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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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This very short scene shows that Nurse Ratched has so
successfully crushed McMurphy's revolt that everything is
back to normal. The Chief may not be wrapped in fog, but the
machinery within the walls, quiet after McMurphy's victory, is
once again humming.


McMurphy's fear and puzzlement have grown worse, and so
have the Chief's. While the patients are in the library, an aide
announces that Harding's wife has come to visit. This is the
woman Harding claims "can't get enough of him," but of whom
he is terrified.

Vera Harding is a more complicated character than many of the
other women in the book. In some ways she is a member of the
Nurse's matriarchy, at least in the sexual fear she inspires in her
husband. But far from repressing her own sexuality, she's
exaggerated it-in fact, it's hinted that she's able to visit the
ward outside normal visiting hours by promising sexual favors
to the aide. Still, her effect on Harding is crushing. He grows
nervous, he talks too much in his over-intellectual way, and his
hands flutter so wildly he is unable to light her cigarette. As he
makes fun of her bad grammar, she makes fun of his laugh and
complains about his effeminate friends.

McMurphy is caught in the middle of the argument, Vera
flirting with him, Harding seeking to have him on his side.
When Harding asks McMurphy what he thinks of his wife,
McMurphy explodes. "I know what you want me to think; you
want me to feel sorry for you, to think she's a real bitch. Well,
you didn't make her feel like any queen either."

This is an accurate analysis of Harding's relationship with his
wife. Vera is not a monstrous Nurse Ratched; in some ways she
is a victim herself. But it's clear McMurphy is not angry with
Harding. He's discovering the trap he's caught in, a trap that is
giving him bad dreams. Obedience to the Combine has not
helped him at all. When Martini plays with the unused control
panel in the tub room, pretending to see people strapped into it,
it's a sign of healing-like the Chief, Martini is beginning to
notice that his hallucinations are hallucinations, and even to
joke about them. But McMurphy is too disturbed to notice the
improvement, too disturbed even to laugh-a dangerous sign.

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

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