Catch-22 | Study Guide

Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 | Chapter 7 : McWatt | Summary

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Summary

McWatt is usually Yossarian's pilot. He is "the craziest combat man of them all probably, because he was perfectly sane and still did not mind the war." He's given a few lines in this chapter before the mess officer, Milo Minderbinder, takes center stage.

Milo is staggered by the news that Yossarian is allowed all the fruit and fruit juices he wants. He hates the thought of all that fruit being eaten for free. He is disappointed that Yossarian won't go into the black-market fruit business with him.

Milo is eager to form a business, claiming that it would enable him to give the squadron the best possible food. What he actually wants is to make more money for himself. When he pulls off a farcical trade (half a bedsheet for a packet of dates), it becomes clear that his financial skills are twisted and confused in the extreme. Yet somehow he always manages to turn a profit.

Analysis

Milo's goofy, unfettered love of making money is fun to watch, but already it's apparent that he's completely without conscience. Though Yossarian is his friend, Milo has no trouble trading something valuable of Yossarian's (the package of dates) for one-quarter of a bedsheet. True, it's not an important transaction, but it foreshadows the way Milo will run his business. He can talk himself into believing that anything profitable is also moral. It's not even clear whether he's fooling himself or consciously trying to swindle others.

In an interview, Heller confessed that while he was writing Catch-22 he had no sense that Milo was a comic character. Only after the book was published did he realize that readers thought Milo was funny. Heller's hatred of run-amok capitalism must have been very powerful if he truly did not notice the humor in the Milo Minderbinder saga.

The reader should take note that Minderbinder sounds a lot like mind-bender. Milo is very good at twisting the facts to fit his own story.

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