Study Guide

The Chaplain in Catch-22

By Joseph Heller

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The Chaplain

The chaplain is one of the few purely good characters in the novel. Although he has doubts, he adheres staunchly to his faith. He loves his absent family so fiercely that he considers them helpless without him and is haunted by nightmares of horrible ways they could die. He brings a similar kind of intense affection to his friends. He takes great risks to help Yossarian and is greatly affected when Nately dies in action. He tries to look out for his few friends – Yossarian, Nately, and his circle – and faithfully approaches a number of authority figures to try to lighten the mission load for Yossarian.

However, the chaplain's good intentions are often negated by his lack of confidence. He has an inferiority complex and is convinced that he was never meant to excel. This makes him timid and simpering before authority figures and allows him to be bullied around. The chaplain cannot stand up to Colonel Korn in particular and, as a result, lives alone in the woods, four miles from the base.

However, the chaplain does not retain his innocence. After Nately's death, he begins to tell lies. This, he finds, is more effective than telling the truth. Even at the end of the novel when he helps Yossarian escape to Sweden, the chaplain's character is changing. Rejuvenated by the news of Orr's miraculous survival, the chaplain feels renewed vigor coming into him, which he vows to channel to stand up to his oppressors. But he brings violence into it, threatening to punch Captain Black and Corporal Whitcomb in the noses the next time he sees them. Although this new chaplain can function better in the mad world of Catch-22, his innocence has been compromised.

The Chaplain in Catch-22 Study Group

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