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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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SCENE 8

Like the final scene of Part I, the final scene of Part II shows
McMurphy in full battle against Nurse Ratched.

McMurphy is upset by what Harding has told him. Chief
Bromden compares him to a dog (like the dog in scene two,
Part Two), worrying at a hole and wondering if he should fight
or play it safe. But McMurphy has already been playing it safe,
and what good has it done him? Like Sefelt, he's damned either
way.

On the return from the x-ray room, he asks the aide to let him
go to the canteen and buy cigarettes. (These cigarettes, we
remember-and we'll be reminded by Fredrickson at the group
meeting-are not given directly to the patient but are dispatched
to the Nurse's Station and doled out from there.) Chief
Bromden knows something is about to happen, and he gets
excited. The impatient, ear-ringing feeling reminds him of the
minutes before a high school football game.

At this afternoon's group meeting, the epileptic Mr. Sefelt is
the topic for discussion. As always, Nurse Ratched aims at his
weakest point-his fear of getting old. The Chief notices that
McMurphy appears different than he's appeared lately, no
longer slouched but flushed and reckless-looking.



Nurse Ratched, confident of her complete control, announces
from within her glass Nurse's Station (behind its windows she
looks like a mechanical fortune teller) that the patients must be
punished for their disobedience of three weeks before. She is
closing the tub room where the card games are held.

No one says anything. The patients wait to see how McMurphy
will react to this attack on his earliest improvement to the ward.
At first McMurphy seems not to have noticed what the Nurse
has said. But the Chief realizes that something is up. As
McMurphy walks towards the Nurse's Station, "he was the
logger again, the swaggering gambler, the big, redheaded
brawling Irishman, the cowboy out of the TV set walking down
the middle of the street to meet a dare." Nurse Ratched,
frightened, looks for help. But McMurphy doesn't attack her
directly. Instead he stops in front of the Nurse's Station, which
with its polished windows and control panel is a symbol of all
the power the Nurse and the Combine possess. Then he shatters
the window-claiming that he wanted to get one of the
cigarettes he bought that morning, and that the Nurse had made
her patients scrub the glass so thoroughly he didn't notice the
window was even there.

McMurphy is back in action. The football game the Chief was
waiting for has begun, the ringing in his head has stopped.

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