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Representing an extreme version of capitalist free enterprise
that has spiraled out of control, Milo seems simultaneously brilliant
and insane. What starts out as a business in black-market eggs turns
into a worldwide enterprise in which, he claims, “everyone has a
share.” At first, Milo’s syndicate seems like a bit of harmless
profiteering; we cheer for Milo because he is at least making money
at the expense of the ridiculous bureaucracy that perpetuates the
war. Like Yossarian, he bends the rules toward his own benefit;
his quest for profit seems logical compared to the way Colonel Cathcart
sends his men to their deaths just so he can get a promotion. All
the men seem to like Milo, and they are perfectly willing to fly
him to places like Malta and Egypt so that he can buy and sell his
Milo’s racket takes on a sinister air, however, when he
bombs his own squadron as part of a deal he has made with the Germans. Many
men are wounded or killed in this incident, and Milo’s syndicate
suddenly seems like an evil force that has expanded beyond anyone’s
ability to control it. But Milo’s reasons for bombing the squadron
are no more arbitrary than Colonel Cathcart’s ambitiously volunteering
to send his men to dangerous Bologna. In fact, one could argue that
Milo’s actions are more rational than Cathcart’s,
since Milo is guaranteed a profit, whereas Cathcart does not really
have a chance of becoming a general.
In many ways, Milo’s character shows how capitalism transcends
political ideology. We are never given any idea of what the war
is being fought over, and the men have no sense of defending the ideals
of their home country. Milo’s ability to make money off of both
friend and enemy, and his willingness to support whichever is more
profitable, take advantage of the complete lack of ideology in Catch-22. Furthermore,
his willingness to allow his own camp to be bombed shows his complete
disregard for the sides drawn by the war, and the men’s acceptance
of payment for being bombed shows that Milo is not alone in placing
a high value on making money.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Catch-22!