H is for Hands

| March 28, 2014

How our hands move—consciously and unconsciously—might evince more than we wish.


3. Learning Activity:

What the Hands May Say: an Examination of Dr. Spivey’s Body Language

While Dr. Spiney and McMurphy discuss Nurse Ratched’s presence among the staff and patients (Kesey 56-62), Spivey’s somatic responses to McMurphy’s evoking questions and assertions evince the profound degree of discomfort and complacency that Nurse Ratched fosters within the ward. Akin to the patients, Dr. Spivey is a victim of conformity and emasculation. In this lesson, students will examine the interrelation between Dr. Spivey’s body language and McMurphy’s tacit evocations.

Prior to class, students will have written about an emotionally taxing event in their lives; this affective self-examination requires students to first recount the event and then record how they react to the content of their work, paying specific attention to both their somatic and visceral responses. The educator assures confidentiality; students will not share their responses in class. This homework assignment endeavors to prepare students for examining how Dr. Spivey somatically and viscerally responds to McMurphy.

In class, the teacher will ask the following questions: To what extent is Dr. Spivey similar to the patients? How might, from what you have read thus far, Nurse Ratched affect these individuals? How does McMurphy foster or disrupt order within the ward? What does it mean to be a ‘man’ in Cuckoo’s Nest? Subsequent to this discussion, students will work in groups of three, looking at specific moments in this exchange between Dr. Spivey and McMurphy. Each group will be assigned the same passages. Students will first analyze the text individually, recording their responses; then in the form of a writing workshop, students will exchange their responses with their members. Students will offer feedback and potentially supply different readings on the same passage. For homework, students will reflect upon the extent to which conformity inhibits self-development. They will be expected to produce three paragraphs, examining their own lives, a patient’s in Cuckoo’s Nest, and a political figure’s in society.


Holding or the lack thereof.