Colonel Cathcart is a "slick, successful, slipshod, unhappy man of thirty-six" who lumbers along when he walks and wants, most of all, to be a general. He is a package of contradictions: dashing but dejected, poised but chagrined, daring but insecure, physically handsome but oddly unattractive. The narrator tells us that Cathcart is "impervious to absolutes"; that is, he has no fundamental values of his own. He can measure himself only in relationship to others. Thus, he is delighted that he is a full colonel when other, older officers hold lesser rank; but he is destroyed when he hears of a general who is younger than he is. Cathcart lives in an "unstable, arithmetical world of black eyes and feathers in his cap," oscillating between anguish and exhilaration. When he feels he has failed, that's a black eye; success brings a feather to his cap. His character contrasts sharply with that of
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