Study Guide

Catch-22 Chapter 19

By Joseph Heller

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Chapter 19

  • Back in the present, we learn that Colonel Cathcart is an incredibly insecure man. He constantly sees both the positive and negative sides to his every action and cannot judge which one the public perceives. He always defers to Colonel Korn to make judgments and decisions for him. Pathetic.
  • He is also paranoid about everyone wanting to persecute him. He thinks they're just sitting around, waiting for him to make a mistake.
  • Despite all this, somehow, he is a surprisingly proud man who looks down on Colonel Korn for 1) being the same rank as he and 2) having gone to a state university.
  • Cathcart is obsessed with becoming a general, so obsessed that he calls the chaplain to try a new procedure. He wants to introduce a prayer session to the officers before every mission. He hopes it will get him into The Saturday Evening Post like it did for another colonel.
  • The chaplain gets called in by Cathcart and is relieved to learn that he isn't in trouble. Instead, Cathcart offers him a plum tomato.
  • We learn that the many crates of plum tomatoes that are apparently all over the place belong to Colonel Korn, who has imported them illegally and is planning to sell them to Milo.
  • That's where Milo's been getting all the good food – he has a dealer.
  • So Cathcart starts in about wanting a prayer. But he wants happy prayers – nothing solemn or depressing. In fact, nothing that refers to religion at all. The chaplain is dismayed.
  • When the chaplain mentions atheists, Cathcart freaks out, saying the atheists are un-American and should be illegal.
  • He then berates the chaplain for implying that the enlisted men should hear the same sermons as the officers. He considers enlisted men inferior. So they should have inferior sermons.
  • Cathcart has reason to believe that General Dreedle is on the way out and that General Peckem will replace him. Cathcart likes Peckem.
  • When the chaplain mentions the fact that God might smite the men for saying such frivolous prayers, Cathcart reluctantly abandons the idea. So much for making a decision on his own.
  • Before leaving, the chaplain broaches a dangerous subject. He tells Cathcart that many of the men, especially Yossarian, are upset with him for raising the number of missions to sixty.
  • What?! Sixty?!
  • Cathcart responds coldly that they are at war.
  • The chaplain leaves, defeated.

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