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Free Study Guide-Catch-22 by Joseph Heller-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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CHAPTER 19: COLONEL CATHCART

Summary

Cathcart desperately wants to be a general and will try anything, including religion, to become one. The Colonel summons the chaplain to his office. He shows the chaplain an editorial spread of The Saturday Evening Post dealing with an American bomber group in England whose chaplain said prayers before each mission. Cathcart wants Tappmann to say prayers before each mission in Pianosa, so that the colonelís picture might be published. At the same time, he does not want the chaplain to include any references to God in his prayers. He asks the chaplain to pray for a tighter bomb pattern.

The chaplain wishes that, for his pre-mission prayers, the atheists will be sent out and that the enlisted men will be brought in. Cathcart gets upset because he does not want the enlisted men to be in the same room as the officers when they pray. He decides to do without any prayer.


The colonel distrusts the chaplain, and the chaplain is afraid of the colonel. The chaplain tells Cathcart that he is concerned about Yossarian whom he feels is a desperate man. He tells the colonel that the men are upset over the number of missions being raised.

Notes

Cathcart is an ambitious man who is trying to use religion to promote himself. The chaplain manages to side-step the issue and Cathcart finally has to accept that there can be no prayer meetings in the way he wishes to have them.

The colonel is not able to crack ribald jokes in the chaplainís presence and that irritates the colonel. The colonel is not religious and he makes no pretence of being so. Yet, at the same time, he uses religion to condemn un-American activities, and also to treat enlisted men as different from officers. He believes that enlisted men have a God of their own. The colonel come across as insensitive and highly conceited. The chaplain, on the other hand, is a deeply sensitive soul who understands Yossarianís predicament and is concerned about him.

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