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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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Nurse Ratched returns changed, too. Her new uniform can't
disguise the fact that she is a woman. Unable to talk since the
attack, she communicates by writing, but her written words
can't inspire the fear her voice did. She is powerless against
McMurphy's growing legend. More patients, Harding among
them, leave the hospital; of the fishing crew, McMurphy's
disciples, only Martini, Scanlon, and the Chief remain.

Then McMurphy returns. Sadly, he, too, is a different man.
Lobotomized, he has become one of the vegetables. Scanlon
and Martini refuse to believe that this white-faced shell is the
same person who led so many brave revolts, but the Chief
knows the truth. He knows it would be a crime if the Nurse
were able to make McMurphy into another Mr. Taber, a
symbol of her power, a warning not to fight.

That night the Chief moves to McMurphy's bed and stands
over him, watching his friend's "open and undreaming" eyes.
He smothers McMurphy with a pillow. After McMurphy's
breathing halts, the Chief notices that his eyes have not
changed at all. In effect, he was dead before, destroyed by the
Nurse, by the Combine.

Scanlon has watched what the Chief has done. He warns that
even though the Nurse won't be able to prove the Chief
smothered McMurphy-deaths after lobotomies are common-
she will realize he is responsible, and will want to take
revenge. The Chief must escape.

"How?" Chief Bromden asks.

Scanlon answers that McMurphy has shown him how. The
Chief thinks a few minutes before making up his mind. He
dresses and tries to put on McMurphy's old cap. But it is too
small for him. Thanks to McMurphy, the Chief has regained
his true size-and it is greater than McMurphy's.

The Chief goes into the tub room and walks to the control
panel that, weeks before, McMurphy told him he was big
enough to lift. McMurphy has kept his promise to the Chief.
He was not himself strong enough to lift the panel, nor strong
enough to escape. But his example has given the Chief a new
life. The Chief lifts the panel, throws it through the strong-
screened window, and "glass splashes out in the moon, like a
bright cold water baptizing the sleeping earth"- a symbol of the
Chief's rebirth. He escapes, running across the field in the same
direction the dog ran and the geese flew, toward freedom.

Freedom is dangerous. Like the dog, the Chief may be heading
towards an uncertain and possibly disastrous destination. The
man who on page one startled us by saying "They're out there,"
has finished the story he wants to tell us, but his own story is
far from finished. He doesn't know where he'll go. Maybe to
Canada, home of the geese, but maybe back to his Indian
village. He's heard rumors that members of his tribe are
fighting the Combine by building scaffolds on the dam,
spearing salmon just as they did in the old days. Perhaps this
return to the natural world of his boyhood will finish the cure
that McMurphy so nobly began. It will take awhile before the
Chief is completely healed: he's been away a long time.

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

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