Joseph Heller, in his Catch-22, satirizes the lunacies and catches
of war and the military. This world which Yossarian and Milo inhabit is a
game to be played very carefully. That the craziness of war is a game can
be supported by the fact that Milo and Yossarian both win, but each having
and utilizing a different strategy. "Milo and Yossarian came from
fundamentally different con-man traditions, both pressed into new extremes.
The contrast in styles can be summed up by saying that Milo is serious but
covert and that Yossarian is open but playful."
Throughout the novel, Milo makes headway by his manipulations and
fast talk. He makes himself invaluable to Colonel Cathcart by forcing him
to realize that he is irreplaceable. He manipulates himself into a
position of acting as a lifeline to the base by appealing to the weaknesses
of his superior officers. Cunningly he maneuvers himself into power and
becomes the most influential person in the entire scope of operations.
However, he loses the sense of the game; he becomes so wrapped up in
gaining position, he loses his sense of awareness and becomes singularly
concerned with money and power.
Yossaarian, on the other hand, remains openly defiant of the game
but succeeds at it because of his playfulness. He attends a march stark
naked, openly aborts missions, and obviously fakes illness to escape "the
game." In doing this he makes his points and accomplishes his goals but
only because of his playfulness. Yossarian made real headway upon his
temporary repression of his ideals and principles but realizing his mistake
changed his mind. He could not manipulate his beliefs as Milo does but
could not advance with open, serious defiance and strict adherence to his
principles. Yossarian sacrificed his only straightforward chance to escape
the crazy "game" because of his beliefs.
The craziness of this game and the winding paths that Yossarian and
Milo follow to no particular end are what signified Catch-22 as a classic
anti-realistic novel. Both characters are thrust into the same situation
and are forced to make the best of it. The choices they make and the
routes they follow through life determine their outcome.