Korn’s performance preceded the Avignon mission, the one that caused Yossarian to “lose his nerve.” The mission was dangerous from the start, and Yossarian’s plane was beset by flak. The pilot, Dobbs, began weeping over the intercom, screaming for help, and Yossarian moved out of the bomb-bay to find Snowden in the back, hit by flak and dying quietly.
It is now revealed just how central the Avignon mission is to Yossarian’s psychological state. Heller does this deftly. It is as though the novel itself is not aware that the Snowden incident was so important for Yossarian; thus the narrator only supplies the reader information about this event as Yossarian recollects it, like a powerful memory repressed and coming back in greater and greater detail.
Time flashes back to the present, and Dobbs asks Yossarian whether he will help him kill Cathcart. Dobbs believes this is the only way to save the men from dying in combat. Dobbs wants to hide in a bend of the road and shoot Cathcart when he returns from his wooded retreat.
This would be a very serious crime—treason and insubordination—and would result in a very serious punishment for Dobbs and Yossarian, perhaps the death penalty.
Yossarian has his doubts, and when Dobbs declares that other men will have to be killed to keep the secret, Yossarian says he will not help with the plan. Instead, Yossarian begins flying on missions with Milo and Orr, picking up items for the group’s mess. Milo slowly reveals the extent of his world-wide network of goods.
It is not clear whether Yossarian ever entertained the thought of killing Cathcart. Although Yossarian purports to be crazy, he does not act erratically, and Dobbs’ desire is far outside the realm of Yossarian’s merely “zany” behavior on Pianosa.
Milo flies Yossarian and Orr to Naples, then to Sicily, where Yossarian spends the night with a woman whose head has been shaved (she has been humiliated for sleeping with Nazi soldiers).
Sadly, this form of shaming of women who had consorted with Nazis was common throughout Europe during the war.
Milo attempts to explain his “syndicate” to Yossarian, wherein he buys eggs in Malta for a higher price and sells them in Pianosa for a lower price. But because he owns the eggs to begin with, he claims to make a profit from these sales, although Yossarian does not understand the economic mechanisms involved. Milo argues that, because his business is a syndicate and “everyone gets a share,” everyone profits and everyone wins.
Milo’s refrain—that “everyone gets a share”—is a running joke that appears again and again throughout the remainder of the novel. Of course, no one ever sees a share of the profit from M & M Enterprises, and no one knows exactly how large those profits are, since Milo keeps that information quite secret.
Yossarian flies with Milo and Orr to Palermo, where it appears that Milo receives a good deal of special treatment. In fact, Milo has recently been elected mayor of Palermo, and the two are welcomed like heroes.
An instance of absurdism. Heller does not expect us to believe that Milo really could be mayor of Palermo in real life, but his accomplishments are exaggerated for humorous effect and to parody the power of money even during the war.
Yossarian and Orr are then dragged from location to location by Milo, who is engaged in byzantine business dealings between countries and greeted as a hero in all of them—Oran, Egypt, other parts of Italy. In Egypt, Milo buys all the cotton the country has to offer, and later picks up a crop of red bananas to foist on the soldiers back in Pianosa.
In fact, Milo’s business becomes so complicated, it is hard even for Milo to know which goods and services are going where. Yossarian and Orr can barely keep up with Milo, and are so sleep-deprived they no longer know what city they’re in.
At the end of “rest” leave, after one week, Orr and Yossarian are exhausted from their travels around the Mediterranean. But Milo says it’s worth it: it’s a syndicate, after all, and “everyone has a share.”
Though Milo repeats that everyone has a share, Yossarian and Orr certainly have received no compensation for their week helping Milo.