Catch-22

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Born with the name Major Major, Major Major is promoted to Major through a series of accidents that no one in the military seems willing to undo. Major Major is uncomfortable around his fellow men and spends much of his time hiding from them. He will only see visitors when he is not in his office—another Catch-22.

Major Major Quotes in Catch-22

The Catch-22 quotes below are all either spoken by Major Major or refer to Major Major. 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 9 Quotes

Even among men lacking all distinction he [Major Major] 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.

Related Characters: Clevinger, Major Major
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Another of the paradoxical characters in the novel, Major Major has, in the words of the narrator, never done much of anything in life - he has always been "a mediocrity." Yet he keeps getting promoted, perhaps in part because his name is Major - but perhaps, too, because he is simply in the right place at the right time. He succeeds in his career precisely because he is not opposed to anyone, because he never takes a stance on anything.

Heller is a critic of what he perceives to be the static, lead-footed quality of military bureaucracy. Yossarian himself notes that the military seems to reward those who do nothing to ruffle anyone's feathers - the military is, really, a machine that runs on its own ability to keep running, and soldiers who aid in this "forward motion" without opposing their superiors tend to be rewarded. In this regard, Major Major really is the best at what he does - he is the "most mediocre" and "unimpressive" of all. 

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Chapter 11 Quotes

“What makes you so sure Major Major is a Communist?”
“You never heard him denying it until we began accusing him, did you? And you don’t see him signing any of our loyalty oaths.”
“You aren’t letting him sign any.”
“Of course not . . . that would defeat the whole purpose of our crusade.”

Related Characters: Doc Daneeka (speaker), Captain Black (speaker), Major Major
Related Symbols: Catch-22
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

Captain Black does what he can to get Major Major in trouble, in part because he resents Major's swift (and to his mind, undeserved) rise through the ranks. The loyalty oath is a fine example of this, and an instance not just of the Catch-22 but of the "logic" of the witch hunt, something that would come to dominate post-war American political life. In a witch hunt, any protestation of innocence on the part of an accused party is viewed as a signal of guilt. At the same time an acceptance of guilt would, of course, be understood on its face, as a real acceptance of guilt. Thus, merely to be accused in this setup is to be found guilty - there is nothing any party can do under the circumstances. Black appears to know this, and so when he accused Major of being a Communist - Major, who seems to have no politics at all - he is attempting to seal Major's professional fate with the merest hint of impropriety. 

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Major Major Character Timeline in Catch-22

The timeline below shows where the character Major Major appears in Catch-22. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: Havermeyer
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
...in his tent, grouses to himself about the dead man and his personal effects, which Major Major , the squadron commander, won’t acknowledge. Orr is fixing the gas line to the stove... (full context)
Chapter 9: Major Major Major Major
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Major Major has had, according to the narrator, “a difficult time from the start.” His mother died... (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Major Major was an awkward child, disliked by other children and even by parents, who found he... (full context)
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
After his promotion, Major Major found no one would talk to him—he was at once everyone’s superior, in command, and... (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Major Major , after hearing of the soldier forging “Washington Irving” at the bottom of censored letters,... (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
It is revealed, through one of the documents on Major Major ’s desk, that a young soldier, assigned to group for only two hours, was killed... (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Major Major realizes that the documents he has signed with the name “Washington Irving” do not return... (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
...also investigating each other, wondering if the other is in on the Washington Irving plot. Major Major , however, escapes their detection. The CID men believe Tappman, whose name was forged by... (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Major Major begins wearing a disguise—large glasses and a fake mustache—in order to avoid detection when he... (full context)
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
Major Major returns to his office and cries at this mistreatment. He orders his assistant only to... (full context)
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
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Yossarian manages one day to tackle Major Major while the major is briefly outside—otherwise no officers ever see him. Yossarian complains that the... (full context)
Chapter 10: Wintergreen
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
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Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Gallows Humor Theme Icon
Appleby, the great Ping-Pong player, attempts to see Major Major , who is in his office and therefore admitting no visitors. Sergeant Towser, Major Major’s... (full context)
Chapter 11: Captain Black
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
...that he was passed over for a promotion to major—a position that was given to Major Major , despite his inexperience. Black is an intelligence officer, and he appears to think this... (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
To thwart Major Major , Black begins a rumor that Major is a communist. He begins a campaign—the Glorious... (full context)
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
Black does not let Major Major sign any oaths, because he finds him disloyal—but Major Major cannot prove his loyalty, since... (full context)
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Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Black attempts to enlist Major _____ de Coverley in his scheme to further discredit Major Major , but de Coverley finds the oaths stupid and refuses to sign, with a single,... (full context)
Chapter 17: The Soldier in White
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
Self-interest, Altruism, and Morality Theme Icon
Yossarian recalls how he asked Doc Daneeka to ground him from flying, since Major Major asserted only Daneeka could deem him medically unfit to fly. Daneeka says he won’t do... (full context)
Chapter 25: The Chaplain
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The chaplain decides to advocate on behalf of Yossarian to Major Major , arguing that the soldiers should not have their mission requirements continually raised. He walks... (full context)
Paradox and Impossibility Theme Icon
War and Bureaucracy Theme Icon
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Gallows Humor Theme Icon
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...through the woods and runs into Whitcomb, his assistant, who claims just to have seen Major Major . Whitcomb grows angry that the chaplain won’t tell him his plans with Major Major—Whitcomb... (full context)
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Frustrated, the chaplain makes his way back to Major Major ’s office and demands to see him. Sergeant Towser refuses, and says the Major’s response... (full context)