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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 15 | Summary



Bromden used to be terrified of getting lost in the fog. Sometimes he would scream endlessly so someone could find him, which always resulted in his being sent to the Shock Shop. Now he thinks it might actually be better to stay lost.

When Bromden overhears Nurse Ratched tell Dr. Spivey that McMurphy should probably be moved to the Disturbed ward, the fog starts rolling in thicker than ever. McMurphy's voice tries to pull him out, asking for a new vote about watching the World Series. Bromden doesn't like that—he wants to be left alone. The vote takes place despite Nurse Ratched's objections, and it seems as if McMurphy is reaching into the fog and dragging up hands one by one. All 20 of the Acutes vote in favor of watching the World Series, but it isn't enough. There are 40 men on the ward; a majority is needed for the motion to pass. Bromden feels his hand go in the air, which gives McMurphy his majority. Nurse Ratched refuses to acknowledge the majority vote and ends the meeting.

An hour later, McMurphy stops cleaning and pulls up a chair in front of the TV. He turns on the TV, and Nurse Ratched shuts it down from the nurse's station. As he stares at the blank screen, she berates him to get back to cleaning. One by one, all of the Acutes and Bromden put down their cleaning supplies and join McMurphy in front of the TV. Bromden reflects that if anyone had seen them lined up in front of the dark screen, they would have thought the men were all "crazy as loons."


The fog, which exists only in Bromden's mind, starts up when Bromden thinks that something bad is going to happen, like McMurphy being sent to the Disturbed ward. He doesn't like being fogged in, but it's better than undergoing electroshock therapy. Bromden's fear of the fog is a metaphor for his struggle against insanity. When he contemplates staying in the fog, he is deciding whether he wants to hang onto reality or slip into a fugue state like the rest of the Chronics.

McMurphy saves Bromden from becoming a Vegetable. His voice reminds Bromden that there is life outside of the fog and that it could actually be good. That's terrifying to Bromden. The hospital is the only life he's known for at least a decade. It would be much safer and easier to stay right where he is. Yet Bromden's decision to raise his hand is his own. McMurphy doesn't force him to do anything; nobody expects Bromden to react at all. Bromden's action signals a desire for something different—a desire for sanity.

This chapter brings up questions about whether the men on Nurse Ratched's ward are actually insane. Each man makes the decision to support McMurphy; as evidenced by their initial hesitation, it is a decision that requires a lot of thought. Like Bromden, the Acutes are asserting their own power. It is ironic that they look "crazy as loons" at the very moment during which they are all thinking rationally and making decisions for themselves.

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