Study Guide

Catch-22 Chapter 9

By Joseph Heller

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Chapter 9

  • Major Major is as mediocre as they come. He has no friends because of his strange name.
  • We take a trip back and relive Major Major's life story.
  • His name was his father's idea of a joke. The father lied to the mother in her sickbed that he had named the child according to her wishes. Only later is it revealed that he named his son Major Major Major, and this news kills his wife.
  • Major Major has spent five years of his life believing his name was Caleb Major and the discovery of his true name devastates him. It alienates him from his playmates. In short, he loses all his friends.
  • Major Major bears a striking resemblance to actor Henry Fonda and this always works against him.
  • Major Major is obedient to a fault, always doing what people tell him. Everyone hates him for being so good and virtuous. He does well in school and majors in English history. But this makes everyone upset, so he switches over to American literature. Too late, Major Major. The damage has been done.
  • He is promoted to the status of major by an I.B.M. machine with a sense of humor. (He is liked so little that all his instructors advance him quickly to get rid of him.)
  • At some point, he is shipped overseas, where his life suddenly improves.
  • At Pianosa, he finds some anonymity and acceptance in playing basketball with the rest of men. This is his happiest hour.
  • Then, Colonel Cathcart ruins it by announcing to Major Major that following the death of Major Duluth, he is being promoted to squadron commander. This news is given to Major Major while he's on the basketball court. Everyone hears it and resents Major Major for his elevated rank. They eventually stop playing and speaking to him.
  • Major Major is devastated as everyone grows colder towards him. In the mess hall, Milo prepares a private table up front at which Major Major eats alone. He would rather eat with all the other men, but Milo insists on the honor of having him dine alone. So meek Major Major does.
  • Major Major finds his job of signing endless paperwork incredibly boring. The same papers always come back to him to get signed a second or third time. So he gets the idea of signing "Washington Irving" from a man who comes around looking for Washington Irving. Sound familiar?
  • This turns out to be a good thing because the papers signed this way never come back to Major Major.
  • When two C.I.D. men come back looking for Washington Irving, Major Major lies to both of them and they go off suspecting each other of being Washington Irving. Major Major is highly amused.
  • Major Major is so disliked by everyone that he goes around wearing a disguise of dark glasses and a black mustache. Once, he even has the audacity to try to play basketball with the boys in his disguise. But the boys recognize him immediately and beat him up. Punks.
  • Major Major gives all his subordinates orders that he will see nobody in his office. In fact, nobody has the authority to see him ever again.
  • Our hero Yossarian manages to get an interview with him by literally pouncing on him.
  • Yossarian requests to be taken off active duty.
  • Although Major Major truly sympathizes with him and admires his spunk, he tells Yossarian there is nothing he can do to help.

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