Analysis of ‘The Apartment’

The Apartment is a 1960 comedy produced and directed by Billy Wilder, who also wrote the screenplay with IAL Diamond. The film stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray, with Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, David Lewis, Willard Waterman, David White, Hope Holiday, and Edie Adams.

The film received widespread acclaim, and was the eighth highest grossing film of 1960. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning five: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing. Lemmon, MacLaine, and Kruschen were all nominated respectively for Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor; Lemmon and MacLaine won Golden Globe Awards in their categories.

The Apartment is considered one of the best movies of all time, ranking at #93 in the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies, which then moved up to #80 for the 10th Anniversary Edition. It ranked at #20 for AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs, and at #62 for AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions. The quote “Shut up and deal” was nominated for AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes.

Here is a link to quotes from the film.

The film’s central premise, that of an upwardly-mobile insurance clerk named CC “Bud” Baxter (Lemmon) allowing his senior coworkers to use his apartment to have extramarital affairs, is on many levels symbolic of capitalist exploitation. He often stays in the office late after normal working hours are over, working without overtime, because one of the men above him is fooling around with a woman in Baxter’s home, meaning he has to stay out until they leave.

This sense that his home is not really his home reminds us of another aspect of capitalism: landlords’ ownership of one’s home, putting one in the potential danger of being kicked out and thrown into the street. Indeed, early in the film, Baxter finds himself temporarily homeless one winter night because Mr. Dobisch (Walston) on short notice has picked up a woman in a bar who “looks like Marilyn Monroe,” and so he needs the use of the apartment; Dobisch also gives back the wrong key to the apartment, leaving Baxter out of his home even longer. Having been out in the cold, he ends up getting sick.

Why does he let these men walk all over him? If he doesn’t, his hopes of climbing the corporate ladder are sunk. Again, the cutthroat world of capitalism drives this pressure to compete. At the beginning of the film, Baxter’s is one among a sea of desks in the office, where the lower-ranking employees work; later, when promoted, he has his own, coveted office, but Dobisch, Kirkeby (Lewis), Vanderhoff (Waterman), and Eichelberger (White) all want the continued use of Baxter’s apartment, implying that if he doesn’t let them, they’ll bring him down just as surely as they brought him up.

Fortunately, Baxter will have the protection of his boss, Mr. Jeff Sheldrake (MacMurray). Unfortunately, that protection will come at a price–a spare key to Baxter’s apartment, so Sheldrake can bring his mistress there. To make matters worse, this mistress also happens to be Baxter’s crush at work–elevator operator Fran Kubelik (MacLaine).

The mistresses personify yet another aspect of capitalism: the exploitation of women. In a society that promotes worker alienation, it follows that women will be used for men’s sexual sport rather than appreciated as human beings. Dobisch et al are not only using Baxter as a kind of pimp; these married men are also using their mistresses as if they were prostitutes.

Their encroaching on Baxter’s apartment and his use of it in his free time is perfectly symbolic of how capitalists exploit the worker by extracting surplus value from him to generate profits. His apartment is symbolically (as well as literally, of course) what the office building is literally: private property, a place the capitalist uses to exploit workers and make profits from. Baxter’s home is thus a double for his place of work.

Even when at home alone, he still has capitalists intruding on his private life. He turns on the TV, hoping to enjoy Grand Hotel, a film starring Greta Garbo in which she says the famous line, “I want to be alone,” a sentiment with which Baxter surely would sympathize. The problem is that before the film even gets a chance to begin, it is interrupted by the program’s two sponsors.

His philandering boss’s and senior coworkers’ use of his apartment, symbolic of the extraction of surplus value, is significant in how this use of it is for sex, which shows how Marx can be fused with Lacan. Plus-de jouir, a term Lacan coined to express an aspect of his notion of jouissance–an excessive and transgressive indulgence in sexual pleasure–is derived from Marx’s notion of surplus value: one gains a sinful excess of sexual pleasure (i.e., cheating on one’s wife), just as a boss cheats the worker of the fruits of his labour (surplus value).

Still, a countercurrent is going on in the story. In spite of all the worker alienation we see going on, Baxter’s crush on Kubelik is the beginning of a bond slowly developing between the two. As coworkers, Baxter and Kubelik will build a mutual fondness that can be seen to symbolize worker solidarity.

This development is far from being a smooth one, though. First, when they have arranged a date to see The Music Man at the local theatre, she stands him up because Sheldrake, of whom she is–unbeknownst to Baxter–the latest in a string of mistresses, is taking her to the apartment.

Baxter forgives her for this because he’s happy to have been promoted and to have gotten his own office. Later, he returns a compact with a broken mirror to Sheldrake, knowing it belongs to his mistress because it was left in the apartment (in an argument with Sheldrake there, she threw it at him and broke it). During a Christmas party, after Kubelik has heard a drunk and chatty Miss Olsen (Adams), Sheldrake’s secretary and original mistress, tell her of all the women their boss has enjoyed, from Olsen to Kubelik, this latest, and heartbroken, mistress reveals herself as such to Baxter by letting him use that broken compact mirror so he can see how he looks in a new bowler hat he’s bought, now that he’s of executive status.

Marx and Lacan are again fused here in the form of alienation. Lacan’s mirror alienates one’s fragmented self (symbolized by the broken mirror) from the ideal-I in the specular image. Baxter would see his ideal-I (the new executive) in that hat in the mirror reflection, but the break in it shows his realization that he isn’t so great, because Kubelik is Sheldrake’s girl, not his.

Alienation from oneself in the mirror reflection can be seen as symbolic of alienation from one’s species-essence, as Marx called it. Kubelik’s heartbreak over falling in love with a married man who dangles promises before her of divorcing his wife so he can marry Kubelik, yet never keeping the promises, is an alienation of herself from herself, because she realizes she’s being used as his whore, when she’d rather see herself as his true love. Small wonder she likes how the broken mirror makes her look how she feels.

Not aware of the depth of her heartbreak and despair, and assuming she’s content to be Sheldrake’s mistress, Baxter leaves the Christmas party and goes to a local pub to drown his sorrows. A married woman there named Margie MacDougall (Holiday) gets his attention, hoping he’ll pick her up since her husband is stuck in Cuba over the holidays.

In a strange irony, Margie complains about Fidel Castro, calling him “a no-good fink,” for not releasing her husband, Mickie, from a Havana prison (a jockey, he was caught doping a horse). I bring this up because Cuba under Castro would provide largely universal housing and free healthcare, two benefits that could have helped Baxter avoid catching that cold, and could have freed his home from being a haven for his coworkers’ infidelities (Castro’s first name thus embodying yet another irony).

Baxter finds himself lowered to the level of lecherous Sheldrake, Dobisch, et al, taking Margie to his apartment for a tumble. He is experiencing a nadir of alienation, making him use a woman for his sexual sport (and helping her cheat on her husband), when deep down he just wants to have a real relationship with Kubelik. Another irony is that his neighbours and landlady assume that he’s an alcoholic ladies’ man, when it’s those other men that are drinking and philandering in his apartment.

Kubelik is in his apartment, too, to his surprise, since she’s had another argument there with Sheldrake earlier over his continued unwillingness to divorce his wife. Heartbroken, Kubelik has overdosed on sleeping pills and is lying on Baxter’s bed, unconsciously awaiting death.

Baxter has to kick Margie out and get his next door neighbour, Dr. Dreyfuss (Kruschen) to help revive Kubelik. It’s interesting how, in the process of helping her to recover, the sense of alienation is fading away, to be replaced with a sense of solidarity.

Dreyfuss assumes, as does her gruff taxi driver brother-in-law (played by Johnny Seven) later on, that Baxter has taken advantage of Kubelik, when actually he has been a perfect gentleman with her. He and the doctor nurse her back to health–with the help of the care and cooking of Mrs. Dreyfuss (played by Naomi Stevens), who also assumes the worst of Baxter–and he even plays the role of housekeeper for her as she recovers, suggesting the feminist ideal of men helping around with the household duties.

In all of these actions, which include the doctor not requiring any payment for helping Kubelik, we see, in contrast to all of the exploitation of the upper-level coworkers of Baxter, Kubelik, and the other women (all symbolic of capitalist exploitation), communal acts of kindness and charity symbolic of socialism (recall what I said above about that “no-good fink,” Castro). This growing relationship between Baxter and Kubelik is the solidarity that will free them of Sheldrake et al by the end of the movie.

A crucial part of this growing relationship, in the symbolic sense, is the gin rummy game Baxter and Kubelik play. What’s ironic about this game is that he is playing with her, but it isn’t ‘playing’ in the sense that the other men are playing with their mistresses. A genuine bond is developing between Baxter and Kubelik as she tells him, during the card game, of her bad luck in love, not just with Sheldrake, but with a number of men before him.

Baxter listens sympathetically, which is just what Kubelik needs. He has also told her about a suicide attempt he once made with a gun over similarly unrequited love for a woman who sends him a fruitcake every Christmas. In this growing mutual empathy, we see also their growing solidarity against Sheldrake and the exploitative capitalist system he represents.

On the other side of this growing solidarity and camaraderie between these two employees, there is also their growing attitude of rebelliousness against the philandering men who still want to use Baxter’s apartment. Kirkeby and his telephone operating mistress are rebuffed at the door to the apartment; Kirkeby and the other men get their revenge on Baxter by helping Kubelik’s brother-in-law find her at the apartment, where he punches Baxter for having apparently soiled his sister-in-law’s honour.

Baxter doesn’t mind the punch, though, since Kubelik’s kiss immediately afterwards tells him that she’s growing feelings for him, too. This encouragement will inspire him, on the doctor’s advice, to “be a mensch,” and give up his pimping use of the apartment…even to his boss.

Sheldrake has learned that it was the loose lips of his tipsy secretary at the Christmas party that pushed Kubelik to the desperate swallowing of those sleeping pills, so he fires Miss Olsen. She gets her revenge on him by telling his wife about his many affairs, so Mrs. Sheldrake kicks him out of the house. As we can see, this conflict between him and Miss Olsen, as with the conflict that’s growing between Baxter and Kubelik on the one side and Sheldrake on the other, is symbolic of the contradictions between the bourgeois boss and the proletariat.

The worker is promoted as a reward for his obedience to the powers-that-be, not so much for his abilities. We see this when Sheldrake promotes Baxter to an even higher position…expecting the key to the apartment in exchange.

Baxter, in love with Kubelik and sick and tired of being used for his apartment, defies Sheldrake by giving him the wrong key…the one to the executive washroom instead of the one to his apartment. This deliberate giving of the wrong key is an ironic repeat of Dobisch’s accidentally giving Baxter the executive washroom key instead of returning the apartment key. The sexual symbolism of a key going into a keyhole is obvious: in the use of Baxter’s apartment key, the adulterous men are screwing their mistresses (and their wives, metaphorically); they’ve also been screwing Baxter out of the use of his own home; now, Baxter is screwing Sheldrake back.

At a New Year’s Eve party in the Chinese restaurant, Kubelik is surprised to hear from Sheldrake that Baxter has quit because he refuses to continue acting as apartment pimp for his now-former boss, especially if such pimping involves her. Now, she could go the traditional route and marry rich Sheldrake (only to be replaced in turn by future mistresses). Instead, realizing that unemployed Baxter truly loves her, she runs out of the restaurant when Sheldrake isn’t looking and goes to Baxter’s apartment.

There, the popping of a cork on a bottle of champagne sounds to her, out in the hall, like a gunshot; she’s relieved when he opens the door with the bottle and with no bullet in his head. Again, we see growing sympathy as indicative of growing solidarity and love.

She learns that he is moving out of the apartment: indeed, the memories of the pimping have made the place unattractive. The two sit down and get out the deck of cards. He professes his love to her, but she’s sick of hearing the mere words of love–hence, her famous ending line.

Playing that game of gin ironically expresses true lovemaking, not the lewd acts of the lecherous playas and their mistresses, but a real making of love, a building of a relationship of mutual support and solidarity, symbolic of a union of workers in defiance of their exploitative bosses.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Six, Chapter 2

Furioso started with the ghosts of Alexa, her parents, Arlene and Jonas Frey, Boyd McAulliffe, his daughter, Tess, his wife, Sharon, Denise Charlton, her husband, Jack Drew, and their son, Jameson.

Come with me, he said to all of them. He flew off, and the group of ghosts all flew off after him.

They reached an area of Hell at the centre of which was a huge, round, red lake. The water looked like blood.

In you all must go, together, Furioso told them. Prepare for the greatest agony you’ve ever felt. Yet remember, this agony will end. Stay with it. Be patient, and endure.

The ghosts shared a collective dread for what they were about to experience. They all held hands in a straight line as they stood before the bloody lake, then they all jumped in together.

After being fully submerged in the red–which really was blood, the blood from all of their bodies from their physical lives, mixed together–the ghosts opened their eyes and saw visions of their pasts, with the sound included, as well as all their other senses. Only one didn’t experience one’s own past…one experienced the past of one’s victims. These moments would fade in and out with the slow movements of the bloody waves.

Boyd’s ghost found himself in that old science classroom during lunch break…only he didn’t see himself aiming a bottle-cap in a slingshot to hit Alexa in the face. Instead, he saw himself in her shoes playing chess, then feeling that bottle-cap hit her just under her left eye.

Just as he was experiencing this sharp irritation, Alexa’s ghost found herself in the bushes, hiding from Tess’s dad. She was Tess this time, and she felt the bullet from his gun hit her, just under her left eye.

They both felt the impact of the projectile hit them at the exact same time, and they both keenly felt the pain they’d caused each other.

In their visions, they both shouted out, “Jesus Christ!” in unison, at the exact same time.

Next, Alexa saw herself in Sharon’s position, walking up to her husband, Boyd, asking where Tess was. Then she felt that other bullet hit her in the face again, just under the left eye.

As Alexa’s ghost experienced that kill she’d goaded Boyd into making, Boyd felt the bottle-cap hit him in the face, in the exact same place again, at the exact same time. He also remembered his shooting of Tess and Sharon, how they were hit in the face at the exact same spot.

He put it all together when he saw a vision of Denise kicking Alexa in that classroom, only he was in Alexa’s body feeling the kicks. He remembered how Alexa and the other two bullied girls, whose names he’d forgotten, all went missing shortly after this bullying incident, all three presumed suicides.

He then saw a vision of being pushed into a mud and slush puddle just outside of their high school, again, him in Alexa’s body; then hearing everyone laugh at him, and feeling kicks in the gut from himself and Denise.

This was all my fault, Boyd thought. If I hadn’t pushed Alexa so hard, she wouldn’t have killed herself, gone to Hell, then made me kill my wife and daughter. We’d all still be alive. Oh, God, I’m so sorry. It was all my fault!

Alexa’s ghost not only watched and felt what had happened to Tess and Sharon, she felt Boyd’s reaction. It hit her hard to realize she’d hurt two people who had nothing to do with her score to settle with Boyd.

My God, Alexa thought. I was so filled with rage at Boyd that I didn’t think of how his daughter and his wife never did me any wrong. How old was that girl…ten? And I made him shoot her in the face with that bullet, and the same thing to his equally innocent wife. He hit me in the face with a bottle-cap, and I thought making him kill his own family, with bullets in the face, was a fitting way to get revenge? That was wrong, way wrong…

Boyd kept ruminating over what he’d done as he felt the presence of the ghosts of his wife and daughter. He felt their pain and they contemplated how his bullying of Alexa, a needless, petty bullying based on envy, led to her suicide and her brutal revenge on everyone he cared about. The whole family just felt the pain and shame shift back and forth among them like the moving waves of that lake of blood.

Alexa’s own pain, guilt, and shame joined theirs. The four of them felt their consciousnesses merge, making the experience of each other’s pain more and more intense and unendurable; yet they had to endure it all to get out of the endless pain of Hell. As they felt each other’s pain grow and grow, each felt his or her shame grow in the same proportion.

Now, as if this pain somehow wasn’t enough, the pain of the ghosts of Alexa’s parents, Arlene and Jonas, was now being added to embitter the pot even more. Alexa’s ghost saw the bedroom of her parents, transformed into that ovoid shape without windows, doors, or furniture. She saw Jonas, lying unconscious on the floor with blood pouring out of his head.

But she saw everything through her mother’s eyes instead of her own. She also felt her mother’s hunger. She saw the large carving knife and fork by Arlene’s feet on the floor; she picked them up.

Oh, no, Alexa thought. I’m about to taste my father’s flesh.

She looked down at Arlene’s stomach and saw it open into an empty black hole. She went over to her father’s body with overwhelming dread.

As she was experiencing this, Arlene’s and Jonas’s ghosts were in Alexa’s place, feeling the pain she’d felt from their lack of love or compassion for what their daughter had been through.

My God, Arlene thought. I really was a bad mother.

Me, too, Jonas thought. Arlene and I were so caught up in our own personal frustrations that we never took a moment to consider what she’d been going through. She was being bullied, and we blamed it all on her. We didn’t give her the emotional support she so desperately needed. No wonder she went crazy and killed us.

Alexa was tasting the bloody flesh on her father’s arm. She wanted to vomit, but she couldn’t. This was far too extreme a punishment to give Mom and Dad. What’s wrong with me?

Denise saw herself in Alexa’s body in that classroom, looking up at Denise kicking her. She saw herself getting pushed into the mud and slush outside of their high school. She felt Alexa’s humiliation. She felt the kicks to her gut.

As she was experiencing Alexa’s pain, Alexa’s ghost was in Denise’s home with the baseball bat, approaching Jameson. She brought the bat down on the boy’s head. The cracking of it on his skull coincided exactly with one of Denise’s kicks to Alexa’s gut. Both of them experienced each other’s pain, and Denise understood how the one caused the other. Alexa realized that her revenge was far worse than what had caused it.

Revenge made me into a monster, Alexa thought. That boy didn’t deserve that. Nor did Jack.

I did a lot of bad things in my life, Denise thought. Maybe Jack and Jameson didn’t deserve what happened to them, but I deserved it.

Mommy? Jameson’s ghost called out to Denise. Why did you kick that girl? Why did you make her hate you enough for her to make you kill Daddy and me?

His words caused a pounding pain inside Denise.

Alexa, in Jack’s body, just then felt the knife plunged into his gut.

What my wife did to you was bad, Alexa, Jack’s ghost said to her, but why did you have to punish Jameson and me as well as her?

These words cut into Alexa.

I’m so sorry, she said to him.

The consciousnesses of all of the ghosts–Alexa, Boyd, Tess, Sharon, Denise, Jack, Jameson, Arlene, and Jonas–were all merging into a huge mass of life experiences, memories, pain, hate, and remorse. They were truly suffering together, feeling compassion. Yet the pain only grew more and more torturous.

Boyd, for example, contemplated Alexa’s suffering from her parents’ emotional neglect for the first time. He’d never imagined how her own mother and father could have had such a callous attitude to the pain of the daughter they were supposed to love.

He’d only ever thought of his wounded pride, his envy of her getting into the Grade 8 gifted class, when he hadn’t been accepted into it. He now realized that we all too rarely consider the suffering of others; we’re usually focused just on our own.

Daddy, Tess’s voice called out to Boyd. Why were you so mean to that girl when you were a kid? What did she ever do to you to deserve that?

Hearing these questions stung in her father’s mind. He remembered Alexa, back in that science classroom, asking him, “What did I do to you to deserve that?” (the bottle-cap in the face) He remembered his answer to her: “You kept living.” Yet, when she was no longer living, she ended up being so much worse to him and his family. Her continued living, without his bullying and with more loving parents, would have spared his family’s lives.

All of the ghosts were feeling this kind of regret as they contemplated each other’s memories, a result of the continued merging of their nine consciousnesses. Individuality was fading. A collective moaning, wailing, and screaming in pain grew in loudness. Feeling each other’s traumas, more and more vividly with the merging, as if the traumas had been their own, was getting unbearable. Still, they knew this was the only way out of Hell.

Soon, there were no longer nine ghosts, but just that mass, that red blob of wailing pain. Then the redness dulled from its original fiery glow, dimming to a dull grey-red as the wailing did a slow decrescendo.

Finally, the grey blob started to fade away as the moans became barely audible, to not at all audible. The blob vanished.

Silence.

Non-existence.

Peace.

Analysis of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

I: Introduction

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a 1962 novel by Ken Kesey. Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the story is a critique of psychiatry and, in a larger context, of all tendencies to impose social control.

It was adapted into a Broadway and off-Broadway play by Dale Wasserman in 1963, starring Kirk Douglas as Randle Patrick McMurphy, with Gene Wilder playing Billy Bibbit. Danny DeVito, who played Martini in the 1971 off-Broadway play, would reprise his role for the 1975 film, which starred Jack Nicholson as McMurphy.

I’ll be focusing on the novel and the film, which–though following the novel fairly closely–was actually based on the play. The supporting cast of the film, which was co-produced by Douglas’s son Michael and directed by Miloš Forman, includes Louise Fletcher as the manipulative and subtly domineering Nurse Mildred Ratched (Fletcher won a Best Actress Oscar for the role, named the fifth greatest villain in movie history according to the AFI), Will Sampson, William Redfield, DeVito as mentioned above, Sydney Lassick, and Christopher Lloyd and Brad Dourif in their film debuts.

The film won all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay), the second film to achieve this (after It Happened One Night in 1934), and the third to do so not until 1991 with The Silence of the Lambs. It also won numerous Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards, and in 1993, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress. AFI lists it #20 on its list of the greatest films of all time in 1998, demoted to #33 in 2007.

Here is a link to quotes from the film, here are some quotes from the novel, and here is a link to a performance of the play.

II: Background to the Novel

To get back to the novel, it’s useful to know some of the historical context and background to its creation. It was published in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, so there was already a growing sense of antiestablishment thinking in the collective consciousness of the US at the time. There was also a controversial move towards deinstitutionalization in the 1960s, something that would have affected the characters in Kesey’s novel.

Kesey worked the graveyard shift as an orderly at a mental health facility in Menlo Park, California, an experience that, through his interactions with the patients and the staff there, obviously inspired his novel. He also experimented with such psychoactive drugs as LSD and mescaline there, as part of Project MKUltra. These mind-expanding experiences led not only to his advocacy of using the drugs recreationally, but also freed his mind in a way that influenced the antiestablishment attitude championed in his novel.

III: A ‘Mute’ Narrator

The arrangement of the main characters in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is strikingly contrary to what one would assume them to be normally, in terms of who wields authority and who cows under it, and who is central versus who is marginalized. Almost all of the patients–except for “Chief” Bromden (Sampson in the film), a half-Native American–are white men who are dominated, bullied, and controlled by, most of the time, women and blacks: Ratched and Nurse Pilbow, and the “black boys,” aides Washington (played by Nathan George), Williams (Miller in the film), and Warren. Though McMurphy’s the protagonist, Bromden narrates.

Bromden fakes being deaf and dumb in the hospital, which allows him to be privy to many of the machinations of the staff, who chat around him while assuming he can’t hear what they’re saying. His muteness is also symbolic of how the aboriginals of North America have been silenced by the establishment, the white settler colonial state that is embodied in, for example, the US and Canada.

…and yet, ironically, this ‘mute’ is the narrator of the novel.

His narrative style is noteworthy in itself, often switching back and forth between present and past tenses, as well as expressing himself ungrammatically in such ways as saying, “They should of knew better’n to…” (Kesey, page 4). This informal, non-standard English gives us a vivid sense of how Bromden is, in spite of having been a college student, just an ordinary, common man, as opposed to being a higher-ranking member of society. This proletarian-like commonness will be important in how he will eventually rise up and free himself, in a quasi-revolutionary way, from the societal prison that the mental hospital represents.

IV: An Upside-down World

That the white men are bullied by “the Big Nurse” (Ratched, of course) and the other nurses reflects another issue Kesey was concerned with: the emasculation of modern men in society. I see something broader than that in this, if you will, ‘matriarchal’ hospital with its “black boys” also pushing around the white male patients: as a reversal of the normal social hierarchy, life in the mental hospital, the ‘loony bin,’ “the Cuckoo’s Nest,” is a fittingly upside-down world, comparable in a sense to that of King Lear, in which a king is reduced to a mad beggar. Such an inversion of the normal…and equally deplorable…state of affairs in our society can be seen as a way to let our white male rulers know how it feels to be ruled by others. Both the normal and inverted worlds are mad worlds.

The nature of the hospital’s ‘matriarchal’ rule is aptly given in the maternal form of nurses telling the male patients what to do (Dale Harding–played by Redfield in the film–literally calls it a matriarchy–page 63). These men, in their afflicted mental states that are even further afflicted by the nurses’ manipulations, are thus reduced to the role of children. This is best seen in the whining and temper tantrums of Charlie Cheswick (Lassick), in his noisy demands for his precious cigarettes.

V: When ‘Helping’ is Harming

Psychiatry and psychotherapy are supposed to serve in healing patients so they can return to society in a healthy state and become happy, productive contributors to that society. The critique of this novel, however, is that far too often, the psychiatric profession is used rather to control the patients. Far too often, confronting the mentally ill is about treating them with contempt and condescension instead of with empathy and compassion.

I know from personal experience in my life how people in the role of ‘nurse’ can speak of one as ‘ill,’ pretending to be concerned about that person’s well-being, but really using the label of ‘ill’ to justify treating the person as an inferior to be controlled. Instead of giving the person the help he or she needs, as is the stated intention of the ‘nurse,’ this ‘nurse’ causes the patient’s sense of worth and autonomy to be gradually eroded.

Now, the bogus treatment of illness as a guise for social control can be of mental illness, as dealt with in this story, or it can be of physical illness, as many have suspected of the covid pandemic. Furthermore, there’s social control, disguised as ‘treatment,’ on the individual or local level, as seen in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and there’s such social control on the national and even international, imperialist level, of which the novel and film can be seen to be an allegory.

Having Bromden as the novel’s narrator is thus useful for the purpose of such an allegory. In some ways, such an allegory works in the film, too, even without Bromden as a voiceover narrator (an omission Kesey was most unhappy about in the film adaptation), as I’ll try to show.

VI: Beginning of the Film

The film begins with a shot of a scene in nature, with mountains, grass, and a car going down the road (presumably McMurphy being taken to the mental hospital) during a sunrise. The film will end with Bromden having escaped the hospital and going off into a similar natural background–with trees, mountains, and the sunset.

Throughout the middle, of course, has been life in the prison of the hospital, a metaphor for our sick civilization. We start out in the beauty of nature, whose life is interrupted by our oppressive, man-made civilization, and we’ll ultimately liberate ourselves and return to the beauty of nature.

That Bromden, our half-Native American, half-white narrator, is doing the liberating from that civilization is significant; for that very civilization is the white settler colonial state that robbed the North American aboriginals of their natural home, and it must be returned to them if full liberation for all–white, black, Latino, Asian, and aboriginal–is to be achieved.

VII: McMurphy, the Bad-but-good Guy

To achieve that liberation, though, a revolutionary agent needs to be introduced…and this is where McMurphy comes in. He may be a criminal, someone who “fights too much and fucks too much” (page 14), but it’s his gregarious, free-spirited, and rebellious nature that is just what the intimidated other men need to inspire them to fight for their own freedom.

The fact that our hero is deemed a psychopath and a statutory rapist, one who’s faking insanity to escape the prison work farm and, as he hopes, coast his way through his sentence in the mental hospital, is yet another example of the upside-down world of this story. A violent bad guy is actually the good guy.

One manifestation of this bad-but-good guy is when he meets Bromden. In the film, McMurphy mocks Bromden with an aping of the stereotypical greeting of “How,” then with the hand-over-mouth war cry stereotype. On the surface, McMurphy is indulging in childish, tasteless racist ‘humour,’ but he and Bromden will soon develop a close friendship.

Similarly, there’s ambivalence in calling Bromden “Chief.” On the one hand, it’s a racial slur; on the other, his father was the leader of his tribe, so handing down the title of “Chief” is perfectly legitimate (page 24), as explained by Harding. Yet another upside-down ambivalence is in how Bromden, weeping over McMurphy’s lobotomy at the end, lovingly smothers him to death with a pillow to free him from his wretched fate.

Now, in the novel, it’s towards the “black boys” that McMurphy at one moment shows a racist attitude, calling one of them a “goddamned coon” and a “motherfucking nigger.” He’s mad at them for forcibly delousing George Sorensen, one of the “acute” patients who has mysophobia and is visibly upset over the forced delousing (page 273). Even in this scene, McMurphy’s surface nastiness is obscuring a deeper compassion for the disadvantaged.

So, with every bad thing about McMurphy, there’s also something good; and the good things about him are far more noteworthy. As I said above, he is the one who will inspire the others, waking them all up from their psychological torpor–even Bromden–with his defiant, oppositional example.

VIII: The Combine

To repeat another point I made above, the mental hospital is a metaphor for the whole sick society we all have to live in. In the novel, Bromden has a special name for this repressive world exemplified by the hospital: he calls it the Combine. “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 nationwide Combine that’s the really big force, and the nurse is just a high-ranking official for them.” (page 192)

Yet another example of the upside-down world of the novel is how Bromden is in full realization of the evil of “the Combine”–which combines capitalism, white-settler colonialism, imperialism, and social repression–yet he has been diagnosed with clinical depression and schizophrenia, this latter involving psychotic breaks from reality. As with King Lear‘s “poor Tom” o’Bedlam, a homeless madman (as Edgar pretends to be) whom Lear, in the depths of his own madness, regards as a “Noble philosopher.” It’s the mad who are truly wise in this kind of world.

IX: McMurphy vs the Nurse

McMurphy takes an immediate disliking to “the Big Nurse” and her subtly domineering ways. He bets with the other patients that in a week, he “can get the best of that woman…without her getting the best of [him]” (page 73).

Getting the best of her won’t be easy, for part of how she maintains control over the ward is by exercising her authority through a near-perfect control of her own emotions, which we see fully in Fletcher’s brilliantly understated performance in the film. She rarely loses her temper, and in her self-control we see her confidence, a narcissistic False Self which in turn commands respect. With this command of respect for her as “the Big Nurse,” Ratched is able to effect a mother transference on all the male patients (on Bibbit in particular), which infantilizes them, ensuring her control over them.

Her power over them is so complete that McMurphy can’t even get the obnoxiously ‘peaceful’ music on the record player turned down a little bit, so he and the others can hear each other talking as they play cards. When he tries to get a majority vote so they can watch the World Series on the ward TV, she manipulates matters to include all the ward patients who know nothing of the vote; and by the time he gets Bromden to raise his hand and secure a ten-to-eighteen majority, Ratched has already adjourned the meeting and invalidated the majority. Ratched thus personifies the fake democracy of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

One of McMurphy’s more successful ways of getting to her is by taking note of her figure and large breasts. He is thus defying that maternal transference that she uses to subordinate the other men, defying the Non! du père that reconciles most boys with society’s rules.

Now, this defiance of le Non! du père is also understood, through Lacan‘s pun, as les non-dupes errent. That is, those people who are non-dupes err because, paradoxically, by not being duped by society’s phoney rules (represented by Ratched’s rules of the ward), the non-dupes go astray and mess things up (as McMurphy will for everyone during the drunken party at the story’s climax).

X: The Tub Room Scene

McMurphy’s determination to watch the baseball game is seen in the tub room scene, with the control panel that he foolishly imagines he’ll lift up and throw crashing through the window, then he’ll leave the hospital with Cheswick and watch the game on a TV in “any bar downtown.”

Significantly, during the tub room scene, we see Harding playing, of all games, Monopoly with some of the others (in the novel, the game is mentioned on page 114). Monopoly was derived from The Landlord’s Game, and both games essentially teach the players, if they’re paying attention, about the evils of private property, of capitalism, and of the suffering involved in paying up every time you land on someone else’s property. So symbolically, we see the connection of the hospital and capitalism with Bromden’s idea of the Combine.

…and if the hospital, capitalism, and the Combine are the prisons from which these men (and, by extension, all of us) need to be freed, then McMurphy’s attempt, however doomed to failure, to lift the control panel and bash it through the window, to liberate everyone, is representative of socialist revolution. This brief and failed attempt is thus like that of, say, the Paris Commune. Well, McMurphy tried, didn’t he? As with the Communards, at least he did that. Of course, at the end of the story, Bromden tries and succeeds, as the Soviets would succeed…for at least several decades, anyway, before the post-Stalin revisionists began the USSR’s decline.

XI: McMurphy, Therapist

Now, I’ve described McMurphy as liberator on the socialist revolutionary level of symbolic interpretation. There’s also him as liberator in terms of, if you will, psychotherapy. He inspires the others to defy Nurse Ratched’s authority, and he helps them to be more social, through card games, basketball, the push to watch the World Series on TV, the fishing trip, and getting timid Billy Bibbit (Dourif) laid with the help of Candy (played by Marya Small), one of McMurphy’s prostitute friends.

Getting Bromden to speak, to ditch his deaf-and-mute act, is perhaps McMurphy’s greatest therapeutic achievement, one that makes his racist mocking of Bromden, near the beginning of the film, fade into insignificance. As I said above, Bromden’s deaf/mute act symbolizes the silencing of the aboriginals by the white settler colonial state, which for him would be the most significant aspect of “the Combine.” McMurphy’s goading him to speak is thus a revolutionary helping of Bromden to regain his voice and his sense of self, a therapeutic cure as well as a remedy for anti-aboriginal racism. McMurphy is, in effect, achieving the ‘talking cure.’

XII: Bromden’s Silencing

From pages 210 to 215 of the novel, Bromden explains how he came into his habit of acting like a deaf mute: “It wasn’t me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all.” (page 210)

His act, this silencing of him, began long before the hospital. It was already happening when he was in the Army. It happened in grade school. It happened when he, ten years old, saw a car with white people arrive at his home, then inform his family of the government’s plan to put up a hydroelectric dam there, putting an end to their fishing. The white people would force it on the aboriginals one way or another. The Combine would force it.

My connection of the Combine with capitalism may seen tenuous or even made up to some readers, but what must be understood is that there’s a lot more to capitalism than just markets, as right-wing libertarians ingenuously (or rather disingenuously) try to reduce it to. As Marx explained, the social relations between the owners of the means of production, of capital, or private property, and the workers, who have only their labour as a commodity to sell, these relations are but the base. On top of this base is the superstructure: the capitalist state, the arts, the media, science (of which psychiatry can be seen as a part), religion, culture, the law, and education. The mental hospital can be seen as a part of, or as symbolic of, that superstructure. The Combine combines both the base and the superstructure.

An essential part of maintaining this Combine, the ideology of the base and superstructure, is racism, which keeps the proletariat divided and hating each other instead of working together in solidarity to overthrow the ruling class. Presenting “the black boys” and the nurses as bullying the mostly white male patients (granted, there are also the male psychiatrists, like Dr. Spivey [played by Dean Brooks], and the white male attendants, but these men intervene more occasionally in the story; in fact, Spivey seems to be ruled over by Ratched, too) is an ironic twist that nonetheless maintains the divide-and-rule aspect of the Combine.

Capitalism also expresses itself in the form of white settler-colonialism, an internal form of imperialism (i.e., within the territorial limits of the United States) that has affected Bromden his whole life, as mentioned above. Colonialism and imperialism, like religion, media manipulation, the law, the state, and education, are all forms of social control. The worst aspects of psychiatry, such as its use of drugs, are also forms of social control rather than of therapy. Anyone who tries to defy authoritarian psychiatry is looked down on as “ill” in order to deny him a voice, to deny him power.

XIII: Ratched’s Gaslighting

Hence, when Taber (Lloyd) doubts the validity of the medication he’s given by the nurses, Ratched says he’s chosen “to act like a child” (page 34) rather than listen to him, show him empathy, or validate his legitimate concerns (the film’s approximate equivalent of this scene substitutes McMurphy for Taber). Accordingly, Miss Ratched is “just like a mother,” according to a Public Relations man (page 37). Small wonder, as Bromden observes, “The ward is a factory for the Combine.” (page 40)

Part of Nurse Ratched’s way of dealing with rebellious McMurphy is to call him “McMurry,” something she does a number of times early on in the novel, and as I suspect, this isn’t a mistake. Her changing of his name sounds like a manipulative form of control, a gaslighting comparable to Petruchio‘s renaming of Katherina as “Kate” in The Taming of the Shrew. Ratched would tame McMurphy in a similar way.

XIV: Alienation

Since capitalism breeds alienation, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the ward, as symbolic of the superstructure, the Combine, also breeding alienation. We can see it in Taber’s taunting and antagonizing of Harding. Indeed, the discussion of Harding’s sexual problems with his beautiful wife, implying his repressed homosexuality, is more of a ganging-up on him and a bullying of him than any kind of therapy (page 56). Taber’s bullying of Harding, significantly, is resumed in the tub room scene, during the Monopoly game.

There’s alienation between people, and there’s also alienation within, the psychological fragmentation of people with psychotic mental states, people like Martini and Bromden, with their many hallucinations. During the basketball game, for example, when Martini has the ball, he tosses it to nobody, thinking he sees a teammate receiving it. Then there’s Bromden with his notion of the fog machine.

XV: Fog

He imagines that the fog machine, “bought from Army Surplus and hid in the vents” (page 131), is controlled by the hospital staff. Sometimes Bromden finds the fog to be frightening: “I’d wander for days in the fog, scared I’d never see another thing” (page 131). Such a fear sounds like an extension of his faked deaf/muteness, since this fog-induced blindness is something he’s mentally imposed on himself.

Actually, this fog is just a symbol of the bullying authority of the nurses and “black boys.” Just as his deaf/mute act is a result of the Combine silencing him, so is the fog machine a result of the Combine blinding him to his own worth, size, and strength.

The fog, like the deaf/mute act, isn’t a completely bad thing, though. Just as the deaf/mute act allows him to hide and listen to the staff’s secret schemes, so does the fog give him a safe place to hide from painful reality. And just as one might dismiss his fog machine and the Combine as loony conspiracy theories, they actually represent how perceptive he is of the power structures all around him.

XVI: Unity of Opposites

Remember that in the upside-down world of the mental hospital, opposites are united, so loony conspiracy theories are actually perceptive assessments of reality. Bromden is muted, weakened, and shrunken to insignificance, yet he’s also the narrator, a towering giant, and strong enough to lift that control panel in the tub room.

Similar paradoxes, as noted above, include bad boy McMurphy, who is ultimately the story’s hero, even Christ-like (more on that below). White male patients are dominated primarily by nurses and “the black boys,” when we know how things really are outside the mental hospital. And of course the hospital itself, though ostensibly a place to be cured of one’s mental demons, is actually a kind of prison–a worse one, in fact, than the work farm McMurphy came here to escape, for as he’ll find out, far from being released at the end of his original sentence, he’ll be kept here for as long as Ratched deems fit.

He is truly trapped in the mental hospital…potentially for the rest of his life, while he’s mentally the freest of everyone here. Most of the other patients–except for Bromden, Taber, and some of the Chronics–are voluntary, free to leave the hospital whenever they wish…yet mentally, they’re all too afraid to leave and face the real world outside, since Ratched is manipulating that fear.

XVII: Jesus McMurphy!

McMurphy therefore is, in many ways, a Christ figure in spite of his sinfulness. Just as Christ was crucified when he, as Pilate observed (Luke 23), had done nothing wrong, so is McMurphy trapped in this hell of a mental hospital when he’s the only healthy, if badly-behaved, one here.

In keeping with the theme of the unity of opposites in this story, we’ll explore other ways in which McMurphy is a bad-boy Christ. One obvious way is in his blatant, open sexuality, as contrasted with Christ’s saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 27-28)

Now, McMurphy looks on women lustfully all the time…including at Ratched, whose breasts he appraises by wondering, “did she wear a B cup…or a C cup, or any ol’ cup at all?” (page 208) In fact, his very effective therapy for Bibbit, in curing the boy–if only temporarily–of his mother-induced gynophobia, is to have him lose his virginity with Candy.

And just as Jesus suffered, so does McMurphy, first with the electroshock therapy, which he endures (lying on a “table shaped like a cross”–pages 131-132) as bravely as Christ endures the flagellation and the crown of thorns. And though McMurphy, in attacking Ratched in revenge for her having driven Bibbet to suicide, is doing the opposite of Christ’s loving His enemies and turning the other cheek, his ‘death,’ as it were, by lobotomy ends up being a sacrificial death that drives Bromden to pick up the control panel, smash it through the window, and show the way to freedom for all the patients.

McMurphy has the patients go fishing with him, an event that happens far later in the novel than in the film (Part 3, pages 208-256). This event, too, has far greater therapeutic value for the patients than all of Ratched’s manipulative efforts. In keeping with the Christ analogy, recall Matthew 4:18-20. ‘As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” And at once they left their nets and followed Him.’ Remember also the ichthys, the fish symbol of Christ.

Just as the historical Jesus, as a number of modern scholars have argued, was a political revolutionary trying to free the Jews of Roman imperialism (not the watered-down peace-lover meant to appease the Romans), so is McMurphy a revolutionary trying to free Bromden et al of the Combine. Furthermore, some Christian leftists believe “Jesus was a socialist”: I wouldn’t go that far, but certainly there are passages in the New Testament that are anti-rich. Consider Mark 10:25, Matthew 25:41-46, and 1 Timothy 6:10. So if McMurphy is like Jesus, his anti-establishment antics can be, in these ways, likened to socialist agitation.

XVIII: White Whale Underpants

McMurphy’s Moby-Dick shorts (page 84), a literary friend’s gift that he displays after undressing, are full of symbolism related to all I’ve said above about him as a sexual, bad-boy Christ. As I (and others) have pointed out, the white whale is a huge phallic symbol, a fact emphasized by its appearance on McMurphy’s underwear.

McMurphy’s link with Moby-Dick manifests itself in other ways. The whale represents wild, untamed nature, as McMurphy does. Indeed, as one uncorrupted by the mind-numbing social conformity that Ratched is imposing on the other patients, white McMurphy is more of a noble savage than Bromden could ever be stereotyped as–another example of the subverting of expectations of the novel’s upside-down world.

As a result of McMurphy’s unwillingness to be tamed, Ratched’s Ahab-like attempts to catch him ultimately bring violence on herself, as Ahab’s quest brings on his own self-destruction. In my Moby-Dick analysis (link above), I wrote of Ahab’s narcissism, his overweening pride and its mad refusal to accept how unconquerable the whale is; Ratched’s wish to control the patients and turn them against each other is similarly narcissistic in nature…malignantly so.

McMurphy is also like the whale in that he represents, as I argued in my analysis of Melville‘s book, the beyond-good-and-evil nature of ultimate reality, an ever-elusive, deep knowledge one can never decisively grasp. As such a personification of this ultimate reality, McMurphy is, like the white whale, God-like, and therefore Christ-like. Now, this God-like whale embodies evil as well as divinity, just like McMurphy as a bad-boy Christ. In these ways, we see again the unity of opposites in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

XIX: McMurphy–Socialist or Capitalist?

Now, when I associate McMurphy with socialist revolution, I’m sure I’ll get objections from readers who will cite the passage when Harding defends McMurphy’s “capitalistic talent” (page 266) at “making a little profit” from his gambling and the fishing trip. Nurse Ratched brings up McMurphy’s profiting as one of her many schemes to divide the patients and thus control them better.

It’s best to understand Harding’s defence of McMurphy’s ‘capitalism’ by emphasizing that it’s only the former’s interpretation of the latter’s intentions. In that passage, Harding’s defence of McMurphy’s “good old red, white, and blue hundred-percent American” capitalism is based on his not yet having been fully liberated psychologically from the prison of the hospital; he is still experiencing a kind of Stockholm syndrome as a result of the ongoing influence of, as he (ironically?) describes her, their “Miss Angel of Mercy Ratched”, who “is absolutely correct in every assumption she made…about McMurphy.” (page 266)

Furthermore, to use McMurphy’s ‘capitalism’ to debunk his socialism fails to think dialectically about the two opposing economic systems, as such assumptions mean forgetting about the upside-down nature of this story. McMurphy, recall, does bad things to promote good. He’s a bad-boy Christ figure, so it should be predictable that he’d promote socialist liberation through capitalism. As Harding notes, “We’ve all certainly got our money’s worth every time he fleeced us, haven’t we?” (page 266) Recall that McMurphy’s efforts have all been far more therapeutic than anything Ratched has done for the patients, regardless of the money he’s made off of it.

The promotion of socialism through capitalism is far from unheard of: the USSR did it through the NEP in the 1920s, and China and Vietnam brought back the market in the 1980s; indeed, China’s state-regulated use of capitalism, intended to boost the productive forces of the country, has lifted millions of Chinese out of extreme poverty, a feat achieved far quicker than the economic development of the “free market” has done for the global poor elsewhere. And the only meaningful liberation is the kind that ensures people are all fed, sheltered, employed, educated, and given healthcare.

XX: Menial Work

Remember that the mental hospital, with its staff’s subtle manipulations, bullying, and enforced conformity, is a metaphor for society in general. A part of this prison of a society is the menial jobs given to the patients, a proletarianizing of them, such as Bromden with his mopping of the floors (page 3), and McMurphy’s cleaning of the toilets (pages 159-160). He’s escaped the work farm only to end up doing latrine duty.

As a punishment for McMurphy’s gambling and ‘profiteering’ as discussed above, Ratched rations the patients’ cigarettes, which can be seen to symbolize low wages. So Cheswick’s protests about his cigarettes, escalating to McMurphy breaking the glass to the nurses’ station, taking a box of them, and giving it to Cheswick, is like a workers’ strike. The “black boys” taking the two men and Bromden to get electroshock therapy is thus like the police rounding up the strikers.

XXI: A Fog of Words

When Bromden hears, during a therapeutic meeting, talk “about Bibbit’s stutter and how it came about” (page 133), the words come out like a fog as thick as water. Normally, therapy is supposed to heal a psychiatric patient through the talking cure, as noted above; and Bibbit’s stutter is a symptom of his psychiatric problems, his inability to talk, with its origins in his relationship with his mother. As Bibbit tells Ratched, “The first word I said I st-stut-tered: m-m-m-m-mamma.”

Ratched’s therapy, of course, is the opposite of a talking cure; instead, it’s a talking infection. Small wonder Bromden experiences the discussion as a fog. It’s just another manipulation of the Combine.

XXII: The Oedipal Basis of Ratched’s Matriarchal Rule

Within all patriarchy, including the patriarchal family, there’s a small nucleus of matriarchy. I don’t mean to promote MRA thinking here; I’m just discussing the dialectical nature of sex roles and the power systems revolving around them. The father bosses around the family, while the mother more directly bosses around the kids. A transference of such a relationship has occurred between the nurses and the patients.

Such a transference has been most potently achieved in Billy Bibbit, a thirty-something with the psychological development of a little boy. As part of McMurphy’s therapy for the young man, it’s been arranged for him, during their naughty party at the story’s climax, to lose his virginity with Candy and thus ‘make a man of him.’

When he’s been discovered in bed with Candy and he has to explain himself to Ratched, he briefly loses his stutter: a temporary cure of his gynophobia–brought on by his domineering mother, who’s presumably as narcissistic as Ratched–has become his talking cure.

…but that fog of words comes back as soon as Ratched brings up how much the boy’s mother will disapprove of his little sexual indiscretion, which the Big Nurse, his mother’s close friend, will assuredly tell her about.

The power Bibbit’s mother has over him–extended by transference over to Ratched–is based on his Oedipal need for her to love him back. Normally, a mother’s authority over her children is expressed in a benign, loving way…not so if she has pathologically narcissistic traits.

The boy, already prone to suicide and hence his being in the hospital, is so fearful of losing his mother’s love that, knowing Ratched will never refrain from telling her of what he’s done with Candy, he slits his throat in Dr. Spivey’s office.

XXIII: Conclusion–Big vs Small

In the upside-down world of this story, physically big people are often psychologically small, and vice versa. Bromden is, of course, the primary example of this paradox. As he explains to McMurphy, whom he regards as psychologically huge despite his smaller physical size, Bromden speaks of his physically big father who was shrunken down to size by Bromden’s white mother and the Combine. They worked on his father, they’ve worked on him…and now they’re working on McMurphy (page 220).

Why do some people have confidence (i.e., are big), and others lack it (are small)? Not so much because of innate abilities, or lack of them, but because as I argued here, there are people (emotional abusers, white supremacists, the bourgeoisie, colonialists, imperialists, etc.) who work on the small. Such working on is what One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is all about.

Sometimes we fight back, as when McMurphy chokes Ratched for driving small Bibbit to suicide. McMurphy’s violent act is a revolutionary one, since revolution is of necessity a violent act. When revolutions fail, though, the insurrectionists are sternly punished, as is McMurphy.

Ratched isn’t left unscathed: her injury from the choking leaves her unable to speak; instead, she communicates by writing on a pad, which of course is far less effective for manipulating the patients (page 321). Most of the voluntary patients have left the hospital; of those who went on the fishing trip, only Martini, Scanlon (played by Delos V Smith Jr in the film), and Bromden remain. The others left because Ratched no longer has power over them. She has been silenced, as Bromden was; she has shrunken from big to small.

As I said above, though, her reduction to smallness hasn’t been left unpunished. For his scurrilous behaviour, McMurphy has been lobotomized, a punishment compared by Harding to castration: “Frontal lobe castration.” (page 191)

Since the Lacanian phallus is a signifier, McMurphy’s symbolic castration is a silencing of him, too. As a new ‘vegetable,’ he no longer speaks. He’s forever in the fog.

He’s been made small, but Bromden, touched by his Christ-like sacrificial act, is inspired to “feel big as a damn mountain.” Bromden can’t bear to see his friend in a state of living death, so he smothers McMurphy to death with his pillow. McMurphy must come with him out to freedom, if not in body, then in spirit.

Bromden’s picking up of the control panel and smashing it through the window is his revolutionary act of liberation. He’s breaking free not just of the hospital, this metaphor for conformist society, but also of the Combine. At the end of the film, we see him going off into a background of nature. He’s freed himself of the white settler colonial state, and so the world around him looks as it did when the aboriginals were the only ones living there.

Now, this symbolic liberation is not just for the Native Americans, but for all of us together. Recall that McMurphy is coming with Bromden in spirit; also, Bromden is white on his mother’s side. The true liberation of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, etc., is a liberation from capitalism, imperialism, and white settler colonialism…the Combine, the combination of all of these. To fly over the cuckoo’s nest, we must replace the Combine with federations of post-colonial states that, while allowing equal civil rights for people of all colours, are also acknowledged as belonging to the indigenous peoples of those places.

To be big, we must sometimes let others be big, and let ourselves be smaller.

Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, New York, Berkley, 1962

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Three, Chapter 2

Tess ran and stumbled through the grass, bushes, and fallen twigs in the forest. She fell to the ground a few times and got some mud on her jeans and jacket.

“Oh, shoot,” she whispered when she saw the mud on herself. “Mom and Dad are gonna be mad about that, for sure. Oh, well…”

She heard the shot of a rifle farther off.

“That must be Daddy!” She ran in the direction of the gunshot.

**************

Boyd frowned as he saw the deer run away.

“Shit,” he whispered. “I hate it when I miss.”

Indeed, Mr. Marksman, as had been his nickname ever since high school (in fact, long before he’d even hit Alexa in the face, just under her left eye, with that bottle-cap in his slingshot), almost never missed. Each miss, as rare as it ever was, wounded his pride terribly.

He shuffled through the grass in the direction that deer ran in. He looked all around, but couldn’t see it, or any other deer, anywhere.

“Dammit!” he whispered. “I’ll find you, deer, soon enough.”

***************

Tess had been running and running, falling in the mud again and again, knowing full well her dad and, especially, her mom were going to be really mad at her for getting her clothes so dirty. Still, she was giggling the whole time.

She didn’t care what punishment was coming her way. She was having fun.

She was going to meet with Daddy, and they were going to play some more. Her spirit guide promised her.

She heard another gunshot. It was louder and closer.

That was Daddy again, she thought. I must be almost there. I’d better be really quiet. I want to surprise him.

She crept in the direction of the gunshot, careful to make as little noise as possible, then hid in the tall grass and bushes.

***************

“Goddamn it,” Boyd whispered as he watched another deer run away. “I missed again.” This was two misses in a row. As rare as missing a target was for him, two consecutive misses were especially rare…and in his opinion, humiliating.

He went after that deer, being as quiet as he could.

I never miss like that! he thought. Those two opportunities I just had were easy hits. I had my target locked, both times. It doesn’t make any sense that I missed them. You’d think there was an evil spirit out here making me miss.

Actually,…

He now saw a deer feeding off of the leaves of a bush not too far off. It didn’t look like the other deer (or two) he’d shot at and missed, but it was a deer, all right. A rather small one, a particularly sweet and innocent-looking one, the kind that normally aroused his sense of compassion and mercy.

But with his wounded pride, mercy was the last thing on his mind at the moment.

Sorry, sweetie, he thought as he brought up his rifle to take aim. But I’m hitting you. And nothing…and I mean nothing, is gonna make me miss this time.

***************

Tess looked through the leaves of the bush she was hiding behind. She saw her dad in profile, aiming his rifle to her right, about ninety degrees from her position. He was clearly aiming at a deer out there somewhere; she looked out far to her right to see if she could see the deer.

She couldn’t find it anywhere out there, no matter how hard, or how far out to the right, that she looked.

Where is it? she wondered. Daddy seems to be aiming at nothing, if it’s a deer he wants to shoot. I guess the deer is too far out there for me to see.

She could see him keeping his aim and staying perfectly still.

Why doesn’t he just shoot? she wondered. Surely he’s aimed long enough. I wanna jump out and surprise him so badly. She was about to rise.

No! her spirit guide whispered in her ear. Don’t move at all. Wait for him to take his shot, then surprise him. If you startle him, he’ll miss the deer and get mad at you.

“OK,” Tess whispered.

Dammit, Boyd thought. The deer moved a bit, right when I was about to shoot. Good, it’s still again. Don’t move, you: I don’t wanna miss again.

He had the deer’s head right in his sights. He took a few slow breaths. The deer was perfectly still.

This is it, he thought.

He pulled the trigger ever so slowly.

POW!

Blood splashed from the head in all directions.

But it wasn’t the blood of a deer.

Not one second after the bullet struck did he see the brown fur of the deer change into Tess’s brown jacket.

Not one millisecond after he fired the shot did she see him change, from firing ninety degrees to her right, to firing straight at her face.

“What the–?” he whispered, with a chill going all the way up his spine to his head. He went closer to get a better look.

The bullet hit her just under the left eye.

“Jesus Christ!” he screamed.

He fell to his knees, just a few feet by his daughter’s bloody body. He shook for several minutes, his eyes wide open to see what they couldn’t possibly have believed they were seeing. Then, finally, he began sobbing.

“It was a deer!” he screamed. “I saw a deer! Not…my…dear!…” He continued bawling.

****************

“Tess?” Sharon called as she entered the woods. “Tess, where are you?”

****************

“What did I do to deserve this?” Boyd sobbed.

I am what you did, Alexa’s voice called out to him.

“What?” he said, his head swinging around in all directions to find a voice that seemed to have no body.

I told you I was gonna get you, the voice said.

“Wait,” he said. “Is that the voice…from my dreams?”

Yes, Alexa said, her ghostly apparition showing itself to him from his left. She was grinning.

He swung in her direction, pointing the rifle at her.

“Alexa,” he grunted. “I always hated you.”

And only now do you have good reason to.

“And now I’m gonna kill you,” he said, aiming for her face, his trigger finger more than itchy.

You can’t kill a ghost, you moron, she said, grinning nonetheless at the prospect of tempting him into more foolishness.

“No, but I can shoot at you to make me feel better.”

Are you sure you’ll feel better? Maybe you’ll feel worse. Remember what happened the last time you pulled the trigger.

“I didn’t see as clearly then as I do now.”

Are you sure about that, asshole?

“Shut up!” He fired.

Again, as soon as the bullet reached its mark, Alexa’s apparition disappeared, replaced by the person who really got the bullet in the head…just under her left eye.

“Sharon!” Boyd screamed as he saw his wife’s body fall to the ground. Now, he was bawling twice as loudly. “Alexa, you fucking bitch! I may have bullied you back in school, but I did not deserve this!”

Alexa’s ghost reappeared. Then shoot me, she said.

“And who will I kill next? Did you lure my mother here?”

Shoot, and find out.

He just stood there, frozen in a mix of stupefaction and despair.

If you don’t shoot me, who will you shoot?

Finally, he made up his mind. “Oh, you’ll like this, for sure!”

He put the end of the rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

***************

Over the following weeks, journalists, as well as everyone else who knew Boyd, puzzled over what the reason could have possibly been for such a happy, successful businessman to want to destroy himself and his loving family.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Two, Chapter 1

Arlene and Jonas Frey gave up their search for Alexa after a week, leaving it to the police in exasperation.

One day, in the late afternoon when Alexa’s mother and father had both just got home from work and were hungry for supper, they felt a strange compulsion to go upstairs to their bedroom and close the door behind them. They sat side by side on the bed and stared at their reflection in the dresser mirror.

They just sat there and didn’t move, their stomachs growling.

It felt as if some outside force was controlling them.

After several minutes of doing nothing else, Arlene finally felt free to open her mouth.

“What…are we doing in here?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Jonas said. “We should be…cooking dinner.”

“It’s like…something is holding us here,” she said.

Something is holding you here, a hoarse voice said.

Arlene and Jonas yelped and jerked at the disembodied voice.

“What was that?” he said in a trembling voice.

Me, the voice said, revealing the speaker in the mirror reflection. It was a spectral version of Alexa, pale with disheveled hair and a menacing frown.

“Oh, my God!” Arlene said. “The stress of her disappearance is making me see things!”

“Alexa?” Jonas said.

“You see her, too?” Arlene asked.

You both see me because I’m really here, the ghostly apparition groaned. She wore a tattered black dress, and had dark rings around her eyes, the irises of which glowed red. Her parents no longer saw themselves or their bedroom in the mirror reflection: the background of Alexa’s ghost was a void of infinite black.

“What happened to you, honey?” her father asked.

“Did you kill yourself?” her mother sobbed, tears forming in her eyes.

I’m not your honey, the spirit said, scowling malevolently at both of them. You never gave me the love and support I needed when I was being tormented at school. Now, you two are receiving your punishment.

“Our punishment?” he asked, shaking.

You are to remain in your room without supper.

“What is this nonsense?” he said, then finally with all his freedom of movement returned to him, he got up and walked over to the bedroom door. “You don’t get to decide if we can–

On touching the doorknob, he got an electric shock so powerful it threw him across the room. He hit his head on the wall, just under the windowsill, so hard that it knocked him unconscious.

“Jonas!” Arlene screamed, shooting up on her feet like a rocket.

He isn’t dead, Alexa’s ghost said. But he will be.

“Alexa, you little bitch! You stop this now!

You’ll be dead, too…’Mother.’

“Stop this nonsense, right now! I’m your mother!”

How will you make me stop it? You were never a real mother to me. He was never a real father to me. If you had been, if you’d shown me some compassion, I’d be with you at home now, eating supper together. Instead, you both will do without food…’til you die!

Arlene went over to Jonas, seeing the blood pouring from the wound on his head. She got an old T-shirt from his dresser, one he rarely, if ever, wore anymore, and wrapped it around his head to control the bleeding.

Then she looked up at the window above him.

When she reached up to open it, the whole room transformed into a surreal structure without windows or doors. She screamed and jumped at the sudden change.

“I am seeing things,” she whispered to herself. “I’m going out of my mind.”

Instead of the bedroom being a cubic rectangular shape, it was now ovoid. The furniture had all disappeared. No longer was there the room’s original light blue paint and blue-and-white striped wallpaper with flower motifs; now it was white with swirling light brown stripes everywhere…and the curved stripes were slithering like snakes!

“I’m going mad,” she whispered in sobs. “Jonas!”

She looked down at him and shook him. Her stomach was growling more and more, as if her hunger was being sped up to feel more like a few days’ hunger rather than that of a few hours. Jonas wouldn’t wake up…but his flesh was beginning to look…tasty.

“No!” she said, slapping herself. “I can’t let myself think that way. That bitch-ghost wants me to.”

You will want to think that way, Alexa’s ghost hissed.

“You little bitch!” Arlene shouted. “I wish I’d never given birth to you. My pregnancy was an accident, you know. I wish Jonas and I had decided to abort you! You’re lucky we’re Catholic!”

That unmotherly attitude is why you must die, the spirit said. If you’d loved me, the way parents are supposed to, we could have all been friends.

Her stomach growled even louder. “Oh, God!” she said. “I’ve got to eat something. I’m dying of hunger.”

There’s meat right next to you…Mother, Alexa said.

“You shut up, Alexa!” Arlene shouted. “How could Jonas and I have produced such a little beast?”

By being beasts yourselves, of course, the ghost growled.

Arlene looked down at still-unconscious Jonas, whose skin was looking sweeter and sweeter. Then she looked at her ever-growling stomach, which looked as if it were caving in from emptiness and malnutrition.

“What the–” she began in sobs. “I thought starvation causes a swollen belly…or is that just in kids? What’s happening to me? What…black magic…are you bringing on me, you bitch?”

You’ve done it to yourselves, Alexa said. You two are self-destructing. Now, enjoy your meal.

Arlene’s stomach was caving in even more. Soon, a huge empty black hole appeared where her stomach should have been. The pain and discomfort from having no food was overwhelming.

And Jonas’s body was looking delicious.

A large carving knife and carving fork appeared by her feet.

She picked them up.

She looked at her unconscious, scrumptious husband.

Her eyes widened, she salivated, and licked her lips.

“I’ve…gotta…eat,” she hissed, her energy beginning to be drained away.

His eyes opened a few millimetres.

“No,” she said hoarsely. “My dinner…must stay still.”

She stabbed the carving knife into his throat.

His lifeless body slumped on the floor, a red river flowing from his neck. Not that she, in her hallucinating state, noticed–she removed the shirt off his back, then stuck the fork in his right arm to hold it still. Then she used the knife to cut off thin slices of his flesh.

She looked at the slices as if they were Thanksgiving turkey. She put a piece in her mouth.

She moaned with pleasure as she chewed on it.

Alexa’s ghost grinned as she saw her mother continue slicing off her father’s arm flesh, stripping it right down to the bone, and eating it all…both arms, eventually.

Now fully sated, Arlene came out of her hallucination and back to her senses. Eyes agape, she gasped. Shaking, she screamed over and over again at the sight of all that blood, the gash in his throat, and his bare bones.

“Oh, my God!” she sobbed. “Oh, my God…What have I done?!” Now that the bedroom had returned to its original inner decor, she looked through teary eyes at the dresser mirror and saw her gloating ghost of a daughter.

Did you enjoy your meal…Mother?

“You!” her mother hissed at the mirror image. “You…little…b–no, ‘bitch’ is not nearly a strong enough word. You’re a demon. You’ve been ruining my life…and your father’s…ever since your misbegotten life began!”

If you hadn’t thought of it as ‘misbegotten,’ this would not have happened to you, Alexa’s ghost said. Good mothers are supposed to love their children, not despise them.

“So, I was a bad mother, is that it, Alexa? Fine! This should make you very happy!”

The knife was still there. Arlene plunged it into her guts and fell to the floor beside Jonas.

Alexa just kept on grinning.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part One, Chapter 4

The Hamilton Spectator

Three St. Thomas More Schoolgirls Missing

by Tonya Mills

Alexa Frey, 17, Megan Fourier, 18, and Tiffany Ferry, 17, students of St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, went missing as of last Sunday night. It is assumed they all ran away from home as a result of constant bullying at school.

Don Murray, 51, principal of the high school, asked some of those accused of the bullying, in particular Denise Charlton and Boyd McAuliffe, both 18, what they had done lately that may have provoked Alexa, their victim, to have run away. Though on Friday afternoon when school was finished, they’d shoved her into a mud and slush puddle, kicked her several times and spat on her (according to eyewitnesses), they denied having done anything else to her since then.

Those who’d bullied Megan and Tiffany also denied having done anything to those girls since they’d been reprimanded the previous Friday morning.

The girls’ parents have shown nothing but dismay at what they deem their daughters’ “wayward” ways.

“That girl has been nothing but one problem after another,” said Alexa’s mother, Arlene Frey, 52. “First, she can’t keep from provoking her classmates to pick on her. Then, she trudges slush and mud all over my carpet on Friday afternoon, and now my husband and I have to search all over the place for her. I’m at my wits’ end here!”

“That wayward girl is always getting mixed up with boys,” John Fourier, 55, said of his daughter Megan. “I’ll bet she’s run off with some boy, who’ll mistreat her and dump her. Then she’ll be lost. With any luck, I’ll find her soon enough. But she’s always been trouble.”

Tiffany’s mother, Alice Ferry, 49, had this to say: “That girl has always been a burden. She gets her classmates mad at her, they break a chunk of ice on her head, and I have to clean up all the blood on her. Now she pulls this on me. When’s it going to end?”

Disturbingly, the only traces left of the three girls before their disappearances were: a razor blade on the side of a filled-up bathtub in Alexa’s home; a bottle filled with John’s sleeping pills on the bathroom sink in Megan’s home, when her father hadn’t touched them Sunday night; and a kitchen knife in Tiffany’s bedroom.

Yet the three girls never used these items.

The girls just disappeared instead.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part One, Chapter 3

“You shouldn’t have antagonized them, Alexa,” her father said in their living room an hour after she’d gotten home. “They’d have left you alone if you’d kept quiet.”

“What?” Alexa shouted. “So, it was my fault? The principal made me tell him who did it, Dad!”

“Don’t you raise your voice at me, young lady,” he said.

“You side with my enemies, and you’re surprised at my shouting?” she yelled.

“Oh, go to your room, and without supper, if you’re gonna give me that attitude!” he shouted.

“Yes!” her mother shouted. “If you hadn’t provoked them, you wouldn’t have gotten slush all over my carpet! Go to your room and stay there–yes, without supper–’til you change your attitude!”

“You don’t love me at all!” Alexa shouted in sobs, then stomped up the stairs.

“Oh, listen to that melodrama,” he said.

“If your stamping of your feet makes marks on those stairs, you will be cleaning them, not me!” her mother shouted, just before the slamming of Alexa’s bedroom door.

She dropped on her bed, sobbing and sobbing. Then she looked up at her dresser mirror; but she got a shock when she saw, instead of her face in the reflection, a split-second flash of the red-skinned man.

***********

“You shouldn’t have finked on those kids,” Tiffany’s mom said in the bathroom, a half-hour after washing Tiffany’s clothes. Her mom took a wet cloth to the blood on Tiffany’s hair. “If you’d kept your mouth shut, I wouldn’t have to do all this cleaning away of your disgusting blood.”

“Your sympathy for my plight is touching, Mom,” Tiffany, sitting in the bathtub, hissed with a maximum of sarcasm.

“What did you say to me?” her mom said in a threatening tone. “Maybe I can leave you to clean yourself, you ungrateful little brat.”

Tiffany bit her tongue.

A tear ran down her cheek.

She looked over at the bathroom mirror. Instead of seeing her reflection, she saw a brief flash of the man with bright, devil-red skin looking back at her.

She yelped and jerked her head back.

“Tiffany!” her mom shouted. “Stay still! This is hard enough as it is!”

Another tear ran down Tiffany’s cheek.

*************

Megan had been lying on her bed, shaking and crying non-stop for almost an hour before her father knocked on her door.

“Supper’s almost ready,” he said. “Hurry up.”

“I don’t want any,” she sobbed.

He opened her door. “What’s this nonsense?” he said as he approached her bed. “I just cooked your dinner. Not get down there and eat it before it gets cold!”

“I’m not hungry,” she sobbed.

“Oh, I see,” he said. “You had some…meat…earlier today, and it…filled…you all up, didn’t it? Well, that serves you right for giving yourself up too easily.”

“Dad, I just got raped!” she screamed, getting up from her bed.

“Your punishment for being too easy. I warned you…”

“Oh, I wouldn’t expect my own father to sympathize, since you yourself raped me when I was twelve!

He smacked her so hard, she flew over to the other side of her bed.

“You were punished today for being a little slut,” he said, playing with his zipper. “As you were when you were twelve. Now, get downstairs and eat your dinner before you get punished again!” He left her room.

I’m a ‘slut,’ she thought, because Mom ran off with another man. You, Dad, didn’t have her around to call a slut, so you took it out on me. You can get it up only if you have total power over a girl…like me.

Her face soaked with tears, she looked up at her bedroom mirror and saw a split-second flash of the red-skinned man in the reflection.

*************

WE’RE GONNA GET YOU.

This is what Alexa saw on her computer screen when checking her email on Saturday morning. The sender was anonymous. Her heart thumped; she twitched in her chair.

“Mom! Dad!” she called from her room, a tear running down her cheek. “Please, come here! I’m scared!”

“Oh, what’s your problem now?!” her mom yelled.

“Can’t I watch the game in peace?” her father yelled from the living room as he watched a video on his computer of a hockey game he hadn’t had time to watch on TV the night before.

I guess only I can solve this, she thought, with a thought of her dad’s razor blades; then she twitched again to see the red face in the monitor reflection.

*************

YOU’RE GONNA GET RAPED AGAIN.

Megan read this on her cellphone early on Saturday afternoon. As soon as she saw the anonymous message, she dropped her phone on her bedroom floor; luckily, it hit a soft rug and didn’t break. She let out a loud yelp as she let go of it.

Her dad heard her from his bedroom. “What’s your problem now?” he barked.

Knowing she’d get no sympathy from him, she kept her mouth shut.

Luckily, he didn’t inquire any further.

She began sobbing. She looked in the mirror, and gasped at the sight of the red man.

*************

WE’RE COMING AFTER YOU.

Tiffany jumped in her chair at the dining room table when she saw this anonymous message in her email on an iPad.

“Oh, my God!” she sighed, then began sobbing.

Her mother–on the sofa in the living room, which was next to the dining room and without a separating wall, so Tiffany was in earshot–said, “What are you blubbering about now?”

“I wouldn’t expect you to care, Mom,” Tiffany snapped.

“What did you say to me?” her mom hissed.

Tiffany got up and took her iPad to her bedroom.

“Yeah,” her mom said. “You get out of here if you’re gonna give me that attitude.” She heard Tiffany slam her bedroom door. “That’s it, slam the door, ya spoiled little brat!”

**************

WE’RE GONNA GET YOU.

YOU’RE GONNA GET RAPED AGAIN.

WE’RE COMING AFTER YOU.

Alexa, Megan, and Tiffany respectively got these anonymous email threats repeatedly over the weekend, an average of about one every three or four hours each day until bedtime. Their parents continued to show no sympathy.

By Sunday night at about 11:00, the three girls were ready to end it all. Alexa was filling her bathtub while getting a razor blade ready. Megan swiped a bottle of at least sixteen or so of her dad’s sleeping pills from the bathroom medicine cabinet. Tiffany took a kitchen knife to slash her wrists in her bedroom; she wanted to give her mother a pool of red to clean up.

About to get in the water, Alexa looked down in it and saw the red man’s face again.

Megan closed the door to the medicine cabinet and saw his red face in the mirror.

Tiffany’s teary eyes looked in her dresser mirror and saw his face.

“Who are you” all three girls said…at the same time.

“I am a chthonic spirit,” he said.

The confusion on the girls’ faces indicated that they didn’t know what chthonic means.

“I’m a spirit from the underworld, the land of the dead,” he said.

“You’re a devil?” all three girls said, at once again.

“Yes, but that shouldn’t bother you,” he said. “You’re about to kill yourselves, which you know as Catholics will send you straight to hell. I’d say you’re emotionally prepared to deal with devils, aren’t you?”

“What do you want?” all three asked together again. It was as if their identities were fused.

“I want to help you,” he said.

“How?” they asked.

“My name is Furioso,” he said. “Since all three of you are about to commit the sin of despair, and give up the hope of salvation, perhaps you’d like it if I helped you get revenge on all your tormentors, including your so unloving parents.”

The girls, now seeing not only Furioso, but also each other in the reflections, were…for the first time in a long time…grinning.

“I can help you make them all share your pain. I can drag them all down to Hell, where you three, as demons, can torment them for all eternity. You will be their bullies, for a change.”

The girls’ grins widened.

“What’s more,” he went on, “I can make your exit from this world far less painful than the exits you were planning. Join me, and as a trio of spirits, you can unleash your fury onto the world.”

Suddenly, a crimson vortex appeared before each of the three girls, a portal into Hell. Alexa saw her bathtub water transform into a red whirlpool. Megan and Tiffany saw such bloody whirlpools form on their bathroom and dresser mirrors.

They each felt a tugging, pulling their trembling bodies forward, which they at first resisted. A swarm of moaning voices from the whirlpools seemed to be warning them, “No!…Don’t!”

“Whose voices are those?” the girls asked in unison.

“Don’t worry about that,” Furioso said. “Just let yourselves be pulled in, and be the spirits of vengeance, punishing the guilty of the Earth. The wrongdoers of the world deserve to be punished, don’t they? Aren’t you tired of evildoers getting away with their crimes? When have you known God to intervene, even after your most fervent prayers? You were going to kill yourselves and go to Hell, anyway. Now, stop hesitating. Come in!”

The girls continued to tremble before the vortices and the moaning of No.

“Come in, and claim your rightful revenge!” he called out.

“OK,” the girls said in a synchronized, tremulous voice.

They leaned forward and let themselves get sucked into the red hole, screaming the whole way.

They landed in a pit of infinite darkness.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part One, Chapter 2

There was no way Alexa could have hidden the bruises on her face, or for Megan to have hidden the green paint splattered all over her blouse. The teachers and principal were going to get an explanation, one way or another, and the girls’ reluctance to tell on their tormentors, for fear of reprisals, didn’t stop the school authorities from finding out who was responsible.

Tiffany, on the other hand, wanted to tell on her bullies. She wanted to share her pain with Fay and George, no matter what the consequences would be afterwards.

The teachers and principal paid lip service to how they’d protect the three girls from any revenge attacks from their bullies. The girls didn’t believe a word of these promises.

That’s because the promises of protection really were nothing more than promises.

The girls had never been protected before…why would they be protected now?

On the very day that Denise, Boyd, Lynne, Fay, and George were reprimanded–as well as given empty warnings of further punishments if any of them hurt the girls again, warnings so empty that not one bully even flinched–they all went to work on their revenge, each achieving it right at the end of school.

Alexa was walking outside when Denise and Boyd saw her from behind. It had just finished raining, melting away some of the snow on that late February afternoon, so slush puddles were everywhere, with mud and slush patches where students had trampled away the snow and grass on either side of the walkway outside the school entrance.

Denise and Boyd sneaked up behind Alexa. Just as she was passing a mud and slush puddle, they shoved her, making her fall into it and making it splash everywhere.

An eruption of laughter from students all around the area burned in Alexa’s ears. She hadn’t even had time to look up and see who’d pushed her before she felt a few kicks to her gut.

“That’s for splashing mud and slush on me, dyke!” Denise said after giving Alexa a third kick.

“And for getting it on me,” Boyd said, kicking her in the leg.

As Alexa was getting up, Denise aimed her fist at the muddy girl’s upper right arm. After punching it five times, Denise said, “Thank you. I feel so much better now!” She walked away.

Boyd spat on Alexa’s face before following Denise.

Alexa closed her eyes…and thought she saw a man with devil-red skin looking at her for a split second. First, I was hearing whispers, she thought. Now, I’m seeing things.

**************

Tiffany went out the way opposite where Alexa had left, for she was anticipating some nastiness from Fay and George, and hoping they’d go out one of the ways most everyone else went. The coast seemed clear: some teachers were walking about, too; so if those two were hiding out and planning a revenge, the teachers would be there to stop them…she hoped.

She went past where all the cars were parked, seeing no students (let alone bad ones) among any of them, so she assumed she was safe. She took a relaxed walk in the neighbourhood of houses nearby, dodging the piles of slush and ice that hadn’t yet been melted.

She couldn’t hear Fay and George behind her, for they were being so quiet and so good at hiding that they were able to make her hypervigilance useless. They found a block of ice on the sidewalk, where Tiffany had just walked by. They picked it up and followed closely behind her.

They raised the block of ice–almost brick-shaped and as big as their heads combined–inches above her head, then dropped it, hitting her on the top-back of her head. She didn’t hear them laughing or running away because she was unconscious, staying that way for about ten minutes, and lying on the slushy sidewalk with no one to help her.

In a brief dream, she saw the same red face watching her.

*************

Megan was late leaving school; in fact, she deliberately waited for Lynne and Herman to leave first. In gym class, she saw Lynne finish her shower, get dressed, and leave before Megan even began taking her own shower. While showering, Megan assumed that Lynne was hooking up with Herman and leaving school with him.

She was right about the first part.

No sooner had Megan, having finished her shower, wrapped a towel around herself, than she saw Lynne standing by the entrance to the shower area with a malicious smirk.

Megan let out a short, piercing yelp.

“Nobody’s here to hear you, bitch,” Lynne said.

“What d’you want?” Megan spat back in a shaky voice.

“To settle the score with you, of course,” Lynne said. “I don’t appreciate you getting me in trouble just because you’re jealous of me being with your crush…a guy who’d never want you in a million years.”

As Megan walked out of the shower area and into the changing area, she saw Herman standing in front of the locker where her clothes were.

She let out another yelp of terror, and held her towel tighter around her torso.

“Well…,” Lynne said, “maybe my boyfriend will want you…just this one time.” She grabbed at Megan’s towel, and after a struggle, she tore it off the dripping wet and shaking girl, leaving her naked and trying to cover her breasts and crotch with her hands.

“C’mon, Lynne!” Megan screamed in sobs as the other two laughed at her. “I don’t deserve this!”

“I don’t care whether you deserve it or not,” Lynne said smugly as Herman walked up to Megan. “I just wanna see him do it to you.”

“Lynne!” she screamed as he grabbed her and struggled to get her on the floor. “You’re a…fellow female! You can’t…sympathize…with a guy…doing this…to one…of us! Ugh! He’s your…boyfriend! You want him…cheating on you?”

“Oh, I won’t be jealous, like you,” Lynne said as Herman, now on top of supine Megan, unzipped his pants. “Your body is nowhere near as good-looking as mine.”

“It’s good enough for me, though,” he said, whipping it out. “Just this once. You wanted me, Megan? You got me. This is for getting my girlfriend in trouble.”

“I’ll indulge him this one time, Megan,” Lynne said, that malignant grin never leaving her face, “just to watch him traumatize you.”

Megan screamed from the sharp pain of his entry. She could hear Lynne laughing as he carried on inside her. She closed her eyes, seeing not Herman’s face, but a red one.

*************

Over the weekend, none of the three victims’ parents showed any interest in their daughters’ suffering.

The sight of Alexa covered in mud got one blunt comment from her mother as soon as the girl walked in the front door of the house: “What the hell happened to you? And now you’re getting that crap all over my carpet? Go take a bath!”

Tiffany’s mother was similarly annoyed to see her daughter’s clothes covered in slush. “Oh, look at what you did! Now I have to clean that all up! Get out of those clothes so I can wash ’em. Hurry!

In her annoyance, Tiffany’s mother never bothered to notice the blood spot on the back of her head.

Megan was still shaking when she got home. Her father saw her pass the living room, where he’d been watching TV, and go upstairs to her bedroom. Though he got a clear look at her frowning face, he didn’t consider it worth his trouble to see how wet it was with tears.

I’ll bet she’s just having more boy troubles, he thought as he turned his head back to the TV. The little slut just keeps asking for it.

Alexa lay in the bathtub, stunned. Why doesn’t anybody care? she wondered.

Tiffany sat on her bed in her underwear, stunned. Why doesn’t anybody care?

Megan sat on her bed, stunned. Why doesn’t anybody care?

All three girls saw repeated flashes of the red-skinned man before their faces.

I care, he whispered in their ears.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part One, Chapter 1

Boyd McAuliffe hated Alexa Frey so much.

Well, it isn’t that he hated her so much that he regarded her as not worth the tiniest bit of consideration or compassion.

Actually, if you were to trace his bad attitude to her right back to the beginning, you’d discover that he envied her for having gotten into the gifted students class back in Grade 8, when he hadn’t.

Sure, that was a good enough reason to hate her.

That was a great reason to regard her as non-human.

That was all the reason he needed.

That was the best reason in the world…

…wasn’t it?

Anyway, right now, in one of the science classrooms during lunch break, when Alexa was concentrating on a chess game with another, equally unpopular student named Sal Moon, Boyd was aiming a bottle-cap in his slingshot, right at her face.

And he had another excellent, perfectly honourable reason to be doing it.

He wanted to impress Denise Charlton, the pretty, shapely redhead who also happened to be one of the biggest troublemakers in St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, in Hamilton, Ontario.

Alexa was debating in her mind which move to make. Should she trade pawns? Doing so didn’t seem to serve any purpose, except that Sal was just going to trade with her anyway, and that would have opened up her castle and exposed her king. What to do?

Meanwhile, Boyd was taking aim from the other side of the room.

Alexa could have moved her white queen diagonally two spaces to the front and right to put Sal’s black king in check, but he could have just moved it one square to his left and out of danger. It would have been another useless move that wouldn’t have helped her at all.

Boyd was steadying his hands; his aim was just about perfect.

Her knights, side by side, to the left and behind the centre squares, and with three of her pawns in front of them, were also useless. Her rooks, on the back row, had nowhere to go, either.

Boyd’s aim was perfect. Ready to shoot. Take a few slow breaths in and out, and…

Alexa thought, I’ll bet Karpov could figure out a brilliant way to proceed. With my mediocre talents at the game, though, I–

The bottle cap smacked her just under the left eye. The sting burned.

“Oh, Jesus Christ!” she shouted.

“I didn’t do it,” Denise said with a smirk that showed she was nonetheless entertained by it.

“Oh, sure you didn’t, you fucking bitch!” Alexa spat back, remembering the many other times Denise had been the one who ‘did it.’

“What did you call me?” Denise said, getting up and approaching Alexa. “I’ll kick your ass.”

“You heard me,” Alexa said, though avoiding Denise’s eyes.

“C’mon, Alexa!” Denise said, saying the name with mocking contempt and balling her fists.

“Oh, don’t be such a suck! Miss Dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it.”

“I didn’t do it, ya ugly dyke!”

“Then WHO DID?!”

Boyd looked back at her, smiled, and waved at her.

“You prick!” Alexa shouted. “What did I do to you to deserve that?”

“You stayed alive,” he said.

“And now, you can apologize to me!” Denise said.

“Alright,” Alexa said, “I’m sorry you’re alive.”

Denise stomped over to her, her fists ready to swing.

“You stay away from…!” Alexa began, before getting a fist on her chin, knocking her off her chair.

As Denise gave her kick after kick to the gut on the floor, Alexa lying in the foetal position, Boyd walked over to get a better look. As he saw Alexa writhing in pain, he smiled.

Sal, too scared to get involved and thus become their next victim, got up and left the room.

As Alexa continued receiving kicks from Denise, as well as getting her long, wavy blonde hair pulled by Denise, she looked up at that smiling prick who’d started it all. All she could think about was how badly she wanted to get revenge on the two of them.

She was sure that the stress was making her hear things, because she would otherwise have sworn she’d heard a voice whisper, I can help you get them.

****************

Later that afternoon, in the halls, Megan Fourier was walking to her locker when she saw Lynne Hendricks, a pretty, curvy, and buxom brunette, but also one of the head mean girls in St. Thomas More, holding hands with Herman Schubert, one of the most handsome football players in their school, and also a guy Megan had had a crush on for years, though she was too shy to tell him or even hint at it.

Lynne knew how Megan felt, though. Megan had once confided in her about this.

The couple kissed before walking into art class together. Megan, frowning, followed them in.

As Megan walked through the doorway, she saw Lynne look back at her and grin, gloatingly.

Megan went red with rage.

“You bitch,” she hissed at Lynne. “You wrapped your legs around him on purpose.”

Lynne saw a big can full of green paint on a table. The lid was off. She picked up the can and turned to Megan.

“I can fix that red face of yours,” she said.

She threw the green all over Megan’s face and blouse.

Her eyes squinted shut from the paint; she heard a tidal wave of laughter all around her.

“She’s green with envy,” Lynne said.

The laughter continued. Megan opened her eyes.

Herman was laughing, too.

I wanna get that bitch soooooo badly, she thought. But what can I do?

A male voice whispered in her ear, I can help you get her…and him.

She looked to her left in surprise.

No one was standing there.

****************

Tiffany Ferry was in math class at about the same time as when Megan’s misfortune had happened. A short, chubby brunette named Fay Oliphant was walking by Tiffany’s desk when she looked down and saw her calculator lying by the edge.

Fay brought her fist smashing down on the calculator; Tiffany was too shocked by the suddenness of Fay’s action to get mad. Knowing no one in class liked her, Tiffany felt she could do nothing other than cower in response.

Mocking an answer she’d heard Tiffany give, with what seemed far too much pride, in their previous physics class, Fay said, “Force equals mass times acceleration!”

Those half-dozen or so students who’d also been in that physics class laughed. Tiffany, of course, didn’t laugh at all.

She’d wanted…but didn’t have the guts…to say, And you have plenty of mass, don’t you, Fay?

George Kelly, a boy sitting in the row of seats in front of Tiffany’s, looked back at hers and said to the kids sitting by her, “I feel sorry for you guys, having to sit next to a wimp.”

The math teacher entered the classroom. After twenty minutes of teaching, and having given the students a set of math exercises to do, he walked out of the classroom: Tiffany’s protection was gone again.

Focused on writing her exercises, she never bothered to look up and see George aiming a triple-A battery with an elastic band at her face. He’d heard of Boyd’s glory with Alexa earlier that day, and had hoped to emulate it here; he got her in the shoulder.

“Oww!” Tiffany shouted.

“Shit,” George said. “I meant to get her in the face. Well, at least I hit her.”

She heard an explosion of laughter from all directions.

“I’ll get her,” Fay said from behind. She had her own elastic band, with a marble aimed at Tiffany. “Tiffany Ferry, which should be spelled F-A-I-R-Y, called me ‘Fay Elephant’ last week. She’s gonna get this upside the head.”

Having had enough, Tiffany looked back at Fay with a scowl. “You know,” she said, “I was wrong to have called you an elephant. You’re really a shithead.”

Fay scowled back and fired the marble, but Tiffany ducked out of the way.

“Oh, well,” Fay said, getting out of her seat. “I’ll just have to get you upside the head another way.”

Fay punched her hard in the shoulder several times, then gave her a punch in the back of the head, and then returned to her seat just in time before the teacher returned.

“Tiffany F-A-I-R-Y,” she said when she got to her seat, “if you squeal to the teacher, you’ll get it worse, I promise you.”

I can make it even worse for Fay and George, if you let me, that same voice whispered in Tiffany’s ear.

I’m going nuts, she thought. I’m hearing things.

How Does the Non-dupe Err?

I: Psychoanalytic Punning

Lacan wrote a lot of useful and relevant topics, but he did so, unfortunately, using a prose style that can only be described as…impenetrable.

To take his notion of The Name of the Father, for example, this is a concept best expressed in the original French, as I typically present it: le nom du père. I use the French not to be pretentious, but to get people to see the nuances that the English translation doesn’t convey. Those nuances help to tease out more of the meanings of the concept.

For example, Lacan made two plays on words with le nom du père that the English cannot parallel: these puns are le Non! du père and les non-dupes errent. Again, on the surface, such playing around with French may seem pretentious and self-indulgent on Lacan’s part, but all three of these similar-sounding expressions bring out a lot of hidden meaning in what he was trying to say.

The nom (“name”) in le nom du père represents the legalistic aspect of the concept. In nom, I hear an interlingual pun on νόμος, or “law” in Greek. The non in le Non! du père represents the prohibitive aspect. So, the father (or, the second parent, he or she who intervenes in the dyadic, Oedipal relationship with the first parent), in laying down the law against the child’s wish to indulge in the transgressive pleasure of jouissance with his mother, is saying, “No! You mustn’t indulge in your Oedipal fantasies with your mother…she is my wife!

Apart from the prohibition against incest with her, the child must also give up on his wish to remain in a one-on-one relationship with her, to have her as the only person in his life, to hog her all to himself, to have her as a metaphorical mirror of, and an extension of, his narcissistic self. The child must be integrated with the greater society, which is who the father, as the third person in this set-up, represents: to go from a relationship with one other to many Others.

II: Going With, or Against, Society

So, the father’s (or second parent’s, as against the Oedipally-desired first parent’s) introduction of laws, or what’s more accurately understood as social rules, customs, culture, and a shared language, helps the child in his or her initiation with society. Now, initiation into society includes a confrontation with its illusions and hypocrisies, which one may or may not be duped into accepting.

If one accepts the phoney social charade, or is even duped in to believing that it’s real, one tends, in varying degrees depending on one’s intelligence and talents, to succeed in life. One has learned, socially, how to play the game. If, however, one does not accept the charade, and one is not duped into believing that the charade is real, then one tends–again, to varying extents depending on how well or how poorly one’s competencies can compensate–to fail to climb the social ladder. These social successes or failures are what Lacan meant with his second pun on le nom du père, the paradox that is les non-dupes errent.

So in Lacan’s paradox, we can be both wise and foolish at the same time, but in opposing ways. If we’re the dupes of social convention, believing its illusions are real, we won’t err, because we’ll benefit from playing the social game. If we’re non-dupes, though, we will err from the straight path that leads to those benefits–generally material and those of social status–that come from social conformity.

We can call this paradox, if you will, the ouroboros of social conformity, to return to my dialectical symbolism of the coiled serpent, which I’ve used in many previous blog posts to describe the paradoxical unity of opposites. The serpent’s biting head is one extreme, the bitten tail is the opposite extreme, and the length of its coiled body represents all the intermediate points between the meeting opposites.

To apply this concept to les non-dupes errent, if we’re duped too much by the hypocrisies of social convention, our drive to do well will push us to succeed and rise high in society. Such has been the success of our phoney, lying politicians, our trendy, Top Ten pop stars, and our virtue-signalling Hollywood celebrities, among many others. Those who know how to play the game and manipulate the system to their advantage do well…because they’re so thoroughly duped by it, totally believing in the illusion; and provided they have a decent amount of ability (and good connections!), they’re motivated to work hard enough to succeed socially and materially.

These successful people have gone all the way up the coiled length of the ouroboros that they’ve not only reached the biting head of success, they’ve also gone past it, over to the bitten tail of being extreme dupes. They’ve not only been taken in by the deception, to its maximum; they’re addicted to the illusion, and when confronted with the unreality of their world, their cognitive dissonance is so great that they’ll fight tooth and nail to defend their cherished illusion.

Then, on the other hand, there are the non-dupes who err. These ones are so contemptuous of society’s hypocrisies, they despise the masquerade so much, that they refuse to participate in it. Refusing to go along, though, they also don’t get to enjoy the rewards of the system. As a result, they slide down the coiled length of the body of the serpent and reach the pain of its bitten tail. These ones are like Diogenes the Cynic, or in modern times, persecuted journalists like Julian Assange. In their martyrdom and suffering, though, they go past the bitten tail and reach the biting head, which for them represents the honour of keeping it real.

Of course, there are also those who are everywhere in the middle, on the coiled length of the ouroboros’s body. These ones are some combination of partly duped, partly erring, and therefore moderately succeeding or failing to varying degrees.

As for me, I’ve learned that les non-dupes errent has been, for good or ill, the story of my life.

III: Erring in a Toxic Family

When you’ve been raised in a family with a narcissistic parent, as I was, you live out a life with a phoney narrative built up around it. By the time you finally wise up to it (which tends to be around when you’re in your late thirties to early forties), the psychological damage has already been done.

The phoney narrative has a cast of characters that the narcissist narrator has established, a set of roles the members of the family are assigned and manipulated into playing: the narcissistic parent, who has absolute power and is idolized, practically canonized as a saint by the family; the codependent other parent, who, like everyone else in the family, doesn’t dare challenge the narrative for fear of reprisals from the narc parent; the flying monkey siblings, the chief of whom is the golden child (the dupe to end all dupes), who is favoured the most for having pleased the narc parent the most, and the lesser flying monkeys, who are the lost children, given less attention and feeling relatively invisible, but who are at least not the despised one.

The despised one, however–the scapegoat, or identified patient–is the one who defines the dysfunction of the family for being the one who flouts its rules and incurs the wrath of the narcissistic parent. This last family member is the non-dupe who errs. He or she sees past the masquerade that the rest of the family is putting on; he or she is the black sheep who sees through the family bullshit. His or her blunt honesty about the phoney situation, refusing to be duped, gets him or her in trouble; he or she errs into the realm of emotional abuse.

As I’ve discussed in a spate of blog posts, I was the scapegoat of my family. As the sensitive empath, I saw through the phoniness of their presentation of themselves as a ‘respectable,’ and ‘loving’ family. My attempts to expose their charade got me black-balled by them. I was not duped, and I erred from the path they all went on together. They, the duped, didn’t err: they all ended up with better-paying work than mine, and with the respect of their peers.

No good deed goes unpunished.

And as the Marquis de Sade observed in his prose, the wicked prosper. Such is the world we live in.

IV: The Non-duped in School

Similarly, in high school we see our classmates grouping together based on common interests, usually based on their musical tastes, through which these adolescents derive their fragile sense of identity. In the 80s, when I was a teen, there were the metal-heads, or rockers; there were the New Wavers; there were the Goths, and other fans of what was then considered ‘alternative rock’; and there were the fans of mainstream pop and rock, those who included the hero jock football players and their pretty, princess girlfriends.

Then you had people like me, who didn’t fit in with any of those categories, partly because I was too awkward to make it with any of them, and partly because I simply didn’t want to be one of them. I built my own identity around listening to prog rock, modern classical, and avant-garde music. In other words, I rejected the phoney conformity of my classmates. Not being duped by their fashionable posturing, I erred…into the realm of being bullied.

V: Meandering and the Media

Another area where, paradoxically, the dupe doesn’t err and the non-dupe errs is in that of the global media, 90% of which in the US is controlled by only six corporations who, therefore, get to decide, based on their class interests, what is and isn’t newsworthy; and elsewhere there are repeats of what is reported in such dubious sources as the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse, based in New York, London and Paris.

Much of the global media, including The Guardian, CNN, and many others, is given huge donations from Bill Gates (Don’t get me started on him!), meaning that he can decide on the nature of their content, which will ensure maintaining a positive public image for him.

It is in these contexts that we can understand the contrast between the journalism of Assange and someone like Vanderbilt oligarch heir Anderson Cooper, who worked for the CIA for two summers while in college. The latter is a dupe who doesn’t err, while the former is, as mentioned above, a non-dupe who has erred.

For his work in maintaining the phoney political and social narratives of our time, being himself a dupe of them as well as duping millions of brainwashed CNN viewers around the world, Cooper has done well for himself financially and in terms of social standing. For telling the truth about our corrupt political world, though, Assange is incarcerated and in poor health.

VI: Roaming from the ‘Rona

The fact that the mainstream media is so reliably mendacious is the context in which we should place most reporting on the ‘rona. That millions have been plunged into poverty during this pandemic, while the oligarchs have seen their wealth skyrocket, should give us all pause. And this is all because of a virus that, if you were to catch it, would cause you in most cases to have from zero, to mild, to moderate symptoms, or in a small percentage of cases, more serious symptoms, or death in less than 1% of cases: this reality is more than enough to raise serious doubts of what we’re being told.

As I’ve stated previously, I’m no “anti-vaxxer”; rather, I’m opposed to the mandates. Those of us who are resistant to the machinations of those who are exploiting this pandemic for the sake of their own material gain, we are the non-dupes who err. We refuse the jab as an expression of our civil rights, and because we have legitimate doubts of its efficacy at best, and its safety at worst. Because we won’t be duped by the media, we err, that is, we lose work and the ability to go where we wish. The compliant ones, whom we see as the dupes, they don’t err: they can go about and work as they wish, imagining there’s no dog leash around their necks because they never attempt to walk beyond the length of its reach.

VII: Erring Commies

A final manifestation of the non-dupe erring that I’d like to discuss is he or she who has a realistic understanding of capitalism. The dupe of neoliberalism has a blind eye to how the hell we’re undeniably living in has been caused by the aggravation of class conflict through the unholy alliance of the bourgeoisie with the capitalist state that protects their interests. This dupe insists that the mere existence of a government and its regulations precludes the possibility of our woes having been caused by capitalism, the only ‘true’ form of which is, apparently, the “free market.” By playing the neoliberal game, however, these dupes tend to fall in line, believe in the spurious notion of the ‘American dream,’ work hard for their bosses, get promotions, and achieve at least a reasonable level of success. They don’t err.

We non-dupes, however, we communists, are standing in the rain, as Michael Parenti once observed. We put our jobs on the line; we’ve historically put our lives on the line. Contrary to the right-wing propagandists’ notion that communists hunger for power, we want the power to end hunger. If we’d truly lusted after power, we’d join forces with the Rockefellers and Kissingers of the world (as the dupes who don’t err do); instead, we non-dupes who err find ourselves in, or at least sympathizing with, countries that have to endure economic sanctions and embargoes, as well as threats of invasion.

VIII: Conclusion

So, though the non-dupe errs, he or she can be consoled with the fact that, straying from the straight path that leads to material success, he or she at least isn’t selling his or her soul to the system. Our suffering should be seen as a badge of honour, for we have an integrity and a sense of principles that the duped who don’t err will never have. We’ve erred past the bitten tail of the ouroboros, the realm of failure and defeat, to reach the serpent’s biting head, where we can proudly say that we’ve never allowed ourselves to be deceived.

Keep on erring, non-dupes. Progress is not possible without it.