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CHAPTER 36: THE CELLAR
Twelve men have died in the mission to La Spezia. The two hundred men who have returned stand on the field at Pianosa maintaining a "heavy silence." Their faces are blank and dejected.
On the field, the chaplain breaks down and cries when he learns of Nately’s death. Suddenly, he is taken by a stout, pugnacious colonel to the building at headquarters. The fat colonel, a thin major, and a tall M.P. lead the chaplain down a flight of stairs to a basement. There, they begin interrogating him.
They treat him with disrespect. They asks the chaplain to write down his name. The major accuses the chaplain of forging someone else’s handwriting . The chaplain is stupefied by their accusations. The colonel shows the chaplain the letter which began "Dear Mary" and to which Yossarian has signed his name. Though the chaplain recognizes Yossarian’s handwriting, he reveals nothing that will incriminate Yossarian.
The officers then accuse the chaplain of being the prankster who has signed Washington Irving’s name. They also accuse him of stealing a plum tomato from Cathcart’s office. The chaplain pleads innocent to all charges. The officers reach the conclusion that the chaplain is guilty on all counts. They let him go for the time-being while they are planning how and when to punish him. They tell the chaplain that he will be under surveillance twenty- four hours a day.
The chaplain wishes to complain to Dreedle about the treatment meted out to him. Colonel Korn tells the chaplain that Dreedle had Dr. Stubbs transferred to the Pacific because he had protested against the raising of the number of missions.
The chaplain comes through again as a sensitive human being. He breaks down and cries when he learns of Nately’s death. Somebody’s seemingly harmless prank lands the chaplain in trouble with the military authorities. Yet, the chaplain is a courageous man, loyal to Yossarian. Like all sensitive souls, he appears doomed to be crushed by the harsh presence of authority.
The interrogation of the chaplain is brutal, insensitive and disrespectful. The chaplain is tried and convicted on flimsy grounds. Not only are the accusations absurd, but the "proof" is false and concocted. Cathcart makes a special appearance in order to tell a blatant lie against the chaplain. The American military authorities keep a watch over the chaplain’s activities and even send off Stubbs to the Pacific because he is complaining too much about Cathcart.