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by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 Theme of Greed

In the infamous words of the O'Jays: "Money, money, money, money ... mooonaay." In Catch-22, capitalism functions to maximize profit, and everyone works to increase his share of the profit. Milo shows that everyone, regardless of nationality, race, or gender, responds to money. In the novel, greed drives men to disregard their morals and to betray their countries and their friends. One of Heller's main points is that capitalism, bureaucracy, and government are often intertwined, and nearly everyone is motivated by greed. Money talks; we listen. 

Questions About Greed

  1. What does Milo represent? How could he be read as an ideal and ethical American capitalist?
  2. What does Milo's use of army planes for his syndicate indicate about the relationship between capitalism and the military?
  3. Why is Milo respected, even worshiped, in the countries where he trades? What does this say about human nature and greed?
  4. How does the chocolate-covered cotton represent Milo's greed? What is he willing to sacrifice in order to maximize his profits?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

As both a soldier and a capitalist, Milo demonstrates that greed is embedded within the military and that capitalism cannot be separated from other American institutions.

As a symbol of capitalism, Milo could be seen as a positive force of the American government.

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