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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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PART III

Part III consists of two scenes.

SCENE 1

McMurphy has returned with all his power to disrupt the
Nurse's world, but for the moment she is not fighting back; she
realizes that time will always be on her side. Meanwhile,
McMurphy is making her life as difficult as he can. He forms a
basketball team and in one game knocks an aide in the nose.
He writes requests, ruining the Nurse's pen in the process,
plants more obscene notes in the latrine, spoils her attempt to
make the patients spy on each other by writing false stories
about himself in her log book. When the window of the Nurse's
Station is at last replaced, he breaks it again. What's more, the
other Acutes are following his example.

McMurphy's next plan is to take a fishing trip. He and the other
members of the ward will be accompanied by two "aunts" from
Portland. Nurse Ratched, of course, opposes the idea; far from
seeing its value as therapy, she sees the trip only as a threat to
her control. To retain that control, she tries to destroy the
patients' growing self-confidence, telling them repeatedly of
the ocean's dangers. McMurphy turns her words against her:
the roughness of the sea will be exhilarating; where she sees
perils to fear he sees challenges to master. But she will have
none of it.



The Nurse's warnings succeed in scaring many of the patients,
and it seems McMurphy may not get enough passengers to pay
for the boat trip. Though he has no money, the Chief would
like to go. But he fears that signing up will be an admission
that he isn't deaf and dumb; once that discovery was made,
Nurse Ratched might be angry enough at his deception to make
him deaf and dumb for real. Another of the ironies of life in the
hospital: "I had to keep on acting deaf if I wanted to hear at
all." In this strange world, to protect what you are, you may
have to pretend to be the opposite.

The Chief lies in his bed thinking of the many years of his
deception. It was, he says, other people "who first started
acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at
all." Because he was an Indian, people assumed he was stupid.
He remembers when, at age ten, he saw a car pull up to his
house in the Indian village. The visitors aren't tourists, he
knows, and they haven't come to buy fish, for tourists and
shoppers are too frightened of Indians to venture so near.

Out of the car step two men and a woman, the woman, like
Nurse Ratched, dressed in an outfit stiff as armor. They're
looking for Chief Bromden's father, because they want to
discuss with him the government's plans (the plans being the
destruction of the village for a hydroelectric dam).

The young boy gets angry as he listens to the intruders, who
talk freely because they don't realize he understands English-
just as, years later, the hospital staff will speak freely thinking
he is deaf. The Chief begins correcting the visitors' mistaken
notions about Indian houses, but they pay no attention.

And now, perhaps for the first time in his life, fear and anger
cause the Chief to have one of his hallucinations. He sees the
sun become so bright it reveals the strangers to be machines
that ignore words (like his) that don't fit their preconceived
ideas.

The squawk of a guinea hen interrupts the hallucination. The
two men decide to talk with the Chief's father, but the woman
tells them not to. She has another plan. Here is another
example of the evil power of matriarchy: the whitehaired lady
reminds Chief Bromden of Nurse Ratched, and she acts much
as Nurse Ratched does, with a sly knowledge of people's weak
points. She realizes that the government will be able to defeat
the Chief's father through his mother (the white woman whom
we've already been told made the Chief's father small).

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