Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Captain John Yossarian

Captain John Yossarian, a United States Air Force bombardier who tries to escape World War II by embracing the absurd. He is foiled by the madness and stupidity around him and by the ultimate irony of the rule known as Catch-22: Anyone can be grounded for being insane, but requesting to be grounded means that an individual is sane.

Colonel Cathcart

Colonel Cathcart, the group commander, who sends his pilots on increasingly dangerous missions in order to become famous and earn a promotion.

Major Major Major

Major Major Major, the commander of the 256th Squadron, who was promoted by a machine.

Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder

Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer. He turns his black market operation into a powerful syndicate and is not above aiding the enemy for profit.

Captain Black

Captain Black, the squadron intelligence officer, who constantly requires pilots to swear loyalty oaths.

Doc Daneeka

Doc Daneeka, the flight surgeon. He informs Yossarian about the tenets of Catch-22.

Captain R. O. Shipman

Captain R. O. Shipman, the chaplain, who is accused of tampering with the enlisted men’s mail.

General Dreedle

General Dreedle, the wing commander, who is engaged in a power struggle with General Peckem.

General Peckem

General Peckem, the commander of Special Services. He is more concerned with appearances than with military strategy.





Kid Sampson

Kid Sampson,





Hungry Joe

Hungry Joe, and


Nately, members of the 256th Squadron.

Catch-22 Themes and Characters

The protagonist of Catch-22, Captain John Yossarian, is motivated by two closely related impulses: to subvert the repressive military establishment and to survive. His desperate attempts to escape death and to preserve a meaningful code of morality reflect the ongoing human struggle against overwhelming and frequently life-threatening forces or institutions. Paranoid that an unidentified "they" are trying to kill him, Yossarian feigns insanity, seeks refuge in the hospital, poisons his squadron with soap powder, and moves a bomb line on a map. When he does fly combat missions, "Yo-Yo" traces irregular patterns in the sky, evading flak right and left. Although labeled crazy by many of the other characters, Yossarian is sane in believing his life endangered—whether by officers such as Cathcart who care less about their men's safety than about possible promotions, by Milo Mindbender and his twisted entrepreneurial schemes, or by Nately's knife-wielding prostitute.

Graphic reminders of man's mortality pervade the novel. Heller hauntingly depicts scenes of war: B-25s dodging flak, the claustrophobic womb/tomb environment of the bombardier's compartment, and Yossarian's horrifying discovery that "[t]he spirit gone, man is garbage," as he watches his wounded gunner Snowden's entrails spill out on the floor. The obscene loss of life is not limited, however, to the battlefield. Chief Halfoat dies of pneumonia, Hungry Joe is suffocated in his sleep by a...

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Catch-22 Characters

Captain Aarfy Aardvaark
Yossarian's navigator, Aardvaark pretends he can't hear Yossarian's commands and laughs when Yossarian or anyone else is in trouble, because deep down he's a sadist. Captain Aardvaark is well-mannered and respectful of the ladies on the surface, but he turns out to have a sinister side, coldly pushing a young girl out the window after raping her. What's one Italian girl's life worth, he asks Yossanan calmly. Against the horror of war, his question is a disturbing one, because we know that the answer is: not much.

The Chaplain
See Captain Albert Taylor Tappman

He is as all-American as apple pie, and "everything Appleby did, he did well." Although "everyone who knew him liked him," the men tease him with the absurd charge that he has flies in his eyes, and Yossarian despises him.

Captain Black
The squadron intelligence officer, Captain Black aspires to be squadron commander, even though he is not on combat duty. Outraged by Major Major's naming as commander, he starts the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade and refuses to allow Major Major to sign the voluntary oath. His power trip is ended by Majorde Coverley, who demands to be fed after he is asked to sign an oath.

Colonel Cargill
General Peckem's forceful yet inept troubleshooter. It's Cargill's job to get the troops excited about the lame U.S.O. shows that Peckem organizes, for example. Ruddy-complexioned, he is an aggressive man who made quite a good living in civilian life as a marketing executive, hired by firms that needed to lose money for tax purposes. He is a "self-made man who owed his lack of success to nobody."

Colonel Chuck Cathcart
Cathcart is the squadron's colonel. In order to increase his chances of promotion, Cathcart keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly before getting rotated. Because he is obsessed with being promoted to general, his priorities are absurd. For example, he asks the chaplain to lead the men in prayer before missions because it might attract the attention of the Saturday Evening Post, and a nice article on Cathcart and his squadron might boost his promotion chances. He is less concerned with his pilots' safety than that they create tight bombing patterns that will make "nice photographs" to impress his superiors. Also, he promotes Yossarian to cover for Yossarian's insubordination, lest anyone blame Cathcart for Yossarian's bombing run gone awry. He is a symbol of military corruption and blind ambition.

Cathcart's self-absorption also causes him to go into business with Milo Minderbinder, who will trade the men's valuable supplies just to make a quick buck. Cathcart also builds a skeet-shooting range for the officers - not because it will help them be better soldiers, but just because he loves shooting skeet. Thus, he represents not just military corruption, but the self-absorbed American businessman. Down deep, he is insecure, and relies on Colonel Korn to help him succeed. He hates Yossarian for standing up to him.

One of the members of the squadron, he is not "clever" as "Clevinger" suggests, but rather slow-witted. He argues with Yossarian about Yossanan's paranoid and dark attitude and calls him crazy, which carries no weight with Doc Daneeka when Yossarian wants to be released from duty. The war is a black-and-white issue for Clevinger, who conducts educational sessions for the men and disappears on the Parma mission.

The Controller
See Doc Daneeka

Major Danby
The group operations officer whose name suggests that he is namby-pamby, meaning he's weak-willed and unable to make decisions. He's sort of like a babbling university professor, concerned with ideas and unable to act. Danby argues with Yossarian about idealism and the ethics of deserting, and then helps Yossarian to go AWOL once and for all. General Dreedle threatens to shoot him.

Doc Daneeka
Doc Daneeka, the squadron doctor, looks out for himself first and foremost. He tells Yossarian he will scratch Yossarian's back if Yossarian will scratch his, but Doc's self-interest prevents him from doing what Yossarian really wants, which is to sign papers saying Yossarian is too crazy to fly (in contrast to Doctor Stubbs, who does this for some pilots). Doc delegates many of his duties to two men named Gus and Wes. This leaves Doc free to fret over his life. He is a hypochondriac, constantly having his assistants take his temperature. He is also worried about being transferred to the Pacific, with its unusual diseases. Back home, Doc's private practice had been struggling until the war came along and all his competitors were drafted. He thrived until he was drafted himself, and he complains about having lost the business he built up. Doc earns extra money, or flight pay, by having the pilots sign documents saying that he is on flights that he isn't on This leads the Army to assume he is dead when one of his "flights" crashes, despite his obvious living presence on base. Heller ironically describes Doc as a warm and compassionate man who is fearful and never stops feeling sorry for himself.

Major de Coverley
The mysterious de Coverley's first name is never given, and no one seems to know exactly what his job or rank is. An inspiring figure, he has some sort of godlike power; for instance, he is able to march into the mess hall and end Captain Black's Great Loyalty Oath Crusade with a simple command: "Gimme eat!" An older man, de Coverley has one eye, loves to play horseshoes, and has a skill for obtaining luxury apartments in recently recaptured cities. About halfway through the novel, he mysteriously goes off to Florence and is not heard from again.

A pilot. He flies with Huple on the Avignon mission in the number two seat and grabs the controls midair. When Colonel Cathcart raises the number of missions, Dobbs tries to assassinate him but is stopped by Yossarian.

General Dreedle
The wing commander, General Dreedle, is a solid military man who is moody but only requires that the men "do their work; beyond that, they were free to do whatever they pleased." He employs his annoying son-in-law, Colonel Moodus, to assist him. His nurse-mistress accompanies him everywhere, and he demands that people show her respect. He is constantly up against General Peckem, who is vying for Dreedle's job, but ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen helps Dreedle as much as he can until Peckem finally wins and replaces Dreedle. He is not upset when Yossarian goes naked, and he dislikes Colonels Korn and Cathcart. He seems more benevolent than the other authority figures in the novel, but his hands-off attitude allows Cathcart to keep increasing the number of missions the men must fly.

Nurse Sue Ann Duckett
A nurse in the Pianosa hospital who takes care of Yossarian and later has an affair with him. Her name suggests that she ducks out of his embraces when she's not in the mood. A serious and practical young woman who also enjoys sensual pleasures, she ends up marrying a doctor who will make a lot of money.

Lieutenant Dunbar
A fighter-pilot captain, Dunbar is Yossarian's companion in the hospital more than once, and even trades beds with the soldier named A. Fortiori to be near his pal Yossarian. He tries to make time "go more slowly," a twist on the idea that people want time to fly, so that he doesn't have to return to combat. He is a man of ethics, so he and McWatt get upset when they're instructed to bomb a defenseless village just to block a road. After this protest, Dunbar disappears. Yossarian wonders if it has something to do with the mysterious soldier in white who appears in a hospital bed. Is there a conspiracy to shut up Dunbar he asks himself.

Captain Flume
Flume is a public relations officer who is terrorized by his roommate Chief Half oat's threats to slit his throat. At one point, he is so traumatized that he moves to the woods, where he lives alone, eating strawberries.

A. Fortiori
A mysterious soldier who is involved in several mix-ups over identity. A. Fortiori's name is a Latin term used in logic for a conclusion that is more reliable than the previous conclusion or reasoning it is based on.

Chief White Halfoat
Halfoat is a semi-illiterate assistant intelligence officer who drinks a lot, beats up Colonel Moodus (which is just fine with Moodus's father-in-law, General Dreedle), and makes his roommate Flume crazy Halfoat, whose Indian-sounding name is reminiscent of "half-crocked" or "half-nuts," is indeed a little wacky, with reason. He is a half-blooded Creek Indian. Halfoat says that the government used to chase his family around Oklahoma. Inevitably, wherever they settled, oil was found, so they kept moving on, to the point where the government wouldn't even let them settle in before they started digging. He resents having had his family exploited in this way He is set in his ways, from hating foreigners to insisting that he will die of pneumonia, which he does.

Captain Havermeyer
Havermeyer is the best bombardier in the squadron, according...

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