Catch-22

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Catch-22 Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Yossarian and the other officers find a note, stating that no parade will be held in the group this Sunday. They are confused, since parades are never held there on any day. It is revealed that Scheisskopf, their boot-camp commander, has been sent overseas and is now stationed with them.
As World War II progressed, many soldiers who worked training other soldiers in the US were sent to the front lines, as they were needed for the final invasion of Europe and the eventual defeat of the Germans and, later, of the Japanese.
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Peckem is excited, because Scheisskopf has been promoted to colonel and placed under his command. Peckem believes he is getting an upper hand on Dreedle, his adversary. Peckem, the narrator explains, likes to use big words (sometimes incorrectly) in his dispatches to staff, and he prides himself on his education and gentlemanliness.
In this regard, Peckem is very similar to Cathcart, who was educated at an Ivy League school and who considers himself superior to the men he commands—including Korn, who “only” went to a public university. The supposed "brotherhood" of the army does not even slightly reduce class prejudice.
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Scheisskopf meets with Peckem. Peckem hopes to impress his new subordinate with his wit and erudition, but Scheisskopf, who isn’t very bright, doesn’t understand his jokes. Scheisskopf asks whether they can have parades, and if he can bring his wife to Italy. Peckem says no on both fronts.
Although Scheisskopf’s single-minded devotion to parades is hard to believe, Heller exaggerates here for comedic effect. Scheisskopf’s excessive focus on pomp, and lack of concern with military strategy, is reflected by most of the higher officers in the novel.
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Peckem nevertheless reaches a deal with Scheisskopf. Although the latter cannot schedule parades, he can be the one to cancel them, every week—even though none were scheduled in the first place. This explains the notice seen by the officers earlier in the chapter. Cargill, another of Peckem’s subordinates, is angered that he can’t be the one to call off the parades.
Something like a catch-22; certainly a military absurdity. Scheisskopf can only cancel what was never scheduled in the first place. Peckem, like Cathcart, is ingenious at thinking up ever more ridiculous rules, regulations, and procedures.
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Peckem explains his concept of bomb patterns to Scheisskopf: Peckem doesn’t care if the bombs hit the target, but he wants them to fall in a particular order to appear prettier on photographs taken of the bombed sites.
This summarizes Peckem’s ideas about war more succinctly than anything else. He doesn’t want bombs dropped to harm the enemy; he wants them dropped so they look attractive in photos and help his case for a promotion.
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Major Danby gives an order to Yossarian and the others that they are to bomb a small village on an important road. The villagers have not been warned of the bombing, and Yossarian and the others object to this, believing they would be needlessly killing innocent civilians.
A moral quandary, not much talked about in this novel, but central to the Second World War. Is “total war,” which can include civilian deaths, ever an acceptable strategy? The US bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for example, resulted in a great many (premeditated) civilian deaths.
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Dunbar, in particular, tells Korn, who stops by, that it would not be moral to kill non-soldiers without reason. Korn says others, like Havermeyer, would eagerly fly that mission and other, more dangerous missions, including Bologna. Korn threatens to place Dunbar back on Bologna duty if he doesn’t comply.
Dunbar has become more oppositional to authorities over the course of the novel. In many ways he is a foil to Yossarian, who is less directly confrontational and is more focused on himself than larger moral issues at this point.
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It is revealed that Peckem doesn’t care at all about the small village: he only views it as a prime canvas on which to unleash a new bomb pattern. Cathcart preps the men for this mission, hoping his great eagerness will impress Peckem and allow him (Cathcart) to gain an eventual promotion.
Here Peckem’s bomb pattern obsession is revealed in the depths of its immorality. He wants a pretty picture so badly he is willing to kill many innocent civilians to arrange it.
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Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon