Joseph Heller

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John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian

The novel’s protagonist, Yossarian is a captain in the US Army Air Force who becomes tired of flying dangerous missions. At first he tries to get medically grounded on the basis of insanity, but Docread analysis of John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian

Chaplain Tappman

The group’s chaplain, Tappman is a shy man who loves his wife and family, loves God, and wonders what exactly he is to do in the military. Although he is initially bullied by men like… read analysis of Chaplain Tappman

Doc Daneeka

The group’s medic, Daneeka is not permitted to ground soldiers on account of insanity, according to orders issued by Cathcart. Daneeka has his name placed on the flight rolls of McWatt’s plane, despite not… read analysis of Doc Daneeka

Chief White Halfoat and Flume

A Native American soldier and assistant to Captain Black, Halfoat enjoys tormenting “the white man,” including his tent-mate, Flume, whom he vows to murder in his sleep. At the same time, Halfoat promises… read analysis of Chief White Halfoat and Flume


A former fraternity man in college, Aarfy proclaims he is too dumb to understand the danger of his combat missions. He is a navigator with a poor sense of direction, and Yossarian is always telling… read analysis of Aarfy
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Nately’s Whore and her kid sister

Nately’s prostitute, initially resistant to becoming Nately’s girlfriend, becomes extremely distraught on finding out that Nately has died. Both Nately’s prostitute and her twelve-year-old kid sister assume Yossarian, who breaks the news to them… read analysis of Nately’s Whore and her kid sister

Milo Minderbinder

The group’s mess officer, Milo ends up starting a business—M & M Enterprises—that delivers black-market goods throughout the Mediterranean. It is not clear how this business works, since Milo appears to be selling goods at… read analysis of Milo Minderbinder

Colonel Cathcart

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… read analysis of Colonel Cathcart

Colonel Korn

Cathcart’s assistant, Korn makes most of the strategic decisions that Cathcart then claims are his own. At the end of the novel, when Cathcart and Korn offer Yossarian a deal to be sent home, it… read analysis of Colonel Korn

Generals Dreedle and Peckem

Generals Dreedle and Peckem are commanders of distinct units of the Italian campaign in the US Army Air Force. Each spends most of the novel trying to get the upper hand on the other, but… read analysis of Generals Dreedle and Peckem

Major Major

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… read analysis of Major Major


A comrade of Yossarian’s, Dunbar initially tries to prolong his life by seeking boredom (since time seems to go more slowly when you are bored). Dunbar eventually becomes disillusioned with the group’s bombing runs… read analysis of Dunbar

The Soldier in White

A man wrapped entirely in gauze, with only a hole for his mouth, the Soldier in White is believed to be dead by many, including Yossarian, and is later proved dead by doctors. The… read analysis of The Soldier in White


A man dying of a severe wound in the back of Yossarian’s plane, Snowden becomes a recurring memory of Yossarian’s. Yossarian is horrified and moved by the soldier’s death, which he only recollects in full… read analysis of Snowden


Yossarian’s tent-mate, Orr becomes skilled at crash landing his damaged plane. During one such crash landing Orr disappears. Yossarian comes to realize that Orr was purposely getting his plane damaged in order to practice crash… read analysis of Orr

Major Danby

A military official who mostly appears to give briefings to Yossarian and the other men, Danby at first tells Yossarian, at the end of the novel, that it would be immoral for Yossarian to run… read analysis of Major Danby
Minor Characters
A Harvard-educated comrade of Yossarian’s, Clevinger pushes back against military authority in boot camp, and his plane later disappears into thin air over the island of Elba.
A pilot who loves flying, especially dangerous missions, Havermeyer eventually ends up flying near Dobbs when Dobbs' plane crashes, killing Nately, Dobbs, and others. Havermeyer later tells Yossarian he is experiencing combat fatigue, and is no longer excited to complete his missions.
Hungry Joe
A former photographer, Hungry Joe is tormented by terrible nightmares, causing him to scream and wake up most the group. Yossarian learns at the end of the novel that Hungry Joe has actually died from an overabundance of these nightmares.
A daredevil pilot who enjoys “buzzing” (flying close to) the camp, McWatt accidentally kills Kid Sampson while buzzing and, to punish himself, flies his plane into a mountain.
Son of a wealthy businessman, Nately falls in love with a Roman prostitute and later demands that she stop sleeping with other men. Nately is killed in battle toward the end of the novel.
A boot-camp officer obsessed with parades, Scheisskopf is later transferred to Pianosa, where he ends up outranking Dreedle and Peckem, much to their chagrin.
A low-ranking official, Wintergreen is constantly demoted for going AWOL (absent without leave). He then serves his punishment afterward. Wintergreen believes acting out this cycle of crime and punishment is his duty as an American soldier.
Major ______ de Coverley
A lion-haired Major, de Coverley has only two skills: he is a great horseshoe player, and he is good at procuring rest-leave apartments for the officers. De Coverley was wounded in the eye by a flower during a parade in Rome.
Captain Black
Black, an intelligence officer, believes his position proves he is, in fact, intelligent. Black is angry with Major Major for being promoted over him (by accident). Black starts a loyalty oath campaign, which he does not allow Major Major to participate in, to discredit the Major.
Kid Sampson
A young soldier, Kid Sampson is killed by McWatt when the latter buzzes the beach on which many soldiers are lying or swimming. Sampson’s death horrifies many of the onlookers.
Piltchard and Wren
Two officers in charge of joint command operations, Piltchard and Wren love flying mission so much, they ask Cathcart for even more assignments.
A love interest of Yossarian’s, Luciana spends an evening with him and gives him her address, which he throws away, much to his later dismay. Yossarian never finds Luciana again.
Nurses Duckett and Cramer
Two nurses working in the hospital on Pianosa, Duckett and Cramer attempt to keep unruly soldiers, like Yossarian, in line. Duckett ends up dating Yossarian for a time, until she decides to wait to marry a doctor. Her break-up with Yossarian pleases Nurse Cramer.
The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice
A man who has gone insane during training, the Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice is later impersonated by Yossarian, when this soldier’s parents and brother come to visit.
Corporal Whitcomb
The chaplain’s assistant, Whitcomb is an atheist—but despite this, he hopes to take over the chaplain’s job one day.
A comrade of Yossarian’s, Dobbs wishes to murder Cathcart, hoping this will keep the number of missions from rising. Dobbs is later killed on a bombing run.
Major Sanderson
A staff psychiatrist, Sanderson declares Yossarian insane but sends the wrong man home to the US in Yossarian’s place. Sanderson is far more paranoiac and neurotic than the patients he examines.
Mrs. Daneeka
Doc Daneeka’s wife, Mrs. Daneeka is informed by the army that her husband has died in McWatt’s plane, even though he is still alive. Mrs. Daneeka ends up moving to a new state and starting a new life on account of this (false) information.
Yossarian’s new roommates
These four young recruits become Yossarian’s new tent-mates after Orr’s disappearance. Yossarian is frustrated by their constant good cheer and camaraderie.