Catch-22
Joseph Heller
Contributed by Sherie Debus
Chapters 22-26
Summary

Summary Chapter 22: Milo the Mayor

We finally glimpse the meaning of the mysterious references to Snowden’s death: the death is the moment when Yossarian loses his confidence. While flying a mission after Colonel Korn’s ample briefing, Snowden loses his life when Dobbs goes insane and steals control of the plane from Huple. Snowden begs for Yossarian’s help as he dies. He complains that he is cold. Dobbs is not only a wreck personally but a horrible pilot. He later informs Yossarian that he intends to kill Colonel Cathcart before he increases the number of missions again. Dobbs believes this action is the only method of responding to Cathcart’s foolishness and recklessness. When he looks for Yossarian’s approval, the latter is unable to grant it. Dobbs gives up on his plan.

The narrator then delves into an episode in which Yossarian, Orr, and Milo go on a trip to get supplies. On their journey, Yossarian and Orr gradually come to understand how much Milo has control over the black market and how much influence he has internationally. Milo is not only the mayor of Palermo and the assistant governor-general of Malta, but also the sheik of Araby, the Iman of Damascus, the caliph of Baghdad, and the vice-shah of Oran. He is seen as a god in certain areas of Africa. It is his power to revitalize economies with his syndicate that has caused him to be embraced in every region he has gone. During the trip, Milo sleeps in luxurious palaces while Yossarian and Orr have to spend their nights on the plane. Yossarian and Orr are woken up late at night so that Milo is able to rush a shipment of red bananas to the next stop.  

Summary Chapter 23: Natelys Old Man

Nately finds his prostitute one evening in Rome. This is after an extensive search. He tries to convince Aarfy and Yossarian to pay thirty dollars each to be with two of her friends. Aarfy seems offended. He says he has never paid for sex. Nately’s prostitute is tired of Nately and starts to swear at him. Hungry Joe gets there. The group leaves Aarfy and heads to the apartment building where the girls reside. In this spot the men discover an apparently endless number of naked young women. Hungry Joe cannot decide whether he should stay and enjoy the scene or go back for his camera. Nately gets into an argument about moral duty and nationalism with an elderly man who resides in the building. The old man declares that Italy is outdoing America in the war. This is because Italy is already occupied, and this means that Italians are no longer losing their lives. He then indicates that America likely won’t endure as long as frogs, as those animals have existed for five hundred million years. Nately, who is idealistic and patriotic, contends in a rather halting manner for the international supremacy of America. He endorses the values that the country represents. However, he finds it disturbing that the elderly man brings to mind his father. Nately’s prostitute is continually indifferent to Nately, and this aggravates him. She eventually leaves him and goes to bed as he continues in his argument with the old man. The following morning, the prostitute lets Nately sleep with her. However, her little sister quickly interrupts them.

Summary Chapter 24: Milo

Milo’s influence becomes even more significant by the time April arrives. He plays a large role in the world’s economy, controls the international black market, and has air force planes belonging to many different countries to transport his supply shipments. The planes are branded with a specific logo, “M & M Enterprises.” Milo, however, continues to argue that every person has a share in his syndicate. In order to bomb the Germans, Milo contracts with the Americans. On the other hand, he contracts with the Germans to destroy American planes. German anti-aircraft guns put in use by Milo were even able to shoot down Mudd, the dead man who is in Yossarian’s tent, for which Yossarian is angry at Milo. Milo desires help from Yossarian in coming up with a solution for getting rid of the massive amounts of Egyptian cotton that he owns. He has found that he cannot sell it and it could bring an end to the entirety of his operation.  Milo’s planes start bombing his own camp one evening. He has entered another contract with the Germans. This attack wounds and kills dozens of men. Nearly everyone wants to bring an end to M & M Enterprises at this moment. However, Milo shows proof of how much money the people have made. Nearly all of the survivors are willing to forgive him. Yossarian is naked, watching Snowden’s funeral while sitting in a tree. Milo looks for him to discuss the cotton. He offers Yossarian some chocolate-covered cotton. He tries to make him think that it is candy. Yossarian suggests that Milo request that the government purchase his cotton. Milo thinks this is a highly intelligent idea.

Summary Chapter 25: The Chaplain

The chaplain is distressed. He feels that no one treats him like a normal human being. Everyone seems to be uncomfortable around him. He finds the soldiers intimidating and is generally ineffective in his position as religious leader. His misery grows. He finds himself sustained only by the religious visions that he has experienced since he arrived. This includes a vision of a naked man in a tree watching Snowden’s funeral. (Of course, we know that the naked man was Yossarian). He has dreams of his wife and children dying in horrible ways while he is gone. He tries to meet with Major Major to discuss the number of missions the men are required to fly. However, he discovers that Major Major will not let him into his office except when he isn’t there. When he goes to see Major Major a second time, the chaplain comes across Chief White Halfoat’s old roommate, Flume. Flume is so fearful that his throat will be slit in his sleep that he starts living in the forest. The chaplain then finds out that Colonel Cathcart has made Corporal Whitcomb sergeant for an idea that the colonel thinks will give him a place in the Saturday Evening Post. While at the officers’ club, the chaplain makes an attempt at mingling with the men. Colonel Cathcart throws him out on a regular basis, though. The chaplain starts doubting everything, including God.

Summary Chapter 26: Aarfy

One night, Nately falls in love with his prostitute. The woman is naked from the waist down, and she sits in a room with many enlisted men who are playing blackjack. Nately is the only one who is interested, but she eventually gets tired of him. She will not take the money he offers her to stay. Nately is offended when Aarfy calls her a slut. Yossarian is hit by flak on a flight. Aarfy is the navigator. Yossarian suffers a wound in the leg and is brought to the hospital. At the hospital, he and Dunbar change their identities by forcing men of a lower rank to trade beds with them. Dunbar steals A. Fortiori’s identity. Their ploy is finally discovered by Nurse Cramer and Nurse Duckett. Nurse Duckett grabs Yossarian’s ear and drags him back to bed.  

Analysis

While there have been allusions to the bombing run during which Snowden passed away in several chapters, there hasn’t yet been a fully explanation of the details. The first part of Chapter 22 gives us some of those details and emphasizes the narrative significance of the event. The novel’s constant references to the event serve two narrative purposes. The first is that they call attention to the circular chronological way in which the narrative is structured. The event greatly traumatized Yossarian, and it does not fade into the past as Yossarian progresses through time. Instead, he always goes back to it. He cannot escape it. The second purpose of the consistent references to Snowden’s death is to build up suspense, causing the Avignon mission to be one of the climaxes of the novel. While it’s true that the mission takes place chronologically before many of the novel’s other events, we must wait until nearly the end of the book to discover precisely what occurred on the mission. It is Heller’s tactic of conveying the story out of chronological order that lets him put whatever climactic events he desires at the conclusion of the novel. This is because he is not limited by temporal restraints.

The bombing of Avignon is only one of the numerous ways in which this part of the novel continues to demonstrate Yossarian’s attempt to keep himself alive as well as maintain his humanity in the context of war. The chaplain has a similar kind of struggle in this section to stay sane in spite of his terrible life. Everyone approaches the chaplain like an outsider. The chaplain experiences serious doubts of the moral standards by which he has lived his life. He also suffers terrible visions of the violent death of his wife and children. In the previous section, we saw the idea of the hospital as a place where one comes to terms with death in a respectful way. In a similar way, the concept of the chaplain as a person who provides spiritual stability and a sense of reason in the context of a disorienting war is called into question in this section.

Milo Minderbinder is among the novel’s most complex figures. His syndicate is one of the novel’s most fascinating symbols. In one way, the syndicate provides Heller with the opportunity to parody large-market capitalism economic activity. The startling rationalization that Milo uses to be able to purchase eggs for seven cents each and sell them for five cents each while still being able to make a profit is among the most confusingly sublime parts of the novel. Milo argues that at each stage he really purchases and sells the eggs to his own syndicate. In this way, he somehow keeps the money that he uses to buy the eggs. However, if he purchases the eggs using the same resources that he enhances through sale of the eggs, all that he is doing is shifting money from one place to a different one. Readers can readily reduce the strange logic that governs his syndicate to nonsense. This is because we comprehend the implausibility of Milo’s profit-generating scheme. Yet we see that Milo’s syndicate does really make money. This is despite the fact that it is entirely illogical, like many of the novel’s concepts. Whether or not this logic makes logical sense doesn’t seem to be relevant. Anyone who attempts to explain the process is defined by the end result.

The syndicate also seems to represent a collectivity almost socialist in nature. It is governed by a sense of expediency that is neutral on morality. It is said that “everyone has a share.” It is in this way that the syndicate is rendered something of a parody of both communism and capitalism. It is represented as being a collective that is governed by everyone but in reality it is run by one despot. The syndicate’s economic rationalization is similar to the moral rationalization of a collective that ignores human individuality. In this type of world, it might be thought that it would be in the best interest of everyone if Milo bombed his own squadron and wounded and killed many of his fellow soldiers.

The author creates a tension between the reader’s feelings about Milo and Yossarian’s feelings about Milo. It is undeniable that Yossarian is the novel’s moral compass. He appears to like Milo. This indicates that we too ought to sympathize with him. However, Milo is constantly depicted as a threatening character. Yossarian, naked, sits in a tree watching Snowden’s funeral while Milo gives the impression of being like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. He creates temptation with the possibility of gaining a fast buck and chocolate-covered cotton.

The ridiculous extent of Milo’s power give us an indication of an aspect of this novel. Up until this section, it has been quite subtle: the element of hyperbole. All the members of Yossarian’s squadron could plausibly have lived during WWII. Milo is different, however. He is completely unrealistic. Throughout the novel, Heller has given us minor absurdities. An example of this is the way in which the fluids in the groin of the soldier in white are directed immediately back into his IV drip.  In this part of the novel, the author creates a significant absurdity in the vast size of Milo’s domain. This lets us understand with certainty that the novel is meant to be more of an allegory than a realistic depiction of life in the army.

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