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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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Out on the ocean, far from the influence of Nurse Ratched, the
patients prove they are more capable, more sane than they ever
suspected. McMurphy arranges a date between Billy Bibbit and
a prostitute, Candy Starr. But on the drive home, the Chief
notices that the hospital has worn McMurphy down just as the
patients he helped are growing stronger.

Nurse Ratched now turns McMurphy's skill as a gambler
against him, convincing the ward's patients he came not to help
them but to win their money. McMurphy realizes he must act
like the hero the patients require: when an aide abuses one of
the patients, George Sorenson, in the shower, McMurphy feels
forced to go to George's defense. The Chief joins the fight, and
he and McMurphy are sent for electroshock treatments.

As McMurphy is strapped to the treatment table, a parallel is
drawn between him and Christ: both have sacrificed
themselves for others. During the Chief's treatment, he
remembers the forces that brought him to the hospital: World
War II, his mother's disrespect for his father, the destruction of
his Indian village for a government dam. He remembers the
childhood rhyme that gives the book its name and that hints at
possible freedom. McMurphy has made him strong enough to
withstand the shock treatments: the Chief will never again hide
in the fog.

On McMurphy's return, the patients plan his escape, but he
insists on waiting until Billy Bibbit has his date with Candy.
Billy, prevented from growing up by a domineering mother,
will become a man by losing his virginity. When Candy and
another prostitute, Sandy, arrive, the ward erupts in a wild
party. McMurphy has suffered too much damage during his
stay in the hospital, and he's too weary to attempt to escape
when the Nurse arrives in the morning. Billy is discovered with
Candy, and Nurse Ratched plays on his guilt feelings until he is
once again a stuttering, helpless child. Ashamed, Billy commits
suicide by slitting his throat.

The Chief realizes that in the last weeks McMurphy's sole
reason for living has been the other patients' needs for him.
Now McMurphy makes his last stand, attacking Nurse
Ratched. After this humiliation, she will never again regain
control of the ward: her face has shown too much fear, her
ripped uniform revealed the breasts that prove she isn't an all-
powerful machine but a woman.

McMurphy will never know his victory, though. His example
has given the patients enough courage to brave the outside
world, but he returns from a lobotomy a ruined man. The Chief
will not let his friend remain in this pathetic condition, and he
smothers him with a pillow. Then he goes to the control panel,
which, thanks to McMurphy, he is now "big" enough to lift,
hurls it through a window and escapes.

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

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