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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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SCENE 9

Our second morning in the ward is much different from our
first. McMurphy is doing everything he can to liven things up,
inventing stories about Billy Bibbit's sexual adventures (again,
sex is as necessary as laughter to a healthy life), and acting as if
there was no place on earth he'd rather be than this hospital
with its fine beds and good food. He refuses to take the rules
seriously: even the clock, which with Nurse Ratched's
assistance rules the ward, becomes a butter-smeared victim of
McMurphy's pranks.

But the Big Nurse is still in control. When McMurphy asks her
to dampen the piped-in music, or let patients use a quieter room
for their card games, she dismisses his requests as impossible
and selfish. Her answers make a certain sense-almost all of
Nurse Ratched's rules do. She is never on the surface, an
irrational woman. But because she demands obedience at the
expense of charity and generosity, she becomes irrational, a
monster. The tension between the Nurse and the new patient is
growing. "Everyone on the ward can feel it's started."

McMurphy leaves to be interviewed by Doctor Spivey. At the
group meeting we learn that he's cleverly used the interview to
maneuver his way around Nurse Ratched. Before the nurse
even has a chance to begin the "pecking party," (note how she
claims they were making "quite a bit of headway with Mr.
Harding's problem" the day before, when of course just the
opposite was true), McMurphy takes over. He's convinced the
doctor that the ward should hold a carnival. Taber, the other
trouble maker, once made the same request, and nothing came
of it. As soon as the Nurse trains her eyes on the doctor, we see
the project is doomed this time, too.

But McMurphy isn't finished. He has also figured out a way to
obtain his card room by cleverly using the Nurse's own
arguments against her. Since the music must be turned up loud
enough for the patients to hear it, why not turn it up still
louder? Then why not open another room to give other patients
a quiet place to read?



This time the doctor can't be pressured to oppose McMurphy's
plan. The Nurse is so angry at McMurphy's victory she can't
read her notes for the group meeting. McMurphy prevents the
pecking party from starting by monopolizing the discussion.
Dream analysis is a frequently used technique in therapy, but
he makes it seem absurd by inventing a dream about his father
and using the dream as an excuse to tell tall tales about his past
life.

Despite this victory, Chief Bromden looks on and grows
discouraged again. Nurse Ratched still covers "one whole side
of the room like a Jap statue" (presumably an enormous
Buddha). "She lost a little battle here today, but it's a minor
battle in a big war that she's been winning and that she'll go on
winning." Why? Because she is with the Combine, and the
Combine can afford to lose a few battles; It never gives up, and
eventually its opponents always surrender. These thoughts are
so depressing that the Chief escapes them by hiding in his fog,
the fog that gives him safety at the expense of sanity.

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