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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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McMurphy begs one Chronic after another for help. Ruckley,
Ellis, Pete, Colonel Matterson, George: none of them is
willing. Then he approaches the Chief. Just as he was that first
morning when McMurphy wanted to shake his hand, the Chief
is terrified.

He wants to be left undisturbed in the fog.

Nevertheless, as McMurphy stands over him (notice how the
Chief distorts their heights: McMurphy is shorter than the
Indian and could never stand "over" him), the Chief feels his
hand raising. At first he blames the act on McMurphy, as if he
were like the Nurse, able to control people by hidden wires.
Then he admits, "No, that's not the truth. I lifted it myself."
While Nurse Ratched uses her power to force people to do
what she wants, McMurphy's power is that he gives people the
courage to do what they want. With McMurphy's help, the
Chief has pulled himself out of the fog: a defeat for the
Combine. But the angry Nurse announces that the voting is
closed. There will be no World Series.

The Nurse watches from her glassed-in Nurse's Station as the
Acutes perform their assigned chores. McMurphy's grinning
irritates her, and her irritation grows when he tosses down his
rag and goes to the television and turns it on to the baseball
game. The Nurse switches off the set from the control room.
But just as he did with the toothpaste, McMurphy turns defeat
into victory by ignoring the Nurse's action. He doesn't move.
He stares at the blank screen as if the World Series could be
seen on it.



The Nurse can't tolerate this behavior. She comes close to
losing control. And now the other patients, Harding, Cheswick,
Billy and the rest, sit down with McMurphy to watch the non-
existent game. Nurse Ratched is screaming. Says the Chief, "If
somebody'd of come in and took a look, men watching a blank
TV, a fifty year-old woman hollering and squealing at the back
of their heads about discipline and order and recriminations,
they'd of thought the whole bunch was crazy as loons."
Ironically, by acting crazy, McMurphy and the men have
shown that they are sane. By clinging to her rules past the point
where they make sense, the Nurse has sunk to the patients'
level and below.

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