Part 4: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The second to last part of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest set itself apart by being the only part of the book so far that sees the charcters finally allowed outside the realms of the psychiatric ward. The venture is led by McMurphy (big surprise there) who has organized a fishing trip for most of the Acutes, along with Chief. Speaking of Chief, and speaking of speaking, this is the first time in the book that we hear Chief utter actual verbal words. He holds a conversation late one night with McMurphy, while both of them are laying in their beds. McMurphy questions Chief on why he doesn’t use his stature to take a stand and intimidate the other men. Chief says that he is not as big as he used to be. It is hard to tell whether he means this literally or figuratively. Since Chief is normally analyzing things pretty in-depth, I assumed he was saying that he didn’t feel as present as he used to be. He recalls a moment where as a child where he was blatenly ignored and overlooked, thus giving some backstory to his committed silence. It seems that Chief feels that he does not have the respect or reputation that he either once had or feels that he should have. Chief also continues with his technical/mechanical talk, now saying more about the “wiring” of himself or the people around him and not so much his environment. Chief tells McMurphy that they don’t bust you in the ward by yelling or punishing. Instead, they “install filthy machinery” and they keep instaling until you’re all “fixed”.
Later on, McMurphy leads a fishing trip with 9 other men and the ward’s resident doctor. The men are picked up by McMurphy’s rather attractive female friend named Candy. The men stop at a gas station and are greeted by some mechanics who are apprehensive upon seeing a car full of men in matching green scrubs. Kesey, however, is able to flip the script and show how the patients use the steryotypes about mental patients to get what they want out of the men. Chief sums it up best by saying “ Never before did I realize that mental illness could have the aspect of power, power. Think of it:perhaps the more insane a man is, the more powerful he could become.” The men are able to instill fear into the mechanics, as if the patients would begin to tourture or fight them, and this instantly makes the mechanics hesitant. This makes the patients feel powerful and confident again and gives them hope that they will be able to adjust to normal life. Soon after this incounter the men go to the fishing dock and board a boat and of course, they have a grand ole time. However, the things that happen on the boat are mostly insignificant. Instead, what matters is that Kesey chose to place them there. For the first time, the reader is seeing the patients as if they were not patients at all. For the first time, they are just normal men enjoying a fishing trip. Stylistically, Kesey has had these men completly isolated from anything else, which to the reader, makes them seem like they are less than normal, strange, or incompetent. However, by assimilating the men into a situation where they are surrounded by “normal” people, the men transform. Kesey has made them equals to everyone else and is showing that even though they have been treated differnetly their whole lives, they are really and truly no different from any other men in society.
With a little less than 70 pages left in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I’m still a little disapointed with the lack of action. Hopefully the ending of the book will entail some big or shocking twist. But I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
Word Count: 648