Effective Characterization in Catch-22

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Effective Characterization in Catch-22


The large cast of characters in Heller's Catch-22 is what makes the novel so memorable. The experience of each character makes the "catch" more believable to the reader. Each character symbolizes a different attitude and reaction to the system in which he is trapped. Oftentimes, the characters are stereotypes rather than actual "individuals." There is no obvious division in intelligence between the authority characters and those governed by the authority.


Milo Minderbinder, Colonel Cathcart, and General Peckem are all excellent representatives of the military bureaucracy. Heller's portrayal of these characters makes a solidified statement about the way the army works. These characters do not see the men under their command as human beings, but as tools to further their careers. Milo uses his manipulative powers to improve his "syndicate" and his personal wealth. Pearson notes,"...by the time his[Milo's] activities have taken over Europe and North Africa in one vast syndicate and he has bombed his own men, he has become little more than a personification of greed"(277). Milo's tactics are often outrageous, and they even endanger the physical and emotional well-being of his fellow soldiers. According to one critic, "For Milo, contract, and the entire economic structure and the ethical system that it embodies and represents, is more sacred than human life"(Frank 266).

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Colonel Cathcart also uses his troops, but for different purposes. Cathcart's scheme involves manipulating his soldiers so as to advance his own rank. Like Milo, Cathcart has no qualms about placing his men's lives in danger. In fact, solely to impress his superiors, he purposely volunteers his men for the most dangerous missions. Constantly raising the number of required missions his men have to fly, he perpetuates the catch.


Another character more concerned with upholding the appearance of order than with actually doing his job is General Peckem. He entertains himself by placing other officers at odds ...

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