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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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This long scene depicts McMurphy's finest hour, an escape
from the hospital into the outside world.

On the morning of the trip, the Chief is so excited (apparently
as much by the chance to be with two prostitutes from Portland
as by the fishing) he awakens even earlier than usual. The aides
can't believe his name has been added to the list. He can't write,
he can't even read, they laugh, and the newly confident Chief is
so angry he walks away when they stick a broom at him as a
reminder that he should resume his menial life as a floor-
sweeper. The Chief is scared this small act of rebellion will be
punished, but thanks to the ruckus McMurphy is making, the
aides don't follow him into the day room.

McMurphy is acting as if he were the greatest sailor of all time.
While he jokes with the Acutes, the Chronics look at the Chief
with envy that he is healthy enough to join the trip and they are
not. McMurphy still needs to book another passenger, but it
seems that the Nurse has been so successful in convincing the
patients of the trip's dangers he won't be able to find anyone.
Then George Sorenson, the obsessively clean man who
wouldn't even shake McMurphy's hand when he arrived, walks
up and gives McMurphy pointers on catching fish; it turns out
that George was a commercial fisherman for 25 years.
McMurphy grabs at this chance to get an expert passenger. He
needs someone like George, he pleads, admitting that he is far
from the expert sailor he's been claiming to be. When George
balks, too afraid of germs to join the trip, McMurphy tries to
appeal to the fisherman's vanity, implying that his real fear is
not of germs but of the stories the Nurse has spread about the
dangerous ocean. Now George has his own small rebellion:
he'll show the Nurse and everyone else that he is not frightened
of the sea. He doesn't have $10, but McMurphy lets him join
the trip for $5. (Here, as with his offer to the Chief, we see that
McMurphy remains enough of a con artist that his generosity is
never completely pure. This weakness for the quick buck will
be used against him later.)

Only one of the prostitutes shows up, and she is younger,
prettier, and more innocent-looking than anyone had expected.
Indeed, Candy Starr becomes one of the few entirely
sympathetic women characters in the book. Her appearance
causes a stir among patients and staff; to the Chief, it's as if the
hospital machinery falls apart at the sight of her. The men's
stares make Candy nervous, but Billy Bibbit breaks the ice
with a wolf whistle, the sort of appreciation she is used to.

Nurse Ratched makes a last attempt to spoil the day by saying
that because McMurphy has only one car, half the patients will
have to stay behind. Perhaps the entire trip may have to be
cancelled. When McMurphy protests that he'll lose money, the
Nurse maneuvers him into revealing that he hopes to make a
small profit on the expedition. She wants the other patients to
see him as a dishonest trickster. "As I think about it now,
you've had more than your share of victories," she says-and
she is not talking just about money.

But Candy's beauty saves the day, making the doctor
susceptible to McMurphy's cajoling to join the trip and take a
hospital car. The group leaves. Ellis, who stands in his usual,
crucified position against the wall, says farewell using Christ's
words to Peter-be a fisher of men. Billy, acting the way
McMurphy himself might, turns the farewell into a risque joke
about Candy. Like the Chief, he's gaining sexual self-

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

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