Catch-22

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Catch-22 Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Colonel Cathcart is described in more detail. Although he is fairly young and successful, he is anguished that he is not younger and more successful. He wants desperately to be a general, and he can only measure his progress against the progress of others. This makes him perpetually unhappy. He depends mightily upon the advice of his assistant, Korn.
It appears that no amount of success can satisfy Cathcart. His desire to further his own career causes him to totally disregard military operations, in favor of petty squabbling. At the same time, he doesn't actually trust himself, and relies (as so many managers in the real world do) on his subordinates knowledge and ability to act.
Themes
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Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Cathcart, who has adopted using a cigarette holder to appear more serious, is a great military tactician, so long as the campaign is his own self-interest and advancement in the ranks. Cathcart looks down on Korn—Korn’s family is middle-class, and Korn attended a state college—but without Korn he would be utterly lost, consumed by his anxieties.
Perhaps Cathcart believes that his cigarette holder will make him resemble General Patton—a notably iconoclastic and provocative tank general during the Second World War, who went on to achieve some fame in his own right.
Themes
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Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Cathcart meets with the chaplain. Cathcart has seen in the Saturday Evening Post a report of a chaplain who says prayers before missions; he asks the chaplain if he would do the same, here, in the hopes of getting the group in the magazine as well. Cathcart says he wants the prayer to be “snappy,” and he doesn’t want the chaplain to dwell on death, God, or other unnecessarily religious matters in the prayers.
Again, Cathcart does not care one jot whether his soldiers might pray for their own comfort before battle. He only wants the prayers to (appear to) happen so that his group looks pious, ready to “fight the good fight” against the enemy. Cathcart desires only fame and recognition.
Themes
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War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
The chaplain replies that this will be difficult to accomplish; most prayers make reference to God in some way. When the chaplain asks whether enlisted men will also be asked to pray, Cathcart appears genuinely surprised that enlisted men pray to the same God as officers do.
More black humor. Of course prayers must include reference to God—the chaplain’s assumption is, the men will be praying for their own lives and comfort, rather than for Cathcart’s benefit. Cathcart’s surprise that the common men and officers is of course ridiculous, but it is also an effort to show that many officers, who largely came from elite backgrounds, really did see themselves as better than their men.
Themes
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War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
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Because he does not wish to mix with the enlisted men, Cathcart begins to rethink his prayer plan. The chaplain attempts to broach his own subject—that men like Yossarian are being asked to fly more and more missions—but Cathcart replies, dismissively, that “there’s a war going on.” He offers the chaplain a plum tomato from his black-market stash, and the chaplain leaves.
A final instance of black humor. Cathcart’s desire for self-promotion is eclipsed only by his hatred of enlisted men, whom he finds rude and uneducated. He does not want to mix with them—the men he commands and sends to fight and die—and he does not want his officers to do so either.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon