Catch - 22 Characters

Catch-22 characters #

The Vietnam war created a market for a story that depicted US army commanders as quixotic, paranoid brutes. Most of the characters have become insane or are living in a world of illusions created by the system to rationalise imminent death and to survive. They are full of contradictions, paradoxes or outright absurdities. Nothing makes sense.

Officers #

General P. P. Peckem #

The U.S.O. troupes were sent by General P. P. Peckem, who had moved his headquarters up to Rome and had nothing better to do while he schemed against General Dreedle.

General Peckem was a general with whom neatness definitely counted. He was a spry, suave and very precise general who knew the circumference of the equator and always wrote ‘enhanced’ when he meant ‘increased’. He was a prick, and no one knew this better than General Dreedle, who was incensed by General Peckem’s recent directive requiring all tents in the Mediterranean theatre of operations to be pitched along parallel lines with entrances facing back proudly toward the Washington Monument. To General Dreedle, who ran a fighting outfit, it seemed a lot of crap.

Furthermore, it was none of General Peckem’s goddam business how the tents in General Dreedle’s wing were pitched. There then followed a hectic jurisdictional dispute between these overlords that was decided in General Dreedle’s favor by ex P.F.C. Wintergreen, mail clerk at Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters.

Headquarters was also pleased and decided to award a medal to the officer who captured the city. There was no officer who had captured the city, so they gave the medal to General Peckem instead, because General Peckem was the only officer with sufficient initiative to ask for it.

As soon as General Peckem had received his medal, he began asking for increased responsibility. It was General Peckem’s opinion that all combat units in the theater should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Special Service Corps, of which General Peckem himself was the commanding officer. If dropping bombs on the enemy was not a special service, he reflected aloud frequently with the martyred smile of sweet reasonableness that was his loyal confederate in every dispute, then he could not help wondering what in the world was. With amiable regret, he declined the offer of a combat post under General Dreedle.

‘Flying combat missions for General Dreedle is not exactly what I had in mind,’ he explained indulgently with a smooth laugh. ‘I was thinking more in terms of replacing General Dreedle, or perhaps of something above General Dreedle where I could exercise supervision over a great many other generals too. You see, my most precious abilities are mainly administrative ones. I have a happy facility for getting different people to agree.’

‘He has a happy facility for getting different people to agree what a prick he is,' Colonel Cargill confided invidiously to ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen in the hope that ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen would spread the unfavorable report along through Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters.

Colonel Cargill #

To regain whatever status he had lost, General Peckem began sending out more U.S.O. troupes than he had ever sent out before and assigned to Colonel Cargill himself the responsibility of generating enough enthusiasm for them.

Colonel Cargill, General Peckem’s troubleshooter, was a forceful, ruddy man.

Before the war he had been an alert, hardhitting, aggressive marketing executive. He was a very bad marketing executive. Colonel Cargill was so awful a marketing executive that his services were much sought after by firms eager to establish losses for tax purposes. Throughout the civilized world, from Battery Park to Fulton Street, he was known as a dependable man for a fast tax write-off. His prices were high, for failure often did not come easily. He had to start at the top and work his way down, and with sympathetic friends in Washington, losing money was no simple matter. It took months of hard work and careful mis-planning. A person misplaced, disorganized, miscalculated, overlooked everything and opened every loophole, and just when he thought he had it made, the government gave him a lake or a forest or an oilfield and spoiled everything. Even with such handicaps, Colonel Cargill could be relied on to run the most prosperous enterprise into the ground. He was a self-made man who owed his lack of success to nobody.

‘Men,' Colonel Cargill began in Yossarian’s squadron, measuring his pauses carefully.

‘You’re American officers. The officers of no other army in the world can make that statement. Think about it.'

Sergeant Knight thought about it and then politely informed Colonel Cargill that he was addressing the enlisted men and that the officers were to be found waiting for him on the other side of the squadron.

Colonel Cargill thanked him crisply and glowed with self-satisfaction as he strode across the area. It made him proud to observe that twenty-nine months in the service had not blunted his genius for ineptitude.

‘Men,' he began his address to the officers, measuring his pauses carefully. ‘You’re American officers. The officers of no other army in the world can make that statement. Think about it.' He waited a moment to permit them to think about it.

Lieutenant Scheisskopf #

Lieutenant Scheisskopf was an R.O.T.C. graduate who was rather glad that war had broken out, since it gave him an opportunity to wear an officer’s uniform every day and say ‘Men’ in a clipped, military voice to the bunches of kids who fell into his clutches every eight weeks on their way to the butcher’s block. He was an ambitious and humorless Lieutenant Scheisskopf, who confronted his responsibilities soberly and smiled only when some rival officer at the Santa Ana Army Air Force Base came down with a lingering disease.

He had poor eyesight and chronic sinus trouble, which made war especially exciting for him, since he was in no danger of going overseas.

The best thing about him was his wife and the best thing about his wife was a girl friend named Dori Duz who did whenever she could and had a Wac uniform that Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife put on every weekend and took off every weekend for every cadet in her husband’s squadron who wanted to creep into her.

Dori Duz was a lively little tart of copper-green and gold who loved doing it best in toolsheds, phone booths, field houses and bus kiosks. There was little she hadn’t tried and less she wouldn’t. She was shameless, slim, nineteen and aggressive. She destroyed egos by the score and made men hate themselves in the morning for the way she found them, used them and tossed them aside.

Yossarian loved her. She was a marvelous piece of ass who found him only fair. He loved the feel of springy muscle beneath her skin everywhere he touched her the only time she’d let him. Yossarian loved Dori Duz so much that he couldn’t help flinging himself down passionately on top of Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife every week to revenge himself upon Lieutenant Scheisskopf for the way Lieutenant Scheisskopf was revenging himself upon Clevinger.

Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife was revenging herself upon Lieutenant Scheisskopf for some unforgettable crime of his she couldn’t recall. She was a plump, pink, sluggish girl who read good books and kept urging Yossarian not to be so bourgeois without the r. She was never without a good book close by, not even when she was lying in bed with nothing on her but Yossarian and Dori Duz’s dog tags. She bored Yossarian, but he was in love with her, too. She was a crazy mathematics major from the Wharton School of Business who could not count to twenty-eight each month without getting into trouble.

Parades #

Colonel Sheiskopf loves parades and practicing for them.

“For Imperial rulers, as well as despots, war is about romance, gallantry and glory. They like nothing more than a carefully pressed uniform, a parade ground and a razor-sharp fighting line. Hitler and other tyrants love the goose step. Thousands of soldiers, in perfect alignment, followed by mechanised artillery and missiles are designed to impress, covering up the real brutal ugliness and chaos of the fog of war.

At most, British soldiers spent two months of the year actually training to fight. The other ten were devoted to parading, attending to their uniforms and waiting on their officers, for whom they were expected to serve as cook, valet, porter and gardener. ‘The actual conditions of warfare were studiously disregarded,’ Amery wrote. ‘Nowhere was there any definite preparation for war, nowhere any dear conception that war was the one end and object for which armies exist. In their place reigned a … hazy confidence that British good fortune and British courage would always come successfully out of any war that the inscrutable mysteries of foreign policy might bring about.’ Hero of the Empire: The Making of Winston Churchill - Candice Millard

Lieutenant Scheisskopf tore his hair and gnashed his teeth. His rubbery cheeks shook with gusts of anguish. His problem was a squadron of aviation cadets with low morale who marched atrociously in the parade competition that took place every Sunday afternoon. Their morale was low because they did not want to march in parades every Sunday afternoon and because Lieutenant Scheisskopf had appointed cadet officers from their ranks instead of permitting them to elect their own.

Lieutenant Scheisskopf longed desperately to win parades and sat up half the night working on it while his wife waited amorously for him in bed thumbing through Krafft-Ebing to her favorite passages. He read books on marching. He manipulated boxes of chocolate soldiers until they melted in his hands and then maneuvered in ranks of twelve a set of plastic cowboys he had bought from a mail-order house under an assumed name and kept locked away from everyone’s eyes during the day.

Leonardo’s exercises in anatomy proved indispensable. One evening he felt the need for a live model and directed his wife to march around the room.
Naked?' she asked hopefully.
Lieutenant Scheisskopf smacked his hands over his eyes in exasperation. It was the despair of Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s life to be chained to a woman who was incapable of looking beyond her own dirty, sexual desires to the titanic struggles for the unattainable in which noble man could become heroically engaged. ' Finishing last in three successive parades had given Lieutenant Scheisskopf an unsavory reputation, and he considered every means of improvement, even nailing the twelve men in each rank to a long two-by-four beam of seasoned oak to keep them in line. The plan was not feasible, for making a ninety-degree turn would have been impossible without nickel-alloy swivels inserted in the small of every man’s back, and Lieutenant Scheisskopf was not sanguine at all about obtaining that many nickel-alloy swivels from Quartermaster or enlisting the cooperation of the surgeons at the hospital.

The week after Lieutenant Scheisskopf followed Clevinger’s recommendation and let the men elect their own cadet officers, the squadron won the yellow pennant. Lieutenant Scheisskopf was so elated by his unexpected achievement that he gave his wife a sharp crack over the head with the pole when she tried to drag him into bed to celebrate by showing their contempt for the sexual mores of the lower middle classes in Western civilization. The next week the squadron won the red flag, and Lieutenant Scheisskopf was beside himself with rapture. And the week after that his squadron made history by winning the red pennant two weeks in a row! Now Lieutenant Scheisskopf had confidence enough in his powers to spring his big surprise. Lieutenant Scheisskopf had discovered in his extensive research that the hands of marchers, instead of swinging freely, as was then the popular fashion, ought never to be moved more than three inches from the center of the thigh, which meant, in effect, that they were scarcely to be swung at all.

Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s preparations were elaborate and clandestine. All the cadets in his squadron were sworn to secrecy and rehearsed in the dead of night on the auxiliary parade-ground. They marched in darkness that was pitch and bumped into each other blindly, but they did not panic, and they were learning to march without swinging their hands. Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s first thought had been to have a friend of his in the sheet metal shop sink pegs of nickel alloy into each man’s thighbones and link them to the wrists by strands of copper wire with exactly three inches of play, but there wasn’t time - there was never enough time - and good copper wire was hard to come by in wartime. He remembered also that the men, so hampered, would be unable to fall properly during the impressive fainting ceremony preceding the marching and that an inability to faint properly might affect the unit’s rating as a whole .

Look, Colonel,' he announced. ‘No hands.'

And to an audience stilled with awe, he distributed certified photostatic copies of the obscure regulation on which he had built his unforgettable triumph. This was Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s finest hour. He won the parade, of course, hands down, obtaining permanent possession of the red pennant and ending the Sunday parades altogether, since good red pennants were as hard to come by in wartime as good copper wire. Lieutenant Scheisskopf was made First Lieutenant Scheisskopf on the spot and began his rapid rise through the ranks. There were few who did not hail him as a true military genius for his important discovery.

‘That Lieutenant Scheisskopf,' Lieutenant Travels remarked. ‘He’s a military genius.

Towards the end of the book, Scheisskopf is sent overseas under General Peckham.

All he wants is to send out memos about parades. They don’t have any, however he is allowed to sending out weekly announcements, postposing parades.

In the end, in their jocking for position, General Peckem and Dreedle outmaneuver each other destroying their chances of promotion, and Schiesskopf ends up being appointed Supreme Commander, reinforcing the principle that “shit” rises to the top.

General Dreedle #

General P. P. Peckem, who had moved his headquarters up to Rome and had nothing better to do while he schemed against General Dreedle.

General Dreedle, who was incensed by General Peckem’s recent directive requiring all tents in the Mediterranean theater of operations to be pitched along parallel lines with entrances facing back proudly toward the Washington Monument. To General Dreedle, who ran a fighting outfit, it seemed a lot of crap. Furthermore, it was none of General Peckem’s goddam business how the tents in General Dreedle’s wing were pitched.

There then followed a hectic jurisdictional dispute between these overlords that was decided in General Dreedle’s favor by ex P.F.C. Wintergreen, mail clerk at Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters.

Wintergreen determined the outcome by throwing all communications from General Peckem into the wastebasket. He found them too prolix. General Dreedle’s views, expressed in less pretentious literary style, pleased ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen and were sped along by him in zealous observance of regulations. General Dreedle was victorious by default.

Yossarian, always carrying on so disgracefully about that dead man in his tent who wasn’t even there and then taking off all his clothes after the Avignon mission and going around without them right up to the day General Dreedle stepped up to pin a medal on him for his heroism over Ferrara and found him standing in formation stark naked.

Wintergreen #

Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen was a snide little punk who enjoyed working at cross-purposes.

The most powerful, influential, low ranking officer is Wintergreen, because he runs the mimeograph machine and controls information in sorting the mail.

Wintergreen determined the outcome by throwing all communications from General Peckem into the wastebasket. He found them too prolix. General Dreedle’s views, expressed in less pretentious literary style, pleased ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen and were sped along by him in zealous observance of regulations. General Dreedle was victorious by default.

‘Oh, no. Not Wintergreen.' Chief White Halfoat shook his head with undisguised admiration. ‘That stinking little punk wise-guy son of a bitch ain’t afraid of nobody.'

Each time he (Wintergreen) went AWOL, he was caught and sentenced to dig and fill up holes six feet deep, wide and long for a specified length of time. Each time he finished his sentence, he went AWOL again. Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen accepted his role of digging and filling up holes with all the uncomplaining dedication of a true patriot.

‘It’s not a bad life,' he would observe philosophically. ‘And I guess somebody has to do it.' The duty of men in combat is to win the war and I just wish they were doing their duty as well as I have been doing mine. (138)

Under Colonel Korn’s rule, the only people permitted to ask questions were those who never did. Soon the only people attending were those who never asked questions, and the sessions were discontinued altogether, since Clevinger, the corporal and Colonel Korn agreed that it was neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never questioned anything.

Major Major #

Major Major Major Major had had a difficult time from the start.

Like Minniver Cheevy, he had been born too late - exactly thirty-six hours too late for the physical well-being of his mother, a gentle, ailing woman who, after a full day and a half’s agony in the rigors of childbirth, was depleted of all resolve to pursue further the argument over the new child’s name. In the hospital corridor, her husband moved ahead with the unsmiling determination of someone who knew what he was about. Major Major’s father was a towering, gaunt man in heavy shoes and a black woolen suit. He filled out the birth certificate without faltering, betraying no emotion at all as he handed the completed form to the floor nurse. The nurse took it from him without comment and padded out of sight. He watched her go, wondering what she had on underneath.

Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.

With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.

Major Major was out when he was in and in when he was out. “With a little ingenuity and vision, he had made it all but impossible for anyone in the squadron to talk to him, which was just fine with everyone, he noticed, since no one wanted to talk to him anyway."

Major Major’s father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a long-limbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa.

On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. ‘As ye sow, so shall ye reap,’ he counseled one and all, and everyone said, ‘Amen

The day after Major Duluth was killed over Perugia. Colonel Cathcart slammed to a screeching stop inches short of the railroad ditch separating the nose of his jeep from the lopsided basketball court on the other side, from which Major Major was eventually driven by the kicks and shoves and stones and punches of the men who had almost become his friends.

‘You’re the new squadron commander,' Colonel Cathcart had bellowed across the dit ch at him. ‘But don’t think it means anything, because it doesn’t. All it means is that you’re the new squadron commander.'

And Colonel Cathcart had roared away as abruptly as he’d come, whipping the jeep around with a vicious spinning of wheels that sent a spray of fine grit blowing into Major Major’s face. Major Major was immobilized by the news. He stood speechless, lanky and gawking, with a scuffed basketball in his long hands as the seeds of rancor sown so swiftly by Colonel Cathcart took root in the soldiers around him who had been playing basketball with him and who had let him come as close to making friends with them as anyone had ever let him come before. The whites of his moony eyes grew large and misty as his mouth struggled yearningly and lost against the familiar, impregnable loneliness drifting in around him again like suffocating fog.

Later he is promoted to the rank of Major – simply because of his name. Actually, Major Major had been promoted by an I.B.M. machine with a sense of humor almost as keen as his father’s.

Major Major, the long and bony squadron commander, who looked a little bit like Henry Fonda in distress and went jumping out the window of his office each time Yossarian bullied his way past Sergeant Towser to speak to him about it.

No one in the world had the power to remove the dead man’s disorganized effects from Yossarian’s tent.

Major Major had forfeited the authority when he permitted Sergeant Towser to report the lieutenant who had been killed over Orvieto less than two hours after he arrived in the squadron as never having arrived in the squadron at all. The only one with any right to remove his belongings from Yossarian’s tent, it seemed to Major Major, was Yossarian himself.

Major Major had bought the dark glasses and false mustache in Rome in a final, futile attempt to save himself from the swampy degradation into which he was steadily sinking. First there had been the awful humiliation of the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, when not one of the thirty or forty people circulating competitive loyalty oaths would even allow him to sign.

Major Cathcart #

Colonel Cathcart was a slick, successful, slipshod, unhappy man of thirty-six who lumbered when he walked and wanted to be a general. He was dashing and dejected, poised and chagrined. He was complacent and insecure, daring in the administrative stratagems he employed to bring himself to the attention of his superiors and craven in his concern that his schemes might all backfire. He was handsome and unattractive, a swashbuckling, beefy, conceited man who was putting on fat and was tormented chronically by prolonged seizures of apprehension. Colonel Cathcart was conceited because he was a full colonel with a combat command at the age of only thirty-six; and Colonel Cathcart was dejected because although he was already thirty-six he was still only a full colonel.

He believed all the news he heard and had faith in none.

He was on the alert constantly for every signal, shrewdly sensitive to relationships and situations that did not exist. He was someone in the know who was always striving pathetically to find out what was going on. He was a blustering, intrepid bully who brooded inconsolably over the terrible ineradicable impressions he knew he kept making on people of prominence who were scarcely aware that he was even alive. Everybody was persecuting him. Colonel Cathcart lived by his wits in an unstable, arithmetical world of black eyes and feathers in his cap, of overwhelming imaginary triumphs and catastrophic imaginary defeats. He oscillated hourly between anguish and exhilaration, multiplying fantastically the grandeur of his victories and exaggerating tragically the seriousness of his defeats.

Major - de Coverley #

Major - de Coverley was a splendid, awe-inspiring, grave old man with a massive leonine head and an angry shock of wild white hair that raged like a blizzard around his stern, patriarchal face. His duties as squadron executive officer did consist entirely, of pitching horseshoes, kidnaping Italian laborers, and renting apartments for the enlisted men and officers to use on rest leaves, and he excelled at all three.

Captain Black #

Captain Black liked to threaten the air crew:

‘Boy, are you bastards in for it!’ he announced exuberantly, splashing away from the puddle forming at his feet. ‘I just got a call from Colonel Korn. Do you know what they’ve got waiting for you at Bologna? Ha! Ha! They’ve got the new Lepage glue gun. It glues a whole formation of planes together in mid-air.'

Support Staff #

The Chaplain #

It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.

The chaplain had “failed miserably, had choked up once again in the face of opposition from a stronger personality. It was a familiar, ignominious experience, and his opinion of himself was low."

The chaplain seemed so overburdened with miseries of his own that Major Major shrank from adding to his troubles.

In the hope of getting his picture in The Saturday Evening Post, Colonel Cathcart wants the chaplain to say a prayer in the briefing room before each mission. Yet he wants something ‘humorous that stays away from waters and valleys and God? I’d like to keep away from the subject of religion altogether if we can.’

There are no atheists in my outf it! Atheism is against the law, isn’t it?’ ’No, sir.’ It isn’t?’ The colonel was surprised. ’Then it’s unAmerican, isn’ t it ?’ ’I’m not sure, sir,’ answered the chaplain. ’Well, I am!’ the colonel declared. ’I’m not going to disrupt our religious services just to accommodate a bunch of lousy atheists. They’re getting no special privileges from me.

Doc Daneeka #

He was a sad, birdlike man with the spatulate face and scrubbed, tapering features of a well-groomed rat, more concerned about his own problems than any of his patients.

He snarled resentfully.

‘I had it made, I tell you. Fifty grand a year I was knocking down, and almost all of it tax-free, since I made my customers pay me in cash. I had the strongest trade association in the world backing me up. And look what happened. Just when I was all set to really start stashing it away, they had to manufacture fascism and start a war horrible enough to affect even me’.

Doc Daneeka flared up angrily:

‘Yeah? Well, at least I’m going to come out of this war alive, which is a lot more than you’re going to do.'

Yossarian: ‘That’s just what I’m trying to tell you, goddammit. I’m asking you to save my life.'

‘It’s not my business to save lives,' Doc Daneeka retorted sullenly.

‘What is your business?'

‘I don’t know what my business is. All they ever told me was to uphold the ethics of my profession and never give testimony against another physician.

Doc Daneeka hated to fly. He felt imprisoned in an airplane. Yossarian, made it possible for Dan Daneeka to collect his flight pay each month by persuading McWatt to enter Doc Daneeka’ s name on his flight log for training missions or trips to Rome. When McWatt flies his plane into a mountain with Doc Daneeks’s name on the flight log, he is assumed officially dead, even though he is physically present. Nothing can persuade the officials otherwise, so his wife collects his pension.

He has no power to do the one thing that would save lives; send them home.

Milo Minderbinder #

Twists and distorts things to bind up your mind.

“But I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling them for four and a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy them from for seven cents an egg. Of course, I don’t make the profit. The syndicate makes the profit. And everybody has a share.”

Then the other three squadrons in Colonel Cathcart’s group turned their mess halls over to Milo and gave him an airplane and a pilot each so that he could buy fresh eggs and fresh butter for them too. Milo’s planes shuttled back and forth seven days a week as every officer in the four squadrons began devouring fresh eggs in an insatiable orgy of fresh-egg eating. General Dreedle devoured fresh eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner - between meals he devoured more fresh eggs - until Milo located abundant sources of fresh veal, beef, duck, baby lamb chops, mushroom caps, broccoli, South African rock lobster tails, shrimp, hams, puddings, grapes, ice cream, strawberries and artichokes.

Milo reasoning shrewdly that anyone who would not steal from the country he loved would not steal from anybody.

Colonel Cathcart #

Colonel Cathcart and Lieutenant Colonel Korn lived and worked in the Group Headquarters building, as did all the members of the headquarters staff, with the exception of the chaplain. The Group Headquarters building was an enormous, windy, antiquated structure built of powdery red stone and banging plumbing. Behind the building was the modern skeet-shooting range that had been constructed by Colonel Cathcart for the exclusive recreation of the officers at Group and at which every officer and enlisted man on combat status now, thanks to General Dreedle, had to spend a minimum of eight hours a month.

Colonel Cathcart increases the number of missions

Colonel Cathcart had courage and never hesitated to volunteer his men for any target available. No target was too dangerous for his group to attack.

Also outside the pale was Major Major, the squadron commander, who had found that he was squadron commander from Colonel Cathcart, who came blasting into the squadron in his hopped-up jeep the day after Major Duluth was killed over Perugia. Colonel Cathcart slammed to a screeching stop inches short of the railroad ditch separating the nose of his jeep from the lopsided basketball court on the other side, from which Major Major was eventually driven by the kicks and shoves and stones and punches of the men who had almost become his friends.

‘You’re the new squadron commander,' Colonel Cathcart had bellowed across the ditch at him. ‘But don’t think it means anything, because it doesn’t. All it means is that you’re the new squadron commander.'

Colonel Cathcart was infused with the democratic spirit: he believed that all men were created equal, and he therefore spurned all men outside Group Headquarters with equal fervor. Nevertheless, he believed in his men. As he told them frequently in the briefing room, he believed they were at least ten missions better than any other outfit and felt that any who did not share this confidence he had placed in them could get the hell out.

Chaplain, you wouldn’t want your sister to marry an enlisted man, would you?’ ’My sister is an enlisted man, sir,

The only way they could get the hell out, though, as Yossarian learned when he flew to visit ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, was by flying the extra ten missions.

‘I still don’t get it,' Yossarian protested. ‘Is Doc Daneeka right or isn’t he?'
*‘How many did he say?’
‘Forty.'

‘Daneeka was telling the truth,’ ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen admitted. ‘Forty missions is all you have to fly as far as Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters is concerned.'

Yossarian was jubilant. ‘Then I can go home, right? I’ve got forty-eight.'

‘No, you can’t go home,' ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen corrected him. ‘Are you crazy or something?'
‘Why not?'
Catch-22.'
Catch-22?' Yossarian was stunned. ‘What the hell has Catch-22 got to do with it?'
‘Catch-22,' Doc Daneeka answered patiently, when Hungry Joe had flown Yossarian back to Pianosa, ‘says you’ve always got to do what your commanding officer tells you to.'

Then Colonel Cathcart had raised the number of missions to fifty-five. ‘We’re at war,’ he (Milo) said. ‘And there’s no use complaining about the number of missions we have to fly. If the colonel says we have to fly fifty-five missions, we have to fly them.'

Colonel Cathcart, who was convinced he had won a feather in his cap. He greeted Milo jovially each time they met and, in an excess of contrite generosity, impulsively recommended Major Major for promotion. The recommendation was rejected at once at Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters by ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, who scribbled a brusque, unsigned reminder that the Army had only one Major Major Major Major and did not intend to lose him by promotion just to please Colonel Cathcart. Colonel Cathcart was stung by the blunt rebuke and skulked guiltily about his room in smarting repudiation. He blamed Major Major for this black eye and decided to bust him down to lieutenant that very same day.

Colonel Cathcart felt hemmed in on every side. He had been much more successful in obtaining a medal for Yossarian after the debacle of Ferrara, when the bridge spanning the Po was still standing undamaged seven days after Colonel Cathcart had volunteered to destroy it. Nine missions his men had flown there in six days, and the bridge was not demolished until the tenth mission on the seventh day, when Yossarian killed Kraft and his crew by taking his flight of six planes in over the target a second time.

‘A trained bombardier is supposed to drop his bombs the first time,' Colonel Cathcart reminded him. ‘The other five bombardiers dropped their bombs the first time.'
‘And missed the target,' Yossarian said. ‘We’d have had to go back there again.' ‘And maybe you would have gotten it the first time then.'
‘And maybe I wouldn’t have gotten it at all.'
‘But maybe there wouldn’t have been any losses.'
‘And maybe there would have been more losses, with the bridge still left standing. I thought you wanted the bridge destroyed.'
‘Don’t contradict me,’ Colonel Cathcart said. ‘We’re all in enough trouble.'
‘I’m not contradicting you, sir.'
‘Yes you are. Even that’s a contradiction.'
‘Yes, sir. I’m sorry.'

‘But what are we going to do?' Colonel Cathcart exclaimed with distress. ‘The others are all waiting outside.'
‘Why don’t we give him a medal?' Colonel Korn proposed.
‘For going around twice? What can we give him a medal for?'
‘For going around twice,' Colonel Korn answered with a reflective, self-satisfied smile. ‘After all, I suppose it did take a lot of courage to go over that target a second time with no other planes around to divert the antiaircraft fire. And he did hit the bridge.

You know, that might be the answer - to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That’s a trick that never seems to fail.'

‘Do you think it will work?’

Literary allusions:

Colonel Cargill wrote in one of the homiletic memoranda he regularly prepared for circulation over General Peckem’s signature.

‘Any fool can make money these days and most of them do. But what about people with talent and brains? Name, for example, one poet who makes money.’

‘T. S. Eliot,’ ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen said in his mail-sorting cubicle at Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters, and slammed down the telephone without identifying himself.

Colonel Cargill, in Rome, was perplexed. ‘Who was it?' asked General Peckem. ‘I don’t know,’ Colonel Cargill replied. ‘What did he want?' ‘I don’t know.' ‘Well, what did he say?' '“T. S. Eliot”,' Colonel Cargill informed him. ‘What’s that?' '“T. S. Eliot”,' Colonel Cargill repeated. ‘Just “T. S. -"'Yes, sir. That’s all he said. Just “T. S. Eliot."' ‘I wonder what it means,' General Peckem reflected. Colonel Cargill wondered, too. ‘T. S. Eliot,’ General Peckem mused. ‘T. S. Eliot,' Colonel Cargill echoed with the same funereal puzzlement.

General Peckem roused himself after a moment with an unctuous and benignant smile. His expression was shrewd and sophisticated. His eyes gleamed maliciously. ‘Have someone get me General Dreedle,’ he requested Colonel Cargill. ‘Don’t let him know who’s calling.' Colonel Cargill handed him the phone. ‘T. S. Eliot,' General Peckem said, and hung up.

‘Who was it?' asked Colonel Moodus.

General Dreedle, in Corsica, did not reply. Colonel Moodus was General Dreedle’s son-in-law, and General Dreedle, at the insistence of his wife and against his own better judgment, had taken him into the military business. General Dreedle gazed at Colonel Moodus with level hatred. He detested the very sight of his son-in-law, who was his aide and therefore in constant attendance upon him. He had opposed his daughter’s marriage to Colonel Moodus because he disliked attending weddings. Wearing a menacing and preoccupied scowl, General Dreedle moved to the full-length mirror in his office and stared at his stocky reflection. He had a grizzled, broad-browed head with iron-gray tufts over his eyes and a blunt and belligerent jaw. He brooded in ponderous speculation over the cryptic message he had just received. Slowly his face softened with an idea, and he curled his lips with wicked pleasure.

‘Get Peckem,' he told Colonel Moodus. ‘Don’t let the bastard know who’s calling.' ‘Who was it?' asked Colonel Cargill, back in Rome. ‘That same person,' General Peckem replied with a definite trace of alarm. ‘Now he’s after me.' ‘What did he want?' ‘I don’t know.'What did he say?' ‘The same thing.' '“T. S. Eliot”?' ‘Yes, “T. S. Eliot.” That’s all he said.’ General Peckem had a hopeful thought.

‘Perhaps it’s a new code or something, like the colors of the day. Why don’t you have someone check with Communications and see if it’s a new code or something or the colors of the day?'

Communications answered that T. S. Eliot was not a new code or the colors of the day.

Enlisted Men #

Yossarian #

“History did not demand Yossarian’s premature demise, justice could be satisfied without it, progress did not hinge upon it, victory did not depend on it. That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance. But that was war.”

“He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive.”

‘Open your eyes, Clevinger. It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead.'

The enemy,' retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, ‘is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart.

The soldier in white #

The soldier in white was constructed entirely of gauze, plaster and a thermometer, and the thermometer was merely an adornment left balanced in the empty dark hole in the bandages over his mouth early each morning and late each afternoon by Nurse Cramer and Nurse Duckett right up to the afternoon Nurse Cramer read the thermometer and discovered he was dead. Now that Yossarian looked back, it seemed that Nurse Cramer, rather than the talkative Texan, had murdered the soldier in white; if she had not read the thermometer and reported what she had found, the soldier in white might still be lying there alive exactly as he had been lying there all along.

The Texan #

Then there was the educated Texan from Texas who looked like someone in Technicolor and felt, patriotically, that people of means - decent folk - should be given more votes than drifters, whores, criminals, degenerates, atheists and indecent folk - people without means.

The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him.

He sent shudders of annoyance scampering up ticklish spines, and everybody fled from him - everybody but the soldier in white, who had no choice.

In less than ten days the Texan cleared the ward. The artillery captain broke first, and after that the exodus started. Dunbar, Yossarian and the fighter captain all bolted the same morning. Dunbar stopped having dizzy spells, and the fighter captain blew his nose. Yossarian told the doctors that the pain in his liver had gone away. It was as easy as that. Even the warrant officer fled. In less than ten days, the Texan drove everybody in the ward back to duty - everybody but the C.I.D. man, who had caught cold from the fighter captain and come down with pneumonia.

Clevinger #

Clevinger’s eyes were moist and his lips quivering and pale. As always occurred when he quarreled over principles in which he believed passionately, he would end up gasping furiously for air and blinking back bitter tears of conviction.

There were many principles in which Clevinger believed passionately. He was crazy.

Dunbar liked Clevinger because Clevinger annoyed him and made the time go slow.

Clevinger, the corporal and Colonel Korn agreed that it was neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never questioned anything.

Clevinger knew everything. Clevinger knew everything about the war except why Yossarian had to die.

Everyone agreed that Clevinger was certain to go far in the academic world. In short, Clevinger was one of those people with lots of intelligence and no brains, and everyone knew it except those who soon found it out. In short, he was a dope.

He was a militant idealist who crusaded against racial bigotry by growing faint in its presence.

He knew everything about literature except how to enjoy it.

Yossarian tried to help him. ‘Don’t be a dope,’ he had counseled Clevinger when they were both at cadet school in Santa Ana, California.

Lieutenant Scheisskopf tore his hair and gnashed his teeth. His rubbery cheeks shook with gusts of anguish. His problem was a squadron of aviation cadets with low morale who marched atrociously in the parade competition that took place every Sunday afternoon. Their morale was low because they did not want to march in parades every Sunday afternoon.

I want someone to tell me,' Lieutenant Scheisskopf beseeched them all prayerfully. ‘If any of it is my fault, I want to be told.'
‘He wants someone to tell him,' Clevinger said.
‘He wants everyone to keep still, idiot,’ Yossarian answered.
‘Didn’t you hear him?' Clevinger argued.
‘I heard him,' Yossarian replied. ‘I heard him say very loudly and very distinctly that he wants every one of us to keep our mouths shut if we know what’s good for us.'
I won’t punish you,’ Lieutenant Scheisskopf swore.
‘He says he won’t punish me,’ said Clevinger.
‘He’ll castrate you,' said Yossarian.
‘I swear I won’t punish you,' said Lieutenant Scheisskopf.
‘I’ll be grateful to the man who tells me the truth.
‘He’ll hate you,' said Yossarian. ‘To his dying day he’ll hate you.

Clevinger tells Sheisskopf that the marchers would parade better if they could elect their own cadets. He became furious.
The week after Lieutenant Scheisskopf followed Clevinger’s recommendation and let the men elect their own cadet officers, the squadron won the yellow pennant. Lieutenant Scheisskopf was so elated by his unexpected achievement that he gave his wife a sharp crack over the head with the pole when she tried to drag him into bed to celebrate by showing their contempt for the sexual mores of the lower middle classes in Western civilization. The next week the squadron won the red flag, and Lieutenant Scheisskopf was beside himself with rapture. And the week after that his squadron made history by winning the red pennant two weeks in a row! Now Lieutenant Scheisskopf had confidence enough in his powers to spring his big surprise.

Clevinger had a mind, and Lieutenant Scheisskopf had noticed that people with minds tended to get pretty smart at times.

The chairman of the Action Board and began bellowing at Clevinger the moment Clevinger stepped gingerly into the room to plead innocent to the charges Lieutenant Scheisskopf had lodged against him.

The colonel beat his fist down upon the table and hurt his hand and became so further enraged with Clevinger that he beat his fist down upon the table even harder and hurt his hand some more. Lieutenant Scheisskopf glared at Clevinger with tight lips, mortified by the poor impression Clevinger was making.

In sixty days you’ll be fighting Billy Petrolle,' the colonel with the big fat mustache roared. ‘And you think it’s a big fat joke.'

‘I don’t think it’s a joke, sir,' Clevinger replied.
‘Don’t interrupt.'
‘Yes, sir.'
‘And say “sir” when you do,' ordered Major Metcalf.
‘Yes, sir.'
‘Weren’t you just ordered not to interrupt?' Major Metcalf inquired coldly. ‘But I didn’t interrupt, sir,’ Clevinger protested.
‘No. And you didn’t say “sir,” *either. Add that to the charges against him,’ Major

Metcalf directed the corporal who could take shorthand. ‘Failure to say “sir” to superior officers when not interrupting them.’
*‘Metcalf,' said the colonel, ‘you’re a goddam fool. Do you know that?'
Major Metcalf swallowed with difficulty. ‘Yes, Sir.'
Then keep your goddam mouth shut. You don’t make sense.'

There were three members of the Action Board, the bloated colonel with the big fat mustache, Lieutenant Scheisskopf and Major Metcalf, who was trying to develop a steely gaze. As a member of the Action Board, Lieutenant Scheisskopf was one of the judges who would weigh the merits of the case against Clevinger as presented by the prosecutor. Lieutenant Scheisskopf was also the prosecutor. Clevinger had an officer defending him. The officer defending him was Lieutenant Scheisskopf It was all very confusing to Clevinger, who began vibrating in terror as the colonel surged to his feet like a gigantic belch and threatened to rip his stinking, cowardly body apart limb from limb.

‘When didn’t you say we couldn’t punish you? Don’t you understand my question?’
‘No, sir. I don’t understand.’
‘You’ve just told us that. Now suppose you answer my question.’
‘But how can I answer it?’
‘That’s another question you’re asking me.’
‘I’m sorry, sir. But I don’t know how to answer it.
I never said you couldn’t punish me.’
‘Now you’re telling us when you did say it.
I’m asking you to tell us when you didn’t say it.'

“The case against Clevinger was open and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge him with.”

Clevinger was guilty, of course, or he would not have been accused, and since the only way to prove it was to find him guilty, it was their patriotic duty to do so. He was sentenced to walk fifty-seven punishment tours.

The last we hear is Clevinger’s plane disappearing so mysteriously in thin air with every member of the crew, and blame for the strange mishap centering balefully on him because he had never signed any of the loyalty oaths.

Mudd #

Mudd traveled all the way across the ocean, dumped his gear in Yossarian’s tent, before leaving for a mission, where he was blown into bits over Orvieto less than two hours after he arrived. No one could recall who he was or what he had looked like, least of all Captain Piltchard and Captain Wren, who remembered only that a new officer had shown up at the operations tent just in time to be killed. The only one who might have seen Mudd, the men in the same lane, had all been blown to bits with him.

Mudd’s belongings, left in Yossarian’s tent, could not be moved because he didn’t officially exist.

Orr #

Thanks to Orr, Yossarian’s roommate, they had the most luxurious tent in the squadron. Each time Yossarian returned from one of his holidays in the hospital or rest leaves in Rome, he was surprised by some new comfort Orr had installed in his absence - running water, wood-burning fireplace, cement floor.

The novel ends on an upbeat note with Yossarian learning of Orr’s miraculous escape to Sweden and Yossarian’s pledge to follow him there.

Nately #

‘Nately had a bad start. He came from a good family.'

Partly based on snobbery; “You are a Nately and Nately’s have never done anything for their money”

Sharing a tent with McWatt, who was crazy wasn’t easy, but Nately didn’t care. He was crazy, too,

Nately, frequents Rome, courting the sleepy whore he had fallen so deeply in love with there who was bored with her work and bored with him too. When Nately dies, the whore blames Yossarian and makes several attempts to kill him.

McWatt #

McWatt was crazy. He was a pilot and flew his plane as low as he dared over Yossarian’s tent as often as he could, just to see how much he could frighten him, and loved to go buzzing with a wild, close roar over the wooden raft floating on empty oil drums out past the sand bar at the immaculate white beach where the men went swimming naked.

McWatt was the craziest combat man of them all probably, because he was perfectly sane and still did not mind the war.

Heller dissembled his angst with an aloof, deadpan humor that sometimes left its victims looking like Kid Sampson whose lower torso remains standing after his upper body is shredded by an airplane propeller. Due to black humor, we find this funny until the two parachutes of trainee pilots popped open and McWatt flies his place into a mountain.

Chief White Halfoat #

Chief White Halfoat, staggering inside the tent just then with a bottle of whiskey cradled in his arm.

Chief White Halfoat thought Doc Daneeka was crazy. ‘I don’t know what’s the matter with that guy,’ he observed reproachfully. ‘He’s got no brains, that’s what’s the matter with him. If he had any brains he’d grab a shovel and start digging. Right here in the tent, he’d start digging, right under my cot. He’d strike oil in no time. Don’t he know how that enlisted man struck oil with a shovel back in the States?

Chief White Halfoat was a handsome, swarthy Indian from Oklahoma with a heavy, hard-boned face and tousled black hair, a half-blooded Cree from Enid. He was a glowering, vengeful, disillusioned Indian who hated foreigners with names like Cathcart, Korn, Black and Havermeyer and wished they’d all go back to where their lousy ancestors had come from.

‘You wouldn’t believe it, Yossarian,’ he ruminated, raising his voice deliberately to bait Doc Daneeka, ‘but this used to be a pretty good country to live in before they loused it up with their goddam piety.'

Chief White Halfoat was out to revenge himself upon the white man. He could barely read or write.

‘How could I learn to read or write?' ‘Every place we pitched our tent, they sank an oil well. Every time they sank a well, they hit oil. And every time they hit oil, they made us pack up our tent and go someplace else. We were human divining rods. Our whole family had a natural affinity for petroleum deposits, and soon every oil company in the world had technicians chasing us around.

Hungry Joe #

Every time Colonel Cathcart increased the number of missions and returned Hungry Joe to combat duty, the nightmares stopped and Hungry Joe settled down into a normal state of terror with a smile of relief.

Snowden #

Snowden had been killed over Avignon when Dobbs went crazy in mid-air and seized the controls away from Huple.

‘Help him, help him,' Dobbs sobbed. ‘Help him, help him.'

‘Help who? Help who?' called back Yossarian, once he had plugged his headset back into the intercom system, after it had been jerked out when Dobbs wrested the controls away from Huple and hurled them all down suddenly into the deafening, paralyzing, horrifying dive which had plastered Yossarian helplessly to the ceiling of the plane by the top of his head and from which Huple had rescued them just in time by seizing the controls back from Dobbs and leveling the ship out almost as suddenly right back in the middle of the buffeting layer of cacophonous flak from which they had escaped successfully only a moment before. *Oh, God! Oh, God, oh, God, Yossarian had been pleading wordlessly as he dangled from the ceiling of the nose of the ship by the top of his head, unable to move.

‘Then help him, help him,' Dobbs begged. ‘Help him, help him.'

And Snowden lay dying in back.

Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?’

Snowden had frozen to death after spilling his secret to Yossarian in the back of the plane.

‘I’m cold,' Snowden had whimpered. ‘I’m cold.'

‘There, there,' Yossarian had tried to comfort him. ‘There, there.'

In Robert Frost’s poem Home Burial:

“The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.”

That was the secret Snowden had spilled to him on the mission to Avignon - they were out to get him; and Snowden had spilled it all over the back of the plane.

“Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window, and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage.

The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.”

Allusions to:

“Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window, and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage.

The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.”

Allusions to Lear/HamletReadiness is all Ripeness is all

“The purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation – that away, men are but gilded loam or painted clay.” Richard II.

Hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls, Great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion, Feasts for the dogs and birds,.. Homer’s invocation.