything sordid in Judge Irwin's past. Jack says that he was, but he refuses to tell Willie what it is until he gives Judge Irwin the opportunity to look at the evidence and answer for himself.
Jack travels to Burden's Landing, where he goes for a swim and watches a young couple playing tennis, feeling a lump in his throat at his memories of Anne. He then goes to visit the judge, who is happy to see Jack, and who apologizes for being so angry the last time they spoke. Jack tells the judge what MacMurfee is trying to do and asks him to call MacMurfee off.
The judge says that he refuses to become mixed up in the matter, and Jack is forced to ask him about the bribe and Mortimer Littlepaugh's suicide.
The judge admits that he did take the bribe, and accepts responsibility for his actions, saying that he also did some good in his life. He refuses to give in to the blackmail attempt.
Jack goes back to his mother's house, where he hears a scream from upstairs. Running upstairs, he finds his mother sobbing insensibly, the phone receiver off the hook and on the oor. When she sees Jack she cries out that Jack has killed Judge Irwin--whom she refers to as Jack's father.
Jack learns that Judge Irwin has committed suicide, by shooting himself in the heart, at the same moment he learns that Judge Irwin, and not the
Scholarly Attorney, was his real father. Jack realizes that the Scholarly
Attorney must have left Jack's mother when he learned of her afiair with the judge. In a way, Jack is glad to be unburdened of his father's weakness, which he felt as a curse, and is even glad to have traded a weak father for a strong one. But he remembers his father giving him a chocolate when he was a child, and says that he was not sure how he felt.
Jack goes back to the capital, where he learns the next day that he was
Judge Irwin's sole heir. He has inherited the very estate that the judge took the bribe in order to save. The situation seems so crazily logical--
Judge Irwin takes the bribe in order to save the estate, then fathers Jack, who tries to blackmail his father with information about the bribe, which causes Judge Irwin to commit suicide, which causes Jack to inherit the estate; had Judge Irwin not taken the bribe, Jack would have had nothing to inherit, and had Jack not tried to blackmail Judge Irwin, the judge would not have killed himself, and Jack would not have inherited the estate when he did--so crazily logical that Jack bursts out laughing. But before long he is sobbing and saying "the poor old bugger" over and over again. Jack says this is like the ice breaking up after a long, cold winter.
Chapter 9 Summary
Jack goes to visit Willie, who asks him about Judge Irwin's death. Jack tells the Boss that he will no longer have anything to do with blackmail, even on MacMurfee, and he is set to work on a tax bill. Over the next few weeks, Tom continues to shine at his football games, but the Sibyl Frey incident has left Willie irritable and dour as he tries to concoct a plan for dealing with MacMurfee. In the end, Willie is forced to give the hospital contract to Gummy Larson, who can control MacMurfee, who can call off Marvin Frey. Jack goes to the Governor's Mansion the night the deal is made, and finds Willie a drunken wreck; Willie insults and threatens Gummy
Larson, and throws a drink in Tiny Dufiy's face. Tom continues to spiral out of control. He gets in a fight with some yokels at a bar, and is suspended for the game against Georgia, which the team loses. Two games later, Tom is injured in the game against Tech, and is carried off the field unconscious. Willie watches the rest of the game, which State wins easily, then goes to the hospital to check on Tom. Jack goes back to the offce, where he finds Sadie Burke sitting alone in the dark, apparently very upset. Sadie leaves when Jack tells her about Tom's injury, then calls from the hospital to tell Jack to come over right away.
Jack goes to the hospital, where the Boss sends him to pick up Lucy. Jack does so, and upon their arrival they learn that the specialist Adam Stanton called in to look at Tom has been held up by fog in Baltimore. Willie is frantic, but eventually the specialist arrives. His diagnosis matches
Adam's: Tom has fractured two vertebrae, and the two doctors recommend a risky surgery to see if the damage can be repaired. They undertake the surgery, and Willie, Jack, and Lucy wait. Willie tells Lucy that he plans to name the hospital after Tom, but Lucy says that things like that don't matter. At six o'clock in the morning, Adam returns, and tells the group that Tom will live, but that his spinal cord is crushed, and he will be paralyzed for the rest of his life. Lucy takes Willie home, and Jack calls
Anne with the news. The operation was accomplished just before dawn on
Sunday. On Monday, Jack sees the piles of telegrams that have come into the offce from political allies and well-wishers, and talks to the obsequious
Tiny. When Willie comes in, he declares to Tiny that he is canceling Gummy
Larson's contract. He implies that he plans to change the way things are done at the capital. Jack is taking some tax-bill figures to the Senate when he learns that Sadie has just stormed out of the offce, and receives word that Anne has just called with an urgent message.
Jack goes to see Anne, who says that Adam has learned about her relationship with Willie, and believes the afiair to be the reason he was given the directorship of the hospital. She tells Jack that Willie has broken off the afiair because he plans to go back to his wife. She asks
Jack to find Adam and tell him that that isn't the way things happened.
Jack spends the day trying to track down Adam, but he fails to find him.
That night, Jack is paged to go to the Capitol, where the vote on the tax bill is taking place. Here, Jack greets Sugar-Boy and watches the Boss talk to his political hangers-on. The Boss tells Jack that he wants to tell him something. As they walk across the lobby, they see a rain-and-mud-soaked
Adam Stanton leaning against the pedestal of a statue. Willie reaches out his hand to shake Adam's; in a blur, Adam draws a gun and shoots Willie, then is shot himself by Sugar-Boy and a highway patrolman. Jack runs to
Adam, who is already dead.
Willie survives for a few days, and at first the prognosis from the hospital is that he will recover. But then he catches an infection, and
Jack realizes that he is going to die. Just before the end, he summons Jack to his hospital bed, where he says over and over again that everything could have been difierent.
After he dies, he is given a massive funeral. Jack says that the other funeral he went to that week was quite difierent: it was Adam Stanton's funeral at Burden's Landing.
Chapter 10 Summary
After Adam's funeral and Willie's funeral, Jack spends some time in
Burden's Landing, spending his days quietly with Anne. They never discuss
Willie's death or Adam's death; instead they sit wordlessly together, or
Jack reads aloud from a book. Then one day Jack begins to wonder how Adam learned about Anne and Willie's afiair. He asks her, but she says she does not know-- a man called and told him, but she does not know who it was.
Jack goes to visit Sadie Burke in the sanitarium where she has gone to recover her nerves. She tells Jack that Tiny Dufiy (now the governor of the state) was the man who called Adam; and she confesses that Tiny learned about the afiair from her. She was so angry about Willie leaving her to go back to Lucy that she told Tiny out of revenge, knowing that, by doing so, she was all but guaranteeing Willie's death. Jack blames Tiny rather than
Sadie, and Sadie agrees to make a statement which Jack can use to bring about Tiny's downfall.
A week later, Dufiy summons Jack to see him. He offers Jack his job back, with a substantial raise over Jack's already substantial income. Jack refuses, and tells Tiny he knows about his role in Willie's death. Tiny is stunned, and frightened, and when Jack leaves he feels heroic. But his feeling of moral heroism quickly dissolves into an acidic bitterness, because he realizes he is trying to make Tiny the sole villain as a way of denying his own share of responsibility. Jack withdraws into numbness, not even opening a letter from Anne when he receives it. He receives a letter from Sadie with her statement, saying that she is moving away and that she hopes Jack will let matters drop--Tiny has no chance to win the next gubernatorial election anyway, and if Jack pursues the matter Anne's name will be dragged through the mud. But Jack had already decided not to pursue it.
At the library Jack sees Sugar-Boy, and asks him what he would do if he learned that there was a man besides Adam who was responsible for Willie's death. Sugar-Boy says he would kill him, and Jack nearly tells him about
Tiny's role. But he decides not to at the last second, and instead tells
Sugar-Boy that it was a joke. Jack also goes to see Lucy, who has adopted
Sibyl Frey's child, which she believes is Tom's. She tells Jack that Tom died of pneumonia shortly after the accident, and that the baby is the only thing that enabled her to live. She also tells him that she believes--and has to believe--that Willie was a great man. Jack says that he also believes it.
Jack goes to visit his mother at Burden's Landing, where he learns that she is leaving Theodore Murrell, the Young Executive. He is surprised to learn that she is doing so because she loved Judge Irwin all along. This knowledge changes Jack's long-held impression of his mother as a woman without a heart, and helps to shatter his belief in the Great Twitch. At the train station, he lies to his mother, and tells her that Judge Irwin killed himself not because of anything that Jack did, but because of his failing health. He thinks of this lie as his last gift to her.
After his mother leaves, he goes to visit Anne, and tells her the truth about his parentage. Eventually, he and Anne are married, and in the early part of 1939, when Jack is writing his story, they are living in Judge
Irwin's house in Burden's Landing. The Scholarly Attorney, now frail and dying, lives with them. Jack is working on a book about Cass Mastern, whom he believes he can finally understand. After the old man dies and the book is finished, Jack says, he and Anne will leave Burden's Landing--stepping
"out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time."
SOME INFO ON JOSEPH HELLER b. May 1, 1923, Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.
American writer whose novel Catch-22 (1961) was one of the most
significant works of protest literature to appear after World War II. The
satirical novel was both a critical and a popular success, and a film
version appeared in 1970.Heller flew 60 combat missions as a bombardier
with the U.S. Air Force in Europe. He received an M.A. at Columbia
University in 1949 and was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Oxford
(1949-50). He taught English at Pennsylvania State University (1950-52) and worked as an advertising copywriter for the magazines Time (1952-56) and
Look (1956-58) and as promotion manager for McCall's (1958-61), meanwhile writing Catch-22 in his spare time. The plot of the novel centres on the antihero Captain John Yossarian, stationed at an airstrip on a
Mediterranean island in World War II, and portrays his desperate attempts to stay alive. The "catch" in Catch-22 involves a mysterious Air Force regulation, which asserts that a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions; but, if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he is sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved. The term Catch-22 thereafter entered the English language as a reference to a proviso that trips one up no matter which way one turns.His later novels including Something Happened (1974), an unrelievedly pessimistic novel,
Good as Gold (1979), a satire on life in Washington, D.C., and God Knows
(1984), a wry, contemporary-vernacular monologue in the voice of the biblical King David, were less successful. Closing Time, a sequel to Catch-
22, appeared in 1994. Heller's dramatic work includes the play We Bombed in
New Haven (1968).
Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn in 1923. He served as an Air Force
bombardier in World War II, and has enjoyed a long career as a writer and a
teacher. His bestselling books include Something Happened, Good as Gold,
Picture This, God Knows, and Closing Time--but his first novel, Catch-22, remains his most famous and acclaimed work.
Written while Heller worked producing ad copy for a New York City marketing firm, Catch-22 draws heavily on Heller's Air Force experience, and presents a war story that is at once hilarious, grotesque, bitterly cynical, and utterly stirring. The novel generated a great deal of controversy upon its publication; critics tended either to adore it or despise it, and those who hated it did so for the same reason as the critics who loved it. Over time, Catch-22 has become one of the defining novels of the twentieth century. It presents an utterly unsentimental vision of war, stripping all romantic pretense away from combat, replacing visions of glory and honor with a kind of nightmarish comedy of violence, bureaucracy, and paradoxical madness.
Unlike other anti-romantic war novels, such as Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Catch-22 relies heavily on humor to convey the insanity of war, presenting the horrible meaninglessness of armed conflict through a kind of desperate absurdity, rather than through graphic depictions of suffering and violence. Catch-22 also distinguishes itself from other anti- romantic war novels by its core values: Yossarian's story is ultimately not one of despair, but one of hope; the positive urge to live and to be free can redeem the individual from the dehumanizing machinery of war. The novel is told as a disconnected series of loosely related, tangential stories in no particular chronological order; the final narrative that emerges from this structural tangle upholds the value of the individual in the face of the impersonal, collective military mass; at every stage, it mocks insincerity and hypocrisy even when they appear to be triumphant.
SUMMARY FOR "CATCH-22"
Yossarian is in a military hospital in Italy with a liver condition
that isn't quite jaundice. He is not really even sick, but he prefers the
hospital to the war outside, so he pretends to have a pain in his liver.
The doctors are unable to prove him wrong, so they let him stay, perplexed at his failure to develop jaundice. Yossarian shares the hospital ward with his friend Dunbar; a bandaged, immobile man called the soldier in white; and a pair of nurses Yossarian suspect hate him. One day an affable Texan is brought into the ward, where he tries to convince the other patients that "decent folk" should get extra votes. The Texan is so nice that everyone hates him. A chaplain comes to see Yossarian, and although he confuses the chaplain badly during their conversation, Yossarian is filled with love for him. Less than ten days after the Texan is sent to the ward, everyone but the soldier in white flees the ward, recovering from their ailments and returning to active duty.
Outside the hospital there is a war going on, and millions of boys are
bombing each other to death. No one seems to have a problem with this
arrangement except Yossarian, who once argued with Clevinger, an officer in
his group, about the war. Yossarian claimed that everyone was trying to
kill him. Clevinger argued that no one was trying to kill Yossarian
personally, but Yossarian has no patience for Clevinger's talk of countries
and honor and insists that they are trying to kill him. After being
released from the hospital, Yossarian sees his roommate Orr and notices
that Clevinger is still missing. He remembers the last time he and
Clevinger called each other crazy, during a night at the officers' club when Yossarian announced to everyone present that he was superhuman because no one had managed to kill him yet. Yossarian is suspicious of everyone when he gets out of the hospital; he has a meal in Milo's mess hall, then talks to Doc Daneeka, who enrages Yossarian by telling him that Colonel
Cathcart has raised to fifty the number of missions required before a soldier can be discharged. The previous number was forty-five. Yossarian has flown forty missions.
Yossarian talks to Orr, who tells him an irritating story about how he
liked to keep crab apples in his cheeks when he was younger. Yossarian
briefly remembers the time a whore had beaten Orr over the head with her
shoe in Rome outside Nately's whore's kid sister's room. Yossarian notices
that Orr is even smaller than Huple, who lives near Hungry Joe's tent.
Hungry Joe has nightmares whenever he isn't scheduled to fly a mission the next day; his screaming keeps the whole camp awake. Hungry Joe's tent is near a road where the men sometimes pick up girls and take them out to the the tall grass near the open-air movie theater that a U.S.O. troupe visited that same afternoon. The troupe was sent by an ambitious general named P.P.
Peckem, who hopes to take over the command of Yossarian's wing from General
Dreedle. General Peckem's troubleshooter Colonel Cargill, who used to be a spectacular failure as a marketing executive and who is now a spectacular failure as a colonel. Yossarian feels sick, but Doc Daneeka still refuses to ground him. Doc Daneeka advises Yossarian to be like Havermeyer and make the best of it; Havermeyer is a fearless lead bombardier. Yossarian thinks that he himself is a lead bombardier filled with a very healthy fear.
Havermeyer likes to shoot mice in the middle of the night; once, he woke
Hungry Joe and caused him to dive into one of the slit trenchs that have appeared nightly beside every tent since Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer, bombed the squadron.
Hungry Joe is crazy, and though Yossarian tries to help him, Hungry Joe
won't listen to his advice because he thinks Yossarian is crazy. Doc
Daneeka doesn't believe Hungry Joe has problems--he thinks only he has problems, because his lucrative medical practice was ended by the war.
Yossarian remembers trying to disrupt the educational meeting in Captain
Black's intelligence tent by asking unanswerable questions, which caused
Group Headquarters to make a rule that the only people who could ask questions were the ones who never did. This rule comes from Colonel
Cathcart and Lieutenant Colonel Korn, who also approved the skeet shooting range where Yossarian can never hit anything. Dunbar loves shooting skeet because he hates it and it makes the time go more slowly; his goal is to live as long as possible by slowing down time, so he loves boredom and discomfort, and he argues about this with Clevinger.
Doc Daneeka lives in a tent with an alcoholic Indian named Chief White
Halfoat, where he tells Yossarian about some sexually inept newlyweds he had in his office once. Chief White Halfoat comes in and tells Yossarian that Doc Daneeka is crazy and then relates the story of his own family: everywhere they went, someone struck oil, and so oil companies sent agents and equipment to follow them wherever they went. Doc Daneeka still refuses to ground Yossarian, who asks if he would be grounded if he were crazy. Doc
Daneeka says yes, and Yossarian decides to go crazy. But that solution is too easy: there is a catch. Doc Daneeka tells Yossarian about Catch-22, which holds that, to be grounded for insanity, a pilot must ask to be grounded, but that any pilot who asks to be grounded must be sane.
Impressed, Yossarian takes Doc Daneeka's word for it, just as he had taken
Orr's word about the flies in Appleby's eyes. Orr insists there are flies in Appleby's eyes, and though Yossarian has no idea what Orr means, he believes Orr because he has never lied to him before. They once told
Appleby about the flies, so that Appleby was worried on the way to a briefing, after which they all took off in B-25s for a bombing run.
Yossarian shouted directions to the pilot, McWatt, to avoid antiaircraft fire while Yossarian dropped the bombs. Another time while they were taking evasive action Dobbs went crazy and started screaming "Help him," while the plane spun out of control and Yossarian believed he was going to die. In the back of the plane, Snowden was dying.
Hungry Joe has his fifty missions, but the orders to send him home
never come, and he continues to scream all through every night. Doc Daneeka
persists in feeling sorry for himself while ignoring Hungry Joe's problems.
Hungry Joe is driven crazy by noises, and is mad with lust--he is desperate to take pictures of naked women, but the pictures never come out. He pretends to be an important Life magazine photographer, and the irony is that he really was a photographer for Life before the war. Hungry Joe has flown six tours of duty, but every time he finishes one Colonel Cathcart raises the number of missions required before Hungry Joe is sent home. When this happens, the nightmares stop until Hungry Joe finishes another tour.
Colonel Cathcart is very brave about sending his men into dangerous situations--no situation is too dangerous, just as no ping-pong shot is too hard for Appleby. One night Orr attacked Appleby in the middle of a game; a fight broke out, and Chief White Halfoat busted Colonel Moodus, General
Dreedle's son-in-law, in the nose. General Dreedle enjoyed that so much he kept calling Chief White Halfoat in to repeat the performance--but the
Indian remains a marginal figure in the camp, much like Major Major, who was promoted to squadron commander while playing basketball and who has been ostracized ever since. Also, Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen explains to
Yossarian how Catch-22 requires him to fly the extra missions Colonel
Cathcart orders, even though Twenty-Seventh Air Force regulations only demand forty missions.
Yossarian's pilot, McWatt, is possibly the craziest of all the men, because he is perfectly sane but he does not mind the war. He is smiling
and polite and loves to whistle show tunes. He is impressed with Milo--but
not as impressed as Milo was with the letter Yossarian got from Doc Daneeka
about his liver, which ordered the mess hall to give Yossarian all the
fresh fruit he wanted, which, in turn, Yossarian refused to eat, because if
his liver improved he couldn't go to the hospital whenever he wanted. Milo
is involved in the black market, and he tries to convince Yossarian to go
in with him in selling the fruit, but Yossarian refuses. Milo is indignant
when he learns that a C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Division) man is
searching for a criminal who has been forging Washington Irving's name in
censored letters--it is Yossarian who used to pass time in the hospital by
writing the letters. But Milo is convinced the C.I.D. man is trying to set
him up because of his black market activity. Milo wants to organize the men
into a syndicate, as he demonstrates by returning McWatt's stolen bedsheet
in pieces--half for McWatt, a quarter for Milo, and so on. Milo has a grasp
on some confusing economics: he manages to make a profit buying eggs in
Malta for seven cents apiece and selling them in Pianosa for five cents apiece.
Not even Clevinger understands that, but though he is a dope, he
usually understands everything, except why Yossarian insists that so many
people are trying to kill him. Yossarian remembers training in America with
Clevinger under Lieutenant Scheisskopf, who was obsessed with parades, and whose wife, along with her friend Dori Duz, used to sleep with all the men under her husband's command. Lieutenant Scheisskopf hated Clevinger, and finally got him sent to trial under a belligerant colonel. Clevinger is stunned when he realizes that Lieutenant Scheisskopf and the colonel truly hate him, in a way that no enemy soldier ever could.
Given a horrible name at birth because of his father's horrible sense
of humor, Major Major Major was chagrined when, the day he joined the army, he was promoted to Major by an IBM machine with an equally horrible sense
of humor, making him Major Major Major Major. Major Major Major Major also
looks vaguely like Henry Fonda, and did so well in school that he was
suspected of being a Communist and monitored by the FBI. His sudden
promotion stunned his drill sergeant, who had to train a man who was
suddenly his superior officer. Luckily, Major Major applied for aviation
cadet training, and was sent to Lieutenant Scheisskopf. Not long after
arriving in Pianosa, he was made squadron commander by an irate Colonel
Cathcart, after which he lost all his new friends. Major Major has always been a drab, mediocre sort of person, and had never had friends before; he lapses into an awkward depression and refuses to be seen in his office except when he isn't there. To make himself feel better, Major Major forges
Washington Irving's name to official documents. He is confused about everything, including his official relationship to Major ----- de Coverley, his executive officer: He doesn't know whether he is Major ----- de
Coverlay's subordinate, or vice versa. A C.I.D. man comes to investigate the Washington Irving scandal, but Major Major denies knowledge, and the incompetent C.I.D. man believes him--as does another C.I.D. man who arrives shortly thereafter, then leaves to investigate the first C.I.D. man. Major
Major takes to wearing dark glasses and a false mustache when forging
Washington Irving's name. One day Major Major is tackled by Yossarian, who demands to be grounded. Sadly, Major Major tells Yossarian that there is nothing he can do.
Clevinger's plane disappeared in a cloud off the coast of Elba, and he
is presumed dead. Yossarian finds the disappearance as stunning as that of
a whole squadron of sixty-four men who all deserted in one day. Then he
tells ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen the news, but ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen isn't
impressed with the disappearance. Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen continually goes
AWOL, then is required to dig holes and fill them up again--work he seems to enjoy. One day ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen nicked a water pipe, and water sprayed everywhere, leading to mass confusion much like that of the night seven months later when Milo bombed the camp. Word spread that the water was oil, and Chief White Halfoat was kicked off the base. Around this time,
Appleby tried to turn Yossarian in for not taking his Atabrine tablets, but the only time he was allowed to go into Major Major's office was when Major
Major wasn't there. Yossarian remembers Mudd, a soldier who died immediately after arriving at the camp, and whose belongings are still in
Yossarian's tent. The belongings are contaminated with death in the same way that the whole camp was contaminated before the deadly mission of the
Great Big Siege of Bologna, for which Colonel Cathcart bravely volunteered his men. During this time even sick men were not allowed to be grounded by doctors. Dr. Stubbs is overwhelmed with cynicism, and asks what the point is of saving lives when everyone dies anyway. Dunbar says that the point is to live as long as you can and forget about the fact that you will eventually die.
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