Study Guide

Catch-22 Chapter 21

By Joseph Heller

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Chapter 21

  • Meanwhile, Colonel Cathcart is preoccupied with Yossarian, a man he now considers a threat.
  • He enumerates all the times Yossarian has been an embarrassment to his outfit and thinks that these different instances of humiliation caused by Yossarian means that there is more than one Yossarian. Naturally.
  • Apparently Cathcart's been thinking about that name too. He considers Yossarian dangerous because his name has so many "s" sounds and reminds him of bad words such as "subversive," "socialist," and "communist."
  • We learn that Colonel Cathcart has a house in the hills which he despises, but visits often for the express purpose of pretending that he has wild, drunken parties there to make his men jealous.
  • We learn that Colonel Cathcart fears and respects Major -------- de Coverley.
  • Cathcart makes a list of "black eyes" and "feathers in my cap," and lists his most embarrassing moments and his most monumental achievements. He has many more black eyes than feathers in his cap. He's also now the most self-involved person we know.
  • Beside two of these – "Ferrera" and "Naked man in formation (after Avignon) " – he writes "Yossarian!" and for three others he questions whether or not Yossarian caused them. In reality, Yossarian was the direct cause of almost all of his black eyes.
  • Cathcart has a momentary doubt that his order for sixty missions was too much to expect from the men, but quickly dismisses the idea because raising the missions has always been a feather in his cap.
  • He weighs the pros and cons of serving under General Peckem rather than General Dreedle. In the end, he cannot decide who he would prefer and wishes Colonel Korn were there to decide for him.
  • We learn that General Dreedle is a no-nonsense guy and never goes around without his nurse, a sexy woman whom everyone drools after and nobody can have. General Dreedle admits he has her accompany him to drive his hated son-in-law, Colonel Moodus, mad.
  • He flashes back to the Yossarian-naked-in-formation scene after Avignon. Yossarian shows up naked to accept his medal because Snowden bled all over his clothes and Yossarian swore never to wear clothing again.
  • When asked by General Dreedle why he isn't wearing any clothes, Korn wisely changes Yossarian's reason, saying it's because all his clothes are still at the washer's.
  • Cathcart, trying to impress Dreedle, mentions that Yossarian's actions go against General Peckem's memorandum on proper military attire.
  • Dreedle goes berserk at hearing his rival (Peckem's) name. Cathcart wisely chooses to drop the subject.
  • Dreedle ignores him for the rest of the day.
  • General Dreedle's nurse accompanies him to the briefing before the Avignon mission. Yossarian takes one look at her and falls in love so hard that he lets out a series of loud moans. Nately tries to hush him.
  • It turns into a game for the men. Not knowing why Yossarian is moaning, they echo him and soon everyone is laughing hysterically.
  • Fearsome General Dreedle restores order, scaring everyone into silence, and threatens punishment for any further moaners. Meanwhile, Major Danby has been counting down the time on his watch, trying to get everyone's watches synchronized for the mission.
  • When he looks up, he realizes everyone was distracted by General Dreedle and hasn't synchronized their watches. He lets out a little moan in frustration.
  • General Dreedle does a double-take and orders Major Danby be taken outside and shot. Cue dramatic music.
  • Everyone freezes until Colonel Moodus steps forward and whispers that General Dreedle can't just kill anyone he wants.
  • This stops Dreedle from killing Danby, but he has him pushed outside anyway. This means there is nobody to synchronize the watches and everyone stands in uncomfortable silence for a while.
  • Colonel Korn takes this as his opportunity to impress Dreedle. So he steps forward and makes a big show of synchronizing the watches, giving instructions, briefing the men on the weather, and generally making a pompous fool out of himself until Dreedle asks Cathcart who he is.
  • This excites Korn. After Dreedle leaves, he pounces on Cathcart to ask him what the General thought of him.
  • Cathcart, smiling jubilantly, answers that Korn made Dreedle sick.

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