Catch-22

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Colonel Cathcart Character Analysis

Yossarian’s chief antagonist, Colonel Cathcart continually raises the number of missions required for the men in his group to return home. Cathcart does not care about his men, nor about military victory—he is only interested in advancing his own standing in the military hierarchy. Cathcart is a selfish, vain man, who relies on his assistant, Korn, for most important decisions.

Colonel Cathcart Quotes in Catch-22

The Catch-22 quotes below are all either spoken by Colonel Cathcart or refer to Colonel Cathcart. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Catch-22 published in 1996.
Chapter 19 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Clevinger, Colonel Cathcart
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

Cathcart, whose name has an anagram of "Catch" within it, is the foil of Major Major, the character who cannot help being promoted above the level of his ability. Cathcart, on the other hand, believes he has what it takes to be a general, and he sets his sights on that position, doing everything he can to curry favor with superiors in order to move up the ranks. But the narrator notes that this form of ambition is not necessarily the most successful in wartime, or in the American military. A good deal of advancement seems to be derived from being "in the right place at the right time," or, more cynically, from refusing to contradict others above you. Cathcart, paradoxically, cannot do anything because he tries to do too much - he cannot ascend the military hierarchy because he wants to ascend it with all his might, and because his trying seems only to result in his failure. 

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Chapter 35 Quotes

No, sir . . . it’s generally known that you’ve flown only two missions. And that one of those occurred when Aarfy accidentally flew you over enemy territory while navigating you to Naples for a black-market water cooler.

Related Characters: Milo Minderbinder (speaker), Aarfy, Colonel Cathcart
Page Number: 382
Explanation and Analysis:

Milo makes fun of Cathcart, who, though he dispatches men into harm's way, does not fly missions himself, out of a fear of being shot down. Milo too wants to get out of flying missions, in part out of rational avoidance of danger, but in part to run his business, which he finds to be extremely profitable, especially as Germany becomes weakened and more in need of the goods Milo supplies.

Milo has learned a great deal of trickery over the course of the war, and in this instance he tricks Cathcart, who, like Milo, wants a slice of the M & M industries profits. It is important to note that, in his satire of the relation between capital and war-time activities, Heller seems conscious of the potential for conquering armies, like the Americans in this case, to profit from the very people whom they are fighting. 

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Colonel Cathcart Character Timeline in Catch-22

The timeline below shows where the character Colonel Cathcart appears in Catch-22. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Clevinger
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...fact, terrible. He runs into the group doctor, Doc Daneeka, who informs Yossarian that Colonel Cathcart, commander of Yossarian’s group, has ordered 50 missions as the minimum for discharge—the old total... (full context)
Chapter 4: Doc Daneeka
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...not identified by the narrator. His commanding officers worry Yossarian asks too many questions; Colonel Cathcart and his assistant, Korn, make a rule that only soldiers without any questions are permitted... (full context)
Chapter 6: Hungry Joe
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...has flown 50 missions and waits with his bags packed, but is not permitted by Cathcart to return home. Joe commands Huple to wrap his ticking watch in wool socks and... (full context)
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Hungry Joe’s nightmares stop temporarily when he ceases waiting to return home—that is, when Cathcart again raises the number of required missions. Joe has met Cathcart’s requirements six times, but... (full context)
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Yossarian asks Wintergreen, a subordinate of Cathcart’s, how Cathcart can assign more mandatory missions (55, at time point) than the 27th Squadron... (full context)
Chapter 9: Major Major Major Major
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...Major Duluth of the 27th Squadron was killed in action, Major Major was assigned by Cathcart to take his place, despite the fact that Major had only just arrived to Pianosa. (full context)
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Yossarian also complains that Cathcart keeps raising the required number of bombing missions. Although Major Major seems to understand that... (full context)
Chapter 10: Wintergreen
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Cathcart has volunteered the group for a large mission over Bologna, a well-defended region known for... (full context)
Chapter 12: Bologna
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...the higher-ups to believe the Army has advanced. Black reports to Korn who reports to Cathcart. No high-ranking officers seem to want to fly the bomb campaign over Bologna. (full context)
Chapter 13: Major _____ de Coverley
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...to sell them in Pianosa for five cents—although somehow he makes a profit from this. Cathcart wishes to promote Milo to thank him for his efforts as mess officer. Korn, his... (full context)
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...Kraft. In order to cover their tracks, and make it appear that nothing went wrong, Cathcart and Korn decided to promote rather than reprimand Yossarian. Yossarian was surprised but accepted his... (full context)
Chapter 15: Piltchard & Wren
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Piltchard and Wren are the joint squadron commanders, and they love flying missions—they ask Cathcart to let them continue flying. Piltchard and Wren chastise Yossarian for turning back for such... (full context)
Chapter 19: Colonel Cathcart
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Colonel Cathcart is described in more detail. Although he is fairly young and successful, he is anguished... (full context)
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Cathcart, who has adopted using a cigarette holder to appear more serious, is a great military... (full context)
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Cathcart meets with the chaplain. Cathcart has seen in the Saturday Evening Post a report of... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 20: Corporal Whitcomb
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As he leaves Cathcart, the chaplain is upset that he didn’t make a stronger case on Yossarian’s behalf. He... (full context)
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...where the chaplain got his plum tomato and seems not to believe it came from Cathcart. He implies that the chaplain is only welcome to eat with the officers on occasion,... (full context)
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Whitcomb asks about the chaplain’s meeting with Cathcart, and becomes offended that the chaplain won’t give him many details, and that he appears... (full context)
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...men investigating the chaplain). Whitcomb also believes that the chaplain stole the plum tomato from Cathcart, which the chaplain is still holding. The chapter ends with the chaplain confused, and upset... (full context)
Chapter 21: General Dreedle
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Cathcart curses the name Yossarian, and wonders whether the man who has been threatening not to... (full context)
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Cathcart does not enjoy being surrounded by bushels of tomatoes in his office; they were purchased... (full context)
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Cathcart decides to make a list of “black eyes,” or bad things that have happened to... (full context)
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Cathcart wonders whether constantly increasing the number of missions really is a bad strategy. But not... (full context)
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Cathcart recalls the time Dreedle came to observe the troops and came upon Yossarian, in formation... (full context)
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Cathcart promises to punish Yossarian for his nakedness, but Dreedle argues that punishment is unnecessary, and... (full context)
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Another flashback takes place: Cathcart recalls the time Dreedle, Moodus, and the nurse stood in the briefing room before a... (full context)
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...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,... (full context)
Chapter 22: Milo the Mayor
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...flashes back to the present, and Dobbs asks Yossarian whether he will help him kill Cathcart. Dobbs believes this is the only way to save the men from dying in combat.... (full context)
Chapter 25: The Chaplain
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...request for fewer missions is simple: there is nothing he, the Major, can do about Catchart’s order. The chaplain is crestfallen. (full context)
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...he runs into Whitcomb again, who in the interim has been promoted to sergeant by Cathcart. The chaplain doesn’t understand how this is possible; Whitcomb informs him that he, Whitcomb, gained... (full context)
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...begins going to the officers’ club more. Dreedle sees this and remarks on it to Cathcart, who assumes Dreedle is angered by it. But Dreedle believes the chaplain should be “mixing... (full context)
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...angered that he is being “judged” by a member of the clergy, and reports to Cathcart that the chaplain should not be permitted in the club. Thus Cathcart has to change... (full context)
Chapter 27: Nurse Duckett
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...visit Yossarian in the hospital. He wants to talk about the plan to murder Colonel Cathcart. Yossarian tells Dobbs to quiet down, since he worries someone will hear of the plan.... (full context)
Chapter 28: Dobbs
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Yossarian tells Dobbs he is finally ready to kill Cathcart. Dobbs, however, has flown 60 missions (the new requirement) and thinks Cathcart will send him... (full context)
Chapter 29: Peckem
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 31: Mrs. Daneeka
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After McWatt’s death, Cathcart, in mourning, increases the mission requirement to 70. Daneeka walks around, speaking to his two... (full context)
Chapter 35: Milo the Militant
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Milo has also been asking Cathcart for more missions. Milo, who has spent the past few months building his business, M... (full context)
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Cathcart admits he’s only flown two missions himself—and the men in the group know this. Milo... (full context)
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But the cartel proves so complex that Cathcart cannot begin to understand it. Cathcart instead tells Milo that, since he is needed to... (full context)
Chapter 36: The Cellar
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...suspicious religion, they argue). And they reprimand him for having stolen a plum tomato from Cathcart. (full context)
Chapter 38: Kid Sister
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...Nately’s death, vows not to fly any more missions. He announces this to Piltchard, Wren, Cathcart, and Korn. Cathcart suggests they disappear Yossarian, as they did with Dunbar, but Korn argues,... (full context)
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...come to him in the night, congratulating him for the stand he is taking against Cathcart and Korn. Appleby and even Havermeyer, who loves flying missions, both tell Yossarian they hope... (full context)
Chapter 39: The Eternal City
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...nothing to Aarfy, as Aarfy predicted. Yossarian is flown back to Pianosa and taken to Cathcart and Korn, who announce, swiftly, that Yossarian is to be sent home. (full context)
Chapter 40: Catch-22
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But there’s is a catch, of course—a catch-22. Cathcart and Korn tell Yossarian that he will be sent home only if he pretends that... (full context)
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Korn, who takes this opportunity to ridicule Cathcart, and to demonstrate to Yossarian that he has been in charge of Cathcart’s decision-making process... (full context)
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...lying in wait for him once again. Yossarian is stabbed several times, until Korn and Cathcart emerge and frighten her off, thus keeping Yossarian from dying. (full context)
Chapter 41: Snowden
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...“Nazi assassin.” Yossarian informs the chaplain that it was merely Nately’s girlfriend. The chaplain says Cathcart and Korn have been telling the Nazi assassin story, making Yossarian sound like a hero. (full context)
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Yossarian tells the chaplain of the deal he made with Cathcart and Korn in the previous chapter. The chaplain seems disappointed but tells Yossarian he must... (full context)
Chapter 42: Yossarian
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Major Danby arrives at the hospital and tells Yossarian that the deal with Korn and Cathcart is still on. Yossarian tells Danby he won’t accept it, that he should only be... (full context)
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Danby says that, if Yossarian doesn’t accept, Cathcart and Korn will initiate a court-martial against him for his going AWOL to Rome. Yossarian... (full context)
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...fly more missions—he can run away, deserting. He asks Danby how Danby can work with Cathcart and Korn, since Danby isn’t as cruel or self-interested as them. Danby replies that he’s... (full context)
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...Danby what he would do in Yossarian’s place. Danby admits that being sent home by Cathcart and Korn is an attractive option, but it would make him a turncoat to his... (full context)