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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest | Study Guide

Ken Kesey

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest | Part 1, Chapter 11 | Summary



Bromden is caught in the fog, but nobody else in the ward seems to be bothered by it, particularly McMurphy. McMurphy has other things to worry about. He proposes changing the TV schedule to watch the World Series at the end of the week, but only Cheswick backs him up. Billy later explains that it's not worth it in the long run to cause such a fuss over a baseball game. McMurphy is so angry that he takes all of the Acutes' money during the next card game.

McMurphy tries to rally support for his World Series proposition once more, the day before the first pitch, but the conversation turns to a means of escaping the ward. McMurphy bets the other men that he can throw the tub room's control panel through the reinforced, unbreakable mesh window screen. Despite the seemingly impossible odds, the men start to believe that McMurphy can actually do it. He can't.


The Acutes' fear of Nurse Ratched outweighs their admiration of McMurphy, and their refusal to side with him calls his authority into question. He is not used to being denied what he wants, nor does he handle losing well. This is the first time the other patients and the reader see the anger inside McMurphy, which is what got him sent to the hospital in the first place. He may boast about his so-called psychopathic tendencies, but he doesn't actually think he is crazy.

This is how McMurphy differs from the other men in the ward. Billy and the others really do think they have something inherently wrong inside them. They cannot imagine a future that doesn't involve this hospital, this ward, and this head nurse, which is why Billy is so cautious about siding with McMurphy in front of Nurse Ratched.

McMurphy's anger, both about the failed vote and his inability to pick up the control panel, stems from the fact that he is the only man in the ward who has actively tried to change his situation. He takes action while others fret and hold in their feelings; he stands up for himself while others allow themselves to be stomped to bits. Instead of understanding their fear, he is disgusted by it.

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