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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 #7

Harding's hand touches McMurphy's knee. "Put your troubled mind at ease, my friend. In all likelihood you needn't concern yourself with EST. It's almost out of vogue and only used in the extreme cases nothing else seems to reach, like lobotomy."

"Now lobotomy, that's chopping away part of the brain?"

"You're right again. You're becoming very sophisticated in the jargon. Yes; chopping away the brain. Frontal-lobe castration. I guess if she can't cut below the belt she'll do it above the eyes."

"You mean Ratched."

"I do indeed."

"I didn't think the nurse had the say-so on this kind of thing."

"She does indeed."

McMurphy acts like he's glad to get off talking about shock and lobotomy and get back to talking about the Big Nurse. He asks Harding what he figures is wrong with her. Harding and Scanlon and some of the others have all kinds of ideas. They talk for a while about whether she's the root of all the trouble here or not, and Harding says she's the root of most of it. Most of the other guys think so too, but McMurphy isn't so sure any more. He says he thought so at one time but now he don't know. He says he don't think getting her out of the way would really make much difference; he says that there's something bigger making all this mess and goes on to try to say what he thinks it is. He finally gives up when he can't explain it.

McMurphy doesn't know it, but he's onto what I realized a long time back, that it's not just the Big Nurse by herself, but it's the whole Combine, the nation-wide Combine that's the really big force, and the nurse is just a high-ranking official for them. (2.7.25-33)

McMurphy learns the extent of Nurse Ratched’s power—not only can she use electroshock therapy at her discretion, but also cut away part of a patient’s brain if they’re not cooperating with her. But as they discuss her power, McMurphy states that the power is not Ratched’s alone—she’s just part of the system. Though most of the Acutes don’t get what he’s saying, Chief understands—he’s already got an entire theory worked out about the machine called society.

Quote #8

As I walked after them it came to me as a kind of sudden surprise that I was drunk, actually drunk, glowing and grinning and staggering drunk for the first time since the Army, drunk along with half a dozen other guys and a couple of girls—right on the Big Nurse's ward! Drunk and running and laughing and carrying on with women square in the center of the Combine's most powerful stronghold! I thought back on the night, on what we'd been doing, and it was near impossible to believe. I had to keep reminding myself that it had truly happened, that we had made it happen. We had just unlocked a window and let it in like you let in the fresh air. Maybe the Combine wasn't all-powerful. What was to stop us from doing it again, now that we saw we could? Or keep us from doing other things we wanted? (4.3.120)

Getting drunk makes the hospital’s power seem less all-encompassing for Chief.

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