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

2. B

3. B

4. A

5. B

6. A

7. A

8. A

9. B

10. A

11. We see almost as soon as we begin reading Cuckoo's Nest
that Kesey's narrator is incapable of giving us descriptions of
events as we might see them. In the Chief's paranoid fantasies,
the hospital is an enormous whirring machine, its staff soulless
cogs. Occasionally a fog creeps in to obscure everything
around him. However, Kesey gives us two hints as to how we
should take the Chief's visions, when he has the Chief say:
(Scene 1, Part I) "But its the truth even if it didn't happen;" and
(Scene 7, Part I), "But how can a man see such things if they
don't exist?" The answer, of course, is that they do exist, in a
metaphorical sense; the hallucinations are structured to give us
an understanding of the hospital we wouldn't get through
normal description. We see the truth beneath the surface that a
more rational narrator might show us.

Having the story told from the Chief's troubled mind also
magnifies the importance of the battle being fought. From the
Chief's "shrunken" vantage point, McMurphy and the Nurse
are enormous, Super-hero and Super-villain, fighting for the
souls of the patients. When at the end of part one McMurphy
moves towards the Chief, the rescue attempt is doubly stirring
because we've had such a vivid sense of how deadly-yet how
strangely alluring-is the fog in which the Chief cowers. And
after that rescue we're privileged to see the healing process not
only as an outside observer might (as in the Chief's growing
defiance of the aides), but from within as well, as his
descriptions of the ward become less hallucination-prone and
more rational, and the fog disappears never to return.

12. The Combine is Chief Bromden's vision of the forces that
run the hospital and that seek to run the outside world as well.
Perhaps because his first encounter with it came when it
destroyed his Indian village for a hydroelectric dam, he tends
to see it as an enormous electrified machine, a machine whose
chief cog in the hospital is Nurse Ratched. The Combine
demands efficiency, total cooperation, order, it denies
individuality and freedom. The men in Nurse Ratched's ward
are there, the Chief says, because they have malfunctioned: the
Acutes may yet be fixed, but the Chronics, like the Chief, are
useless culls who must be imprisoned "to keep them from
walking around the streets giving the product a bad name."

Outside, the Combine is scarcely less powerful. Its dam
destroyed hundreds of centuries of Indian tradition; its tethers
yank the girl in the cotton mill back to her work station; its
automobile will probably kill the freedom-loving dog the Chief
views from his window; it has despoiled the landscape with
identical houses that shelter identical businessmen and their
identical families.

Like almost all of the Chief's hallucinations, this one contains
considerable truth. As McMurphy tells him, "Yeah Chief, you
be talking crazy... [but] I didn't say it didn't make sense." The
Combine may not be the enormous conglomeration of
machinery the Chief sees, but perhaps it does exist in the forces
that demand us to work, consume, obey, and be
indistinguishable from our neighbors. You could argue that this
Philosophy is a limited one: after all, mental patients require
some order in their lives; the dam that destroyed the village
provides needed electricity, even insectlike businessmen need
to live somewhere. But Kesey would certainly disagree with

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

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