Summary and Analysis
For some time, now, Chaplain Tappman has been struggling with faith — faith in himself, certainly, and even faith in God. As an Anabaptist, he is supposed to be a pacifist, opposed to military service. Being a minister in the American Army is difficult enough for him; without his faith, it is "almost intolerable." He wonders about questions large and small. Complex questions of ontology perplex him, but "they never [seem] nearly as crucial to him as the question of kindness and good manners." Despite his love for others, he feels he has no friends. He is concerned about hallucinating after observing what appears to be a naked man up a tree near Snowden's graveside funeral service, which he is conducting. Perhaps God is punishing him for his lack of faith or insincerity. The chaplain especially misses his wife and children and is concerned for their safety. Corporal Whitcomb is his enemy, and he suspects that the rest of the men also hate him.
Aarfy has no such self-doubt. In addition to being incompetent, he is arrogant and cruel. Yossarian is wounded and winds up in the hospital when Aarfy's flawed navigation leads the planes into an unexpected flak attack.
Chaplain Tappman and Aarfy are moral as well as personal opposites. The chaplain is humble, questioning, kind, caring, and easily intimidated. Aarfy is arrogant, self-assured, sadistic, indifferent toward the needs of others, and a bully.
The chaplain is a complicated man. On the one hand, he is spiritual and somewhat mystical. He is open to possibilities of reality beyond what most of us see, but he does have his doubts about ordinary reality. On the other hand, he can be rational and scientifically curious. He wonders if his religious beliefs are valid and feels lost when he suspects they are not. Aggressive men like Colonel Cathcart and Corporal Whitcomb easily intimidate him. Loud voices frighten the chaplain. Yet, in his own way, he is courageous; he tries to do right even when terrified by the people he must confront.
The incident at Major Major's office is an example of the chaplain's complicated character. Despite his fears, Tappman feels he must make an effort to speak out against Cathcart's elevation of the number of missions so he tries to meet with the squadron commander. The enlisted personnel ask him to enter Major Major's office since the Major is not in. Not understanding the commander's bizarre approach to office hours, the chaplain does so. But he begins to feel deceived by the enlisted men as he waits inside in vain. In his paranoia, he concludes that the men hate him, are playing a practical joke, and are outside the Major's door laughing at him. The only reasonable escape for the chaplain is out the window.
Tappman later learns that his assistant, now promoted to Sergeant Whitcomb, has gone over his head and is conspiring with Colonel Cathcart. Cathcart likes the idea of form letters to the families of the dead and wounded; he thinks Whitcomb's idea may get the Colonel a spread in the Saturday Evening Post for Christmas! To speed up the number of casualties, Cathcart considers another raid on Avignon.
If Aarfy ever has doubts, he doesn't show them. Although he clearly has never had a real relationship with a woman, he is a self-proclaimed expert on love and delights in cruelly mocking Nately for his devotion to the prostitute in Rome. Aarfy would never lower himself to the level of such "filthy trollops" and assures Nately that the young man's wealthy father, who is Aarfy's real interest, will strongly disapprove of the girl. Aarfy is a lead navigator, meaning that all the planes in his flight must follow his directions. He has no doubt about his expertise in that area either, although he repeatedly takes the planes the wrong way. Aarfy especially tends to get lost on combat missions and guide the men over concentrations of antiaircraft fire. One such occasion is just after a milk run to Parma. Yossarian has dropped his bombs on the undefended target and is relaxing with a cigarette when Aarfy somehow manages to lead the flight into heavy flak. Yossarian is wounded in the thigh and screams at Aarfy for assistance. As is often the case, Aarfy can not hear when someone asks him for help. McWatt finally gives Yossarian morphine. He wakes up in the hospital, where he and his friend Dunbar switch beds with some junior officers so they can be near each other.
savoir-faire (French) "to know [how] to do"; the ability to say or do the right thing.
ontology the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being or reality.
a fortiori (Latin) "for a stronger [reason]"; said of a conclusion that follows, with even stronger logical necessity, one already accepted.
ruefully regretfully; feeling or showing remorse.