Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 501
Major --- de Coverly
The Germans are not fooled by moving the bomb line, but Major --- de Coverly is completely fooled. De Coverly is a “splendid, awe-inspiring, grave old man” with a mane of white hair who rages around the camps like a patriarch. His only duties consist of “pitching horseshoes, kidnapping Italian laborers, and renting apartments” for officers and enlisted men to use on leave. He is superior at all three of his tasks.
Each time a city is about to fall, de Coverly commandeers a pilot and an airplane and flies off without a word. Several days after the city falls, he returns with the leases to two “large and luxurious” apartments (one for officers, one for enlisted men), fully staffed with cooks and maids. De Coverly appears to be a ubiquitous, invincible presence in the face of danger. The Germans are unable to elicit any information about de Coverly from captured soldiers. American intelligence is unable to locate him either.
De Coverly outdoes himself with the apartments he procured in Rome. Soon the enlisted men’s apartments are full of hungry soldiers looking for food and female comfort. Yossarian arranges for many young girls to stay in the apartments as long as they keep the soldiers satisfied. Yossarian is in love with an agreeable maid because she seems to be the only woman left in the world he can “make love to without falling in love with.”
Despite the perils of renting apartments in war-torn cities, de Coverly is ironically injured by an over-zealous man during a celebratory procession: he joyously throws a flower and hits the major in the eye. The stoic de Coverly does not flinch and does not even seek medical attention until he completes his business in Rome. He insists on a transparent eye patch so his horseshoe-throwing and other tasks will not suffer.
The only one bold enough to directly address de Coverly is twenty-seven-year-old Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer. He goes to the horseshoe pit and tempts De Coverly with a fresh egg; de Coverly is outraged until he is mollified by Minderbinder’s offer to get all the fresh eggs and butter the major wants. Soon other officers commission Minderbinder and turn their mess halls over to him, and he is making shuttle runs (by airplane) for fresh food seven days a week.
Colonel Cathcart is particularly proud of this arrangement; however, he is thwarted when he tries to promote Major Major. He is much more successful when he manages to get a medal for Yossarian despite the fact that the Ferrara bridge was still intact seven days after Cathcart agreed to destroy it and Yossarian killed Kraft and his crew by circling back over the target a second time. Yossarian disabled the bridge but the loss of the plane and men looks bad, so he convinces Cathcart to give him a medal to divert attention from the losses. Cathcart also promotes Yossarian to captain for his actions at Ferrara.
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