Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 25 : The Chaplain | Summary



The chaplain is starting to worry that maybe he did sign Washington Irving's name to the letters Whitcomb told him about; actually it was Yossarian when he was censoring the letters, some of which he signed Irving Washington. He's not sure about anything anymore. Even his faith is beginning to disappear. He misses his family desperately. And his rudely obstructive assistant, Corporal Whitcomb, now holds all the power.

The chaplain is especially troubled by a recent vision. While conducting Snowden's funeral, he sees what he's sure is an apparition: a naked man watching from a tree. Though the man is actually Yossarian, it never occurs to the chaplain that he can believe his own eyes.

Troubled and wishing to make himself noticed in some way, the chaplain visits Major Major to find out whether Colonel Cathcart's men really are required to fly more combat missions than any other squadron. The staff sergeant tells him that the major never sees visitors. He adds that, when Yossarian asked Major Major to ground him, the major refused and suggested that Yossarian visit the chaplain for help.


The opening sentence in Catch-22 tells us that Yossarian falls in love with the chaplain at first sight. Tappman (the chaplain) is one of the novel's few truly good characters. He only wants to be a good person and to do what's right. The problem is that he's clueless.

Tappman doesn't know how to help his men. He doesn't even know how to make them like him. He suspects that kindness is actually more important than such "great, complex questions" as whether Adam and Eve had any daughters. He is "unable to accept solutions to problems he was unwilling to dismiss as unsolvable." And although he realizes that his own spinelessness is holding him back, he can't break out of his paralysis.

As the book's sole representative of organized religion, the chaplain cuts an uninspiring figure. How can he act on his convictions when he has none? He doesn't yet realize that his concerns about biblical inconsistencies are shallow and immature rather than "great, complex questions." All the chaplain character knows about religion is what he's learned in Sunday school. He has no idea how to put his principles into action.

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