One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest By Ken Kesey Summary and Analysis Part 2: Just at the Edge of My Vision

Summary

The second section of this novel begins with the patients still watching the blank television screen. All except McMurphy, however, are completely aware of Ratched's anger. Even the orderlies and aides watch Ratched to see how she will react to the insubordinate behavior. Chief remarks that "there's no more fog anyplace," indicating that he believes McMurphy's rebellious behavior has removed it.

Chief is led to the staff room, where Nurse Ratched will conduct a staff meeting. Chief tells the reader that cleaning the staff room is a frightening chore because the staff emits poisonous and acidic gases and fluids. At times, Chief says, the staff is able to make a patient materialize on the table, "vulnerable to any fiendish notion they took."

The staff room is tense, and Nurse Ratched reacts suspiciously to Chief's presence. In a humorously and satirically written discussion, the staff debates what they should do with the impertinent McMurphy. The staff, described by Chief as "boys," attempts to anticipate Ratched's wishes by recommending that he be sent to the Disturbed Ward. Ratched disagrees, telling the staff that McMurphy is her responsibility and that she isn't prepared to admit failure this soon. She declares that McMurphy resembles Charles Cheswick, a man she says backs down when challenged. She reminds the staff that the length of McMurphy's stay at the hospital is entirely dependent on the determination of the staff based upon his ability to conform.

Analysis

Chief describes the hospital before the staff meeting that Nurse Ratched calls. Prior to the meeting, he states: "I notice all the machinery in the wall is quiet, like it's waiting for her to move," as if Nurse Ratched controls all of the hospital's apparatus, including all the staff members. This is contrasted with Chief's observation that "there's no more fog any place" when he enters the hallway, which gives the impression that McMurphy's actions have stymied Nurse Ratched and the Combine.

In depicting the meeting, Kesey satirizes the psychology profession as a group of individuals eager to ascribe Latinate labels to McMurphy's behavior.

Chief also uses temperature images to describe Nurse Ratched. Alternately frigid cold and scorching hot depending on her moods, both excessive temperatures indicate that she is somehow more machine than human. Prior to the meeting he recognizes, "It's a little cold where the nurse just went past, and the white tubes in the ceiling circulate frozen like rods of glowing ice, like frosted refrigerator coils rigged up to glow white." During the meeting, however, when she has the attention of the meeting members, she devises her plan to break McMurphy's spirit. When she decides what course of action she is going to pursue, she takes her first sip of coffee. Chief notices that "the cup comes away from her mouth with that red-orange color on it…. That color on the rim of the cup must be from heat, touch of her lips set it smoldering."

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