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Catch-22 | Chapter 22 : Milo the Mayor | Summary

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Summary

At last the reader gets a much more detailed description of the accident that killed Snowden.

On the mission to Avignon, Dobbs has an emotional meltdown and wrestles the controls away from Huple, the pilot. Huple manages to regain control, but not before the plane is hit by antiaircraft fire. Yossarian manages to crawl to the rear section of the plane, where he finds Snowden dying.

Later, in Pianosa, Dobbs tries but fails to persuade Yossarian that they should kill Major Cathcart. Meanwhile, Orr is in even worse emotional shape than Dobbs, which makes him terrible company when he and Yossarian go with Milo on an egg-buying trip to Cairo, Egypt.

The trip then becomes a lunatic jaunt to Sicily, Malta, and Palermo. In Palermo, Milo receives a tumultuous welcome, and we learn that he's been made mayor. Milo's syndicate has brought in so much money that he's also mayor of several other Italian cities and the vice-shah of Oran.

The three men return to Cairo, where a triumphant Milo buys the world's entire supply of Egyptian cotton.

Analysis

Here we see the full horror of the flight that changes Yossarian's life. It's a wrenchingly convincing story, with many brilliant touches. For example, antiaircraft fire is a "craggy, patchwork canyon"; Yossarian's face is "stinging with shimmering splinters" of acrylic glass. Such vivid writing suggests that Heller may have undergone a similar experience himself.

When the scene shifts to Pianosa, and Yossarian accompanies Milo on a purchase run, the narrative loses its vital realism and becomes increasingly fanciful. Milo has become the king of the Mediterranean black market, leading cities into such lush prosperity that he's greeted by flag-waving hordes everywhere he goes. He is now vice-shah of Oran, caliph of Baghdad, and a god in the African jungle. Readers are not meant to believe any of this; it's all a fairy-tale allegory about the spread of unregulated capitalism. But the point is that, for now, Milo's scheme is unimaginably successful.

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