Chapter 21 Summary
All Colonel Cathcart can think about is Yossarian; it is too much of a coincidence for the man the chaplain mentioned not to be the same Yossarian who was the cause of Cathcart’s most humiliating moment. A man named Yossarian arrived wearing nothing but moccasins to receive his Distinguished Flying Cross medal from Colonel Dreedle. Upon reflection, he is mortified to remember that he also approved a medal for someone named Yossarian for blowing up an ammunition dump despite his striking another airplane in the process. Cathcart feels as if he is some kind of cosmic peril and Yossarian is his nemesis.
Cathcart is uncertain if the activities he is involved in with Colonel Korn (such as growing tomatoes at a hidden house Korn maintains) are illegal. But Korn is a lawyer, so he should know whether their “fraud, extortion, currency manipulation, embezzlement, income tax evasion and black-market speculations” are legal, and Cathcart trusts him. Soon Cathcart has paced his office so much that his arches hurt and he finally sits down and makes a list of the “black eyes” and the “feathers in his cap” he has earned at his time in the military.
Too many of the negative events are connected to this man named Yossarian, and he wants to investigate several others he suspects might also be connected to Yossarian. Cathcart assumes everyone hates him and wonders if perhaps sixty missions is too many. He only did it to distinguish himself as a decisive leader, but the reality is that he is never going to become a general.
General Dreedle has done his job well for many years and is responsible for his son-in-law’s enlisting; now, though, he is infuriated by everything his son-in-law, Colonel Moodus, does. Dreedle believes his men should be loyal and then allows them to make their own decisions about their troops. Cathcart remembers the ceremony with the naked Yossarian. Dreedle had not seemed at all concerned about his nakedness.
Dreedle is always accompanied by his nurse, and Yossarian immediately fell in love with her. He begins to moan in his distress, and soon many men moan with him to amuse themselves. It is so out-of-control that Dreedle orders that the major who is unable to regain control be taken away and shot. Once he discovers that he does not have the power to do that, Dreedle is disgusted until Colonel Korn takes charge and regains control.
Cathcart is pleased until he realizes this might possibly get Korn the recognition and approval he longed to have for himself. Dreedle moves next to him and asks who Korn is. After Cathcart tells him, Dreedle whispers something more quietly in Cathcart’s ear, and Cathcart gets a rapturous look on his face. Korn immediately assumes something wonderful just happened and later expectantly asks Cathcart what Dreedle said about him. Korn anticipates a possible promotion, but Cathcart tells him Dreedle says Korn sickens him.