Yossarian’s vague guilt about abandoning his friends reveals a weakness in his philosophy of self-preservation: he seems to have no qualms about abandoning the mission and thereby keeping himself alive, but he does care about his friends and feels a mild trepidation while he awaits their return. Up to this point, Yossarian’s sole goal in life has been survival at the expense of everything else: he has subjected himself and his squadron to various illnesses, refused to enjoy fruit because it might make him healthy, and endured rather unpleasant hospital stays—all for the sake of not having to fly missions. Yossarian faces a difficult dilemma: on one hand, caring for others is destructive in that it undermines his ability to try to save his own life; on the other hand, caring for others is the only thing that mitigates the impersonal hatred that Yossarian perceives directed toward him.
The interlude with Luciana provides a welcome respite from life in the camp on Pianosa, but it also illustrates the strain placed on male-female relationships by the war. Luciana and Yossarian seem legitimately drawn to one another, but their relationship is brief and almost wholly sexual. Hungry Joe’s interruption of their time together demonstrates the glaring lack of privacy in Yossarian’s life and highlights the difficulty of having meaningful relationships in wartime. Similarly, Yossarian’s tearing up of Luciana’s number constitutes an act of irrational, self-satisfied exuberance that seems part and parcel of the absurd ironies forced on him by the Catch-22 mentality of the war. He is so overwhelmed at the end of this section—after Bologna, after Luciana, and after he learns that the number of missions has been raised yet again—that he decides to check into the hospital, a place of relative sanity and safety.