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Catch-22 | Chapter 13 : Major ___ de Coverley | Summary

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Summary

To his squadron, Major ___ de Coverley is a revered patriarchal figure—a handsome, imposing elderly man whose demeanor gives him a statesmanlike quality. But his main talents are renting two splendid apartments in Rome for officers and enlisted men on leave and showing up in a jeep for photo ops every time a city falls.

Milo Minderbinder persuades the major to let him use a plane for his syndicate. Soon the three other squadrons in the group have put Milo in charge of their mess halls. All week long he shuttles around, shopping and selling.

The chapter flashes back to the siege of Ferrara, Italy, where bombing missions have failed to demolish the bridge over the Po River. Aarfy's poor navigating causes Yossarian to miss the target the first time he makes a bomb run. He makes a second attempt and succeeds in demolishing the bridge—but Kraft's plane is blown up in the attack and he is killed. Colonel Cathcart is furious but decides to promote Yossarian and give him a medal. That way it will appear as if he's proud of what has actually embarrassed him.

Analysis

It's unfortunate that Major ___ de Coverley's magnificence isn't quite conveyed to the reader. We're told that he's a "splendid, awe-inspiring, grave old man with a massive leonine head." Because the Major doesn't talk much, the reader never gets the chance to find out what besides his looks is so impressive about him. And since Heller doesn't use first names much anyway, it doesn't seem all that surprising that no one knows the major's.

What's most memorable about Major ____ de Coverley is the way he always manages to be photographed entering cities that have just fallen. In this way, "he seemed eternally indestructible as he sat there surrounded by danger." This image of the major echoes the theme of meaningless military power. None of the soldiers know anything about Major ___ de Coverley and have never witnessed his fighting prowess, yet they fear and respect him as a great military man.

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