Study Guide

Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22

By Joseph Heller

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Milo Minderbinder

Milo's defining characteristic is his greed. Though he has a talent for business and keeping meticulous track of multiple shipments simultaneously, he abuses his talent by letting his greed run rampant. Welcome to the dark side, Milo. What starts out as an honest desire to feed his men the best food possible turns into an international syndicate whose goods are transported by army planes. It slowly screws the life out of the very men who support it. Milo's greed drives him to attack his own base for profit, conspire with the enemy Germans, raise food prices until men are starving, serve men inedible food (like chocolate-covered cotton), and abandon his friends in need when he hears about an opportunity to make a profit. Milo is all the negative aspects of capitalism rolled into one guy.

However, Milo doesn't see himself as corrupt or evil. He claims to live every waking second of his life by a strict moral code. It's just that this moral code allows for price inflation and betraying one's country for the sake of profit. Milo sees everything in terms of the syndicate. Assets must be secured and utilized no matter the consequence to the U.S. Once a nation has become a participant in the syndicate, Milo is unable to see that nation as an enemy. He cannot see them as anything but equal shareholders within the syndicate. Interestingly, Milo has a commitment to America and cannot dream of committing crimes against the state. At least what he considers to be crimes against the state. He loathes the thought of bribery but can be convinced to do anything if it maximizes his profit.

As we said, Milo is a rather blatant symbol of ruthless capitalism. Yes, he obtains the finest foods at the lowest prices. Yes, he makes a fine profit. But he also violates the boundaries of capitalism and the military. And he escapes his duty to fly combat missions because he is busy with the syndicate. The fact that the military and all the other nations within his syndicate bow to his will shows that all human beings respond to money. They worship it, even if they don't worship the American ideals Milo brings with him.

Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 Study Group

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