Chapter 41 - 42
Finally, the whole story of what happened to Snowden is revealed. Yossarian went to the back of the plane to help dress his wound. He did a good job stopping the bleeding and bandaging Snowden's thigh wound and told him he just had to hang on till they go to the ground. Snowden just kept saying how cold he was, even though the plane was warm. Finally, Yossarian noticed blood coming from under Snowden's flak suit. When he opened the jacket, all of Snowden's insides spilled all over the plane. This is why Yossarian lost his courage and just wanted to get out of flying as quickly as possible.
Now, he is in the hospital recovering from the stab wound Nately's girlfriend gave him. Major Danby tries to talk him into keeping the bargain with Colonel Korn, but Yossarian realizes that then he will be complicit in sending other men to fly more missions. He is caught because he will not fly more missions, he does not want to be court-martialed, he knows that deserting will get him in bigger trouble, and he cannot morally keep his bargain with Colonel Korn.
Just as Yossarian is contemplating these issues, Chaplain Tappman comes in to tell him that Orr has washed ashore in Sweden. Yossarian realizes that Orr intentionally crashed and then rowed to Sweden. All those crash landings were practice so that he could escape. Yossarian is inspired and decides to run away. As he is leaving, he narrowly escapes being stabbed by Nately's girlfriend again.
Snowden's death was horrible because Yossarian thought he had controlled mortality when he stopped the wound on his leg. When he opened Snowden's jacket, Yossarian learned "Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. The spirit gone, man is garbage" (450). He was appalled to learn so graphically just how mortal we all are.
Yossarian insists, "I am not running away from my responsibilities. I'm running to them. There's nothing negative about running away to save my life" (461). The people who spout on about morals and ideals are the opportunists who are using those ideals to advance their own interests. Yossarian refuses to subscribe to that ethic. Instead, he is going to save himself without putting anyone else in danger. He is going to do something active to protect himself, even if it breaks the outrageous rules he is supposed to follow.
Orr rowing to Sweden became a popular image for young people who favored resisting authority. Orr pretends to be stupid, but really he is planning his own escape. He finds a way to get away from the authority figures who want to put him in danger just to advance their interests. Yossarian follows Orr's example and leaves the world of ridiculous authority behind him.