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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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Part IV consists of four scenes.


We've seen Nurse Ratched plotting against McMurphy; now
she makes her first move, trying to undermine the patients'
respect for him. Why did McMurphy "spend so much time and
energy organizing fishing trips to the coast and arranging
Bingo parties and coaching basketball teams? What pushed
him to keep up a full head of steam when everybody else on
the ward had always been content to drift along playing
pinochle and reading last year's magazines?" The Nurse's
insinuations are not impossible ones. In fact, she is taking a
view that almost all of us have taken in our more cynical
moments. Is there such a thing as true generosity? Aren't most
people watching out for themselves most of the time? Why
should McMurphy be any different?

What's more, McMurphy has left himself vulnerable to her
attack. For the fact is he isn't a saint. He's a gambler who likes
to win. As a result, the patients are not unwilling to believe the
Nurse's rumors. They, too, find it hard to believe that anyone
would perform so many acts of kindness without expecting
something for himself.

At the group meeting, McMurphy is at first able to fight back,
but when he leaves to take a phone call (presumably from
Candy), Nurse Ratched can resume her attack without
opposition. She's sly about this, as she always is, leading the
patients until they say the things about McMurphy she wants
them to say: that because McMurphy is not perfect, he must be
completely bad, a con artist whose sole reason for being in the
hospital is to separate the patients from their money. Billy tries
to defend the man who arranged his date with Candy and who
has spent hours teaching him to dance, but the Nurse is too
clever for him: she insists that she is "not criticizing this
activity as such." It's enough that she has planted doubts about
McMurphy in everyone's minds. And she drops her attack
before McMurphy returns from the phone, so he will remain
ignorant of the damage she has done him.

The patients themselves begin spreading similar rumors.
Harding tries to defend McMurphy, but his defense is as
damaging as the Nurse's attacks: he agrees that McMurphy has
had selfish reasons for everything he did, but says that the
patients should admire, not condemn, his skill as a con man.
Billy still believes in his dancing teacher's good intentions, but
when McMurphy informs him that he'll need to pay for
Candy's trip from Portland (and that some of the money will go
into McMurphy's pocket), he is forced to agree that perhaps the
Nurse is correct.

As for the Chief, he still clings to his own belief-"how
McMurphy was a giant come out of the sky to save us from the
Combine that was networking the land with copper wire and
crystal, how he was too big to be bothered with something as
measly as money." But he, too, sees evidence otherwise.
McMurphy forces him to fulfill his part of the bargain about
the fishing trip. The Chief will have to lift the tub room control
panel so McMurphy can win his bets. But the other patients,
and now even the Chief, see this as a final confirmation that
McMurphy is the selfish man Nurse Ratched claimed he was.
McMurphy is puzzled at the Chief's disappointment. Why
should anyone object to a man winning some money? He is
only now beginning to realize that he has set himself up as an
example to the rest of the ward, and that with this role come a
number of responsibilities.

The patients are ordered into the shower, supposedly to clean
them of vermin acquired on the fishing trip (as if the trip had
been such a filthy experience), but actually as punishment for
rebelling against the Nurse. Despite their current
disillusionment with McMurphy, the patients have changed
since his arrival. They aren't as docile as they once would have
been, and this makes the aides angry. When the aides reach
George, the cleanliness-obsessed fisherman, they insist on
giving him an enema with the foul soap, although they know
how this will disturb him.

As the aides humiliate George, McMurphy sees that the
patients need a hero, and that he is the only possible candidate.
He comes to the fisherman's rescue. A brutal fight begins. And
then the Chief shows some of the courage McMurphy has
already demonstrated. Realizing that McMurphy has been
forced to fight George's, and the other patients', battles for
them, the Chief decides he must fight, too, "not worrying about
anything else for once but the thing that needed to be done and
the doing of it." The Chief and McMurphy manage to knock
two of the aides unconscious, but they are finally subdued and
taken to the Disturbed Ward.

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

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