Catch-22

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Catch-22 Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cathcart curses the name Yossarian, and wonders whether the man who has been threatening not to fly, has been awarded a medal for valor, and has lined up naked in the ranks is the same Yossarian. He writes Yossarian’s name down, and underlines it multiple times. He resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Cathcart is only now piecing together much of the havoc Yossarian has been wreaking on Pianosa. Cathcart also has a hard time realizing that Yossarian is upset regarding the death of Snowden, even though Yossarian has mentioned Snowden several times at this point in the novel.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Cathcart does not enjoy being surrounded by bushels of tomatoes in his office; they were purchased for him by Korn in an effort to corner the black market on tomatoes. Cathcart feels this might be illegal but trusts in Korn’s judgment. It is revealed that Cathcart has a retreat in the woods of Pianosa, a large house, which he hates visiting.
Cathcart, like many other officers, seeks to profit from the war. The fact that Korn actually bought the tomatoes, and that Cathcart is unsure about whether such an action is illegal, indicates Cathcart's essential cluelessness, moral laziness, and dependence on Korn.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Cathcart decides to make a list of “black eyes,” or bad things that have happened to him, and “feathers in his cap.” In the first column he places: the Ferrara and Bologna campaigns, the food poisoning incident (soap in the food), and the naked man in a tree. He wonders whether Yossarian is responsible for many of these events.
Cathcart doesn't care that Kraft died on the Ferrara campaign, the strategic errors of the Bologna campaign, that the food poisoning sickened his men, or that the naked man in the tree is grief stricken at the death of another soldier. He just cares that these things made him, Cathcart, look bad.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Cathcart wonders whether constantly increasing the number of missions really is a bad strategy. But not for long: he believes that keeping the men in check is his greatest achievement, and that he should increase the mission requirements forever. Cathcart wishes to court the affection of General Peckem, commander of Special Services, and Peckem wishes to replace Dreedle as commander of combat units.
For a brief moment, Cathcart is willing to question one of his decisions. But he quickly rules out the possibility that he has made some kind of mistake. It's clear now that, in his campaign to make general, he really doesn't care if all of his men die. Yossarian's belief that Cathcart is his enemy seems accurate.
Themes
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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Dreedle is always accompanied by his son-in-law, Moodus, and a beautiful young nurse. Dreedle enjoys taunting Moodus with the nurse, since Moodus is married to Dreedle’s daughter, and Moodus therefore would not dare sleep with another woman while overseas.
Moodus, although mentioned very little in the novel, is a foil for the chaplain—a kind, mild man, who is constantly thwarted by his commanding officer who is also his father-in-law.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Cathcart recalls the time Dreedle came to observe the troops and came upon Yossarian, in formation with no clothes on. Dreedle learns that Yossarian has just earned a medal for valor (for the Ferrara mission), and that he refuses to wear his uniform because Snowden, killed over the later Avignon mission, bled all over it before he died.
It is here revealed why Yossarian went around naked for a period of time. This kind of mournful behavior would, in a different group, be recognized as a serious instance of grief after a traumatic event.
Themes
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Cathcart promises to punish Yossarian for his nakedness, but Dreedle argues that punishment is unnecessary, and makes Cathcart look like a fool for his unfeeling aggression toward Yossarian.
Cathcart attempts to make a strong stand—but whenever he does so, Dreedle outfoxes him. Here, Dreedle decides to be merciful and let Yossarian’s nakedness slide.
Themes
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Another flashback takes place: Cathcart recalls the time Dreedle, Moodus, and the nurse stood in the briefing room before a mission. Yossarian began cooing lustfully at the nurse, and the other officers followed his lead, drowning out the meeting in a chorus of “ooooohs.” Major Danby, a small, diffident man who had been attempting to synchronize watches at the meeting, cannot do so, and Dreedle orders him taken outside and shot.
Once again, Yossarian is responsible for a bit of chaos. He cannot help himself when he sees Dreedle’s girlfriend, and it is not clear why she is present in the briefing room in the first place. But it appears that Dreedle gets whatever he wants, and if he wants his mistress present during briefings, then she is present. Meanwhile, the compassion Dreedle showed Yossarian is here shown to be just a whim, as he responds to Danby's failure by wanting to shoot him.
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
Dreedle is informed by Moodus that, as general, he cannot order men shot. Dreedle seems surprised by this information. Korn takes Danby’s place in the meeting, having all the soldiers synchronize their watches. Korn delights in performing in front of the men, and makes a show of it to Dreedle and Cathcart, both watching in the wings. Korn believes he has impressed Dreedle and earned a promotion, but Cathcart reports, later, that Dreedle finds Korn annoying and sycophantic.
An instance of gallows humor. Dreedle believes that generals have the power simply to shoot officers who do not agree with or fail them. He has to be disabused of this notion by his son-in-law Moodus. It is terrifying to think that Dreedle has advanced to the position of general believing he had this kind of absolute authority over his men. Note the jockeying for position between Korn and Cathcart.
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