"a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice"

Man with skin discolored by jaundice
Creative Commons AttributionMan with skin discolored by jaundice - Credit: James Heilman MD
In the first paragraph that contains more than one sentence, the reader is offered an example of a situation very much like a classic Catch-22. Yossarian doesn’t quite have jaundice; if it became jaundice, the doctors could treat it, and if it failed to become jaundice he could be discharged. But his condition seems to linger just on the edge of becoming and not becoming, a state of being/not-being, like hundreds of other situations that will crop up in this novel.