Chapter 8 Summary

Lieutenant Scheisskopf

Clevenger knows everything about the war except why he has to die while someone like Corporal Snark “is allowed to live.” Nothing in the world demands Yossarian’s “premature demise” either as the only certain thing in war is that some must die. Clevenger is a Harvard scholar, an earnest and conscientious “dope.” Yossarian and Clevenger were in cadet school together.

One day in cadet school, Yossarian tries to warn Clevenger not to tell Lieutenant Scheisskopf why the morale of his squadron of aviator cadets is so low, but Clevinger does not listen. Clevenger tells Scheisskopf it is because the cadets do not want to participate in the Sunday afternoon parade competitions every week and because he appointed officers from the ranks instead of letting the squadron elect them.

Scheisskopf is an “ambitious and humorless” ROTC graduate. The best thing about him is his wife, and the best thing about her is her nineteen-year-old friend Dori Duz. Yossarian loves (and sleeps with) both women. Scheisskopf is afraid of Clevenger because he can think and causes dissatisfaction among the cadets, although he does take the parades as seriously as Scheisskopf does.

Scheisskopf desperately longs to win parades and spends all his time each week preparing for the next parade; despite his efforts, his squadron loses consistently. The week after he allows the cadets to choose their own officers, however, his squadron begins winning. Scheisskopf goes to bizarre and elaborate lengths to ensure that his cadets’ formations continue winning. They do so in such an astounding manner that the parades are soon discontinued. Scheisskopf is promoted to First Lieutenant and his colleagues all call him a genius.

Clevenger, on the other hand, must face the Action Board on charges brought by Scheisskopf, who is also the prosecutor. The charges are numerous and ridiculous. The hearing is equally ridiculous and the questioning is full of circumlocutions and provocations:

Clevenger was guilty, of course, or he would not have been accused, and since the only way to prove it was to find him guilty, it was their patriotic duty to do so.

Clevenger’s punishment is to walk, back and forth, for fifty-seven hours over the course of several weekends. Clevenger is surprised by the hatred of the Action Board, but Yossarian had warned him that the Board hates everyone. All Clevenger knows is that in the entire world, even in war, there are no men who hate him more than these men hate him.