The narrator continues that even Clevinger, the smartest man in the group and a Harvard graduate, does not understand how Milo can turn a profit in this way. Clevinger “knew everything about literature,” the narrator explains, “except how to enjoy it.” The narrator tells a story of the officers’ training in Santa Ana, CA, where Yossarian and Clevinger were stationed together.
Many of the dynamics established between the officers, including Yossarian, and their superiors began in boot camp in California. Clevinger’s distaste of the camp’s authority foreshadows Yossarian’s questioning of Cathcart’s orders while on Pianosa.
Yossarian’s group commander in boot-camp was Lieutenant Scheisskopf, an ignorant man obsessed with parades, whose wife dressed up as a character (of her own creation) named Dori Duz and slept with most of the men on base. Yossarian was having an affair with Scheisskopf’s wife.
Scheisskopf, in German, means “Shithead.” Scheisskopf typically lives up to his billing. He does not know of his wife’s affairs, despite the fact that she does nothing to hide them.
Scheisskopf’s only desire, each week, was to win the boot-camp parade competition. Scheisskopf would not spend any time with his wife, who wished only to sleep with him, because he was bent on learning new parade techniques.
And Scheisskopf’s singleminded devotion to parades indicates just how strange the priorities of most of the officers are. No one, it appears, is concerned with or has strategic or tactical knowledge or any interest in the actual men fighting.
Clevinger, a free-thinker, told Scheisskopf that the men should elect their own parade-leader, rather than have them appointed, and though Scheisskopf resents Clevinger’s intelligence, the recommendation worked—Scheisskopf’s group began winning parade competitions.
Clevinger’s free-thinking is tacitly supported by Heller, though Heller also criticizes what he believes to be an overly-academic or pedantic thought-process on Clevinger’s part. Heller states that Clevinger is almost too educated for his own good.
Scheisskopf developed a new march, in secret, wherein soldiers did not move their arms—he based this technique on an arcane rule in the Army parade handbook. The other groups are so impressed that Scheisskopf’s group is named permanent parade champion, and Scheisskopf himself is declared a military “genius.”
In fact, one of the only military “developments” made in the entire novel is this parade innovation of Scheisskopf’s. And the innovation is itself derived from the parading manual—and is based on restricting the soldiers’ movement. In some ways, all of the senior officers are involved in organizing “parades”—they operate for show and in order to earn themselves plaudits, not to win the war or protect their men.
Clevinger is called in to the Action Board on base for offering suggestions to Scheisskopf—the top brass believed Clevinger had his own ideas and was therefore dangerous. Clevinger got in a long, paradoxical argument with Major Metcalf, leader of the base, who told Clevinger to answer him without speaking, to explain himself without explaining, and to admit to things he did not say or do. Clevinger is confused, and Major Metcalf ends the meeting by yelling at everyone around him.
As Heller himself implied, Clevinger’s ideas have only gotten him in trouble with the military hierarchy. Major Metcalf, like Cathcart, is too vain, bullheaded, and stupid to understand an individual thought. And Heller argues that the Army is interested only in crushing individuality, even if good ideas could help the Army to win the war.
After the interrogation, Clevinger was sentenced to “57 punishment tours” of the camp. Clevinger realized that the men who punished him, though they were his allies and comrades, hated him more than any Fascist enemy could hate him.
Clevinger’s realization that he has more to fear from his own army than from the enemy is echoed by Yossarian later in the novel, when he argues that the definition of an “enemy” is anyone who tries to hurt him—which would apply equally to the Germans and to Cathcart’s continued desire to raise the number of missions.