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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Power Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #4

"This world... belongs to the strong, my friend! The ritual of our existence is based on the strong getting stronger by devouring the weak. We must face up to this. No more than right that it should be this way. We must learn to accept it as a law of the natural world. The rabbits accept their role in the ritual and recognize the wolf as the strong. In defense, the rabbit becomes sly and frightened and elusive and he digs holes and hides when the wolf is about. And he endures, he goes on. He knows his place. He most certainly doesn't challenge the wolf to combat. Now, would that be wise? Would it?"

He [Harding] lets go McMurphy's hand and leans back and crosses his legs, takes another long pull off the cigarette. He pulls the cigarette from his thin crack of a smile, and the laugh starts up again-eee-eee-eee, like a nail coming out of a plank.

"Mr. McMurphy... my friend... I'm not a chicken, I'm a rabbit. The doctor is a rabbit. Cheswick there is a rabbit. Billy Bibbit is a rabbit. All of us in here are rabbits of varying ages and degrees, hippity-hopping through our Walt Disney world. Oh, don't misunderstand me, we're not in here because we are rabbits—we'd be rabbits wherever we were—we're all in here because we can't adjust to our rabbithood. We need a good strong wolf like the nurse to teach us our place." (1.5.185-187)

Since McMurphy obviously hasn’t figured it out yet, Harding explains that he, like all of the patients on the ward, are just rabbits in a wolf’s mouth. Nurse Ratched is strong and they are weak; she is powerful and they are powerless.

Quote #5

How'd he manage to slip the collar? Maybe, like old Pete, the Combine missed getting to him soon enough with controls. Maybe he growed up so wild all over the country, batting around from one place to another, never around one town longer'n a few months when he was a kid so a school never got much a hold on him, logging, gambling, running carnival wheels, traveling lightfooted and fast, keeping on the move so much that the Combine never had a chance to get anything installed. Maybe that's it, he never gave the Combine a chance, just like he never gave the black boy a chance to get to him with the thermometer yesterday morning, because a moving target is hard to hit.

No wife wanting new linoleum. No relatives pulling at him with watery old eyes. No one to care about, which is what makes him free enough to be a good con man. And maybe the reason the black boys don't rush into that latrine and put a stop to his singing is because they know he's out of control, and they remember that time with old Pete and what a man out of control can do. And they can see that McMurphy's a lot bigger than old Pete; if it comes down to getting the best of him, it's going to take all three of them and the Big Nurse waiting on the sidelines with a needle. The Acutes nod at one another; that's the reason, they figure, that the black boys haven't stopped his singing where they would stop any of the rest of us. (8.6-7)

McMurphy’s power is based on the fact that he has none of the attachments everybody else has. While most patients feel the need to please others, McMurphy is free from those kinds of restraints.

Quote #6

He tugs at that little tuft of red showing out of the neck of his greens, then says, "Well, hey; what do you say to us taking the card game someplace else? Some other room? Like, say, that room you people put the tables in during that meeting. There's nothing in there all the rest of the day. You could unlock that room and let the card-players go in there, and leave the old men out here with their radio—a good deal all around."

She smiles and closes her eyes again and shakes her head gently. "Of course, you may take the suggestion up with the rest of the staff at some time, but I'm afraid everyone's feelings will correspond with mine: we do not have adequate coverage for two day rooms. There isn't enough personnel. And I wish you wouldn't lean against the glass there, please; your hands are oily and staining the window. That means extra work for some of the other men."

He jerks his hand away, and I see he starts to say something and then stops, realizing she didn't leave him anything else to say, unless he wants to start cussing at her. His face and neck are red. He draws a long breath and concentrates on his will power, the way she did this morning, and tells her that he is very sorry to have bothered her, and goes back to the card table.

Everybody on the ward can feel that it's started. (1.9.30-33)

Though Nurse Ratched pretends that her system is based on democracy, she has absolute power and nothing happens without her wishing it to happen.

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