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An Essay That Deals With Defining What Exactly Is The Combine In Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"

1145 words - 5 pages

The day Ken Kesey sat down at his desk and started to write his 6,500,000 copy best-selling novel "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" he decided to make the narrator, and the central character in the story, a 6'8" tall, paranoid, schizophrenic, native American named Chief Bromden. He pretends to be deaf and dumb, and is cagey enough to fool everyone in the ward. And throughout the novel Chief Bromden keeps talking about a Combine, which seems to have an everspreading effect that can and will eventually reach everyone. But when Ken Kesey was writing the novel he surely didn't intend readers to think of the Combine as a power-operated harvesting machine that cuts, threshes, and cleans grain1. By ...view middle of the document...

" (p101)Again the Chief goes on to mention the Combine and its effect on people, this time when McMurphy and the Chief talk for the first time in bed. The Chief tells McMurphy about his parents and how big his father was. But then he says to McMurphy, " The Combine. It worked on him for years. He was big enough to fight it for a while. It wanted us to live in inspected houses. It wanted to take the falls. It was even in the tribe, and they worked on him. In the town they beat him up in the alleys and cut his hair short once. Oh, the Combine's big--big. He fought it a long time till my mother made him too little to fight anymore and he gave up." (p187)Another time when the Chief mentions the Combine is when they were going on the fishing trip. During the drive to the harbour, the Chief says, " All up the coast I could see the signs of what the Combine had accomplished since I was last through this country, things like, for example--a train stopping at a station and laying a string of full grown men in mirrored suits and machined hats, laying them like a hatch of identical insects, half life things coming pht- pht- pht out of the last car, then hooting its electric whistle and moving on down the spoiled land to deposit another hatch." (p203)Through these descriptions the Chief tells us that the Big Nurse belongs to the Combine, a shadowy organization that seeks to regulate the world as completely as she regulates her ward. In general a combine can mean an organization working against the public interest; its more common usage denotes an agricultural machine. The Chief however combines the two meanings of the word and sees the Combine's sinister power in mechanical terms. It may be a fantasy, a symptom of his paranoia, but like his fantasies of the hospital, it also contains a great deal of truth about the way the modern world works3 .In other words, what Chief Bromden provides is a hallucinatory image of an all powerful, all seeing 'Machine'...

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