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We know the regular day nurse only through Joe's interpretations of the vibrations and touches that he feels from her. From these, Joe reasons that she is a heavier woman who knows her job well and has been doing her work for a while. The day nurse comes to seem like a gray-haired, maternal figure and Joe imagines that they like each other. When she comes into Joe's room he squirms to show his happiness and she pats him in return. This interaction is indicative of the place that the day nurse holds—she seems to treat Joe somewhat more like an animal than a human. Thus she is not mentally open to the possibility that Joe might be trying to communicate. The day nurse does not understand Joe's efforts to communicate through Morse code and becomes frustrated by his continual tapping. At first, she tries to alleviate what she perceives as his nervousness in a variety of ways, even going so far as to masturbate him once. As Joe's tapping continues and their mutual frustration grows, their relationship seems to sour, and Joe even envisions that she is abstractly holding him prisoner. As a caretaker, capable of great humanistic love, the regular day nurse stands apart from the terse medical establishment, represented by the Morse code man, yet is not capable of the perceptive sympathy of the new day nurse.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Johnny Got His Gun!