Catch-22 By Joseph Heller Summary and Analysis Chapter 37

Summary

For some time, General Peckem has been sending memoranda to his military superiors requesting that combat operations be placed under the control of Special Services, which Peckem commands. The head of Special Services traditionally sees to matters of recreation or entertainment, such as softball leagues or U.S.O. shows. Peckem wants that changed; his ambition is to direct the war effort. After all, what could be more of a "special service" than bombing people?

Now, General Peckem seems to have gotten his wish, in part. He has replaced his rival, General Dreedle, as wing commander and would seem to be, at last, in charge of all combat missions. Two events disrupt his paradise and send Peckem into apoplexy.

Analysis

This short chapter serves as a light transition into the final, mostly serious section of the novel. It also allows Heller an opportunity for one more satiric tweak at military logic and the chain of command. There is a flavor of poetic justice in the events that bring down Peckem.

First, because Peckem has moved to wing commander, a new General must be named to head Special Services. For reasons understood only by military logic, Scheisskopf is the choice; he is promoted to lieutenant general (three stars) — above brigadier general, above major general, and definitely above Peckem. Second, the military chain of command has finally responded to all of Peckem's memoranda and has transferred combat operations to Special Services! Thus, Lieutenant General Scheisskopf now outranks Peckem and is in charge of all combat operations. Peckem is understandably distraught: "Scheiss-kopf? The man's a moron! I walked all over that blockhead, and now he's my superior officer. Oh, my lord!"

All orders are to be cleared through Scheisskopf. Scheisskopf will shape the outfit to match his own personality. His first directive is for everyone to march! Somehow we get the feeling that this means more than just parades.

Glossary

apoplexy a cerebral accident or stroke; a condition in any organ of severe hemorrhage or infarction.

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