Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 35 : Milo the Militant | Summary

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Summary

Nately wants to keep flying missions so as to keep seeing his girlfriend. When Yossarian begs him to get himself grounded, Nately confesses that he's already asked to be grounded and been refused: Colonel Korn insists that he fly more missions. "I guess I can fly a few more," Nately says wistfully.

Yossarian asks Milo to help, and Milo heads off to talk to Colonel Cathcart. He pretends he wants to fly more dangerous missions, suggesting that Cathcart run the syndicate for him. When Cathcart eagerly agrees, Milo describes the job in confounding detail. Cathcart backs off, saying that only Milo can manage the syndicate and forbidding him to fly combat missions. Instead, Cathcart will make other airmen fly Milo's missions. Nately has to be on the next mission after all. He, Dobbs, and 10 other men are killed.

Analysis

Nately's youth and inexperience make him seem like a lamb about to be slaughtered. For the first time, Yossarian tries to get someone besides himself out of combat duty. It's too bad that the person he asks for help is Milo.

For almost the entire book, Milo has hung onto his perverse charm no matter how selfishly he behaves. He crossed the line when he made a deal with the Germans to shoot down American planes, but he crosses another line closer to home when he says that Nately will do anything to remain overseas. He crosses yet another in agreeing with Colonel Cathcart that Yossarian "has no right to expect any special privileges" and should keep flying missions. When his selfishness kills both Nately and Dobbs, his appeal as a character finally begins to wear thin.

The description of Dobbs's plane crash is both gravely impressive and lyrically beautiful. The remaining wing revolves "as ponderously as a grinding cement mixer" (a wonderful image), and the plane's impact looks like a water lily. We can tell that Heller has witnessed a scene just like this—horrible and beautiful at the same time.

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