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 9 | Summary



Nurse Ratched will not agree to lowering the volume of the music in the ward or to opening the unused tub room as a second day room. Uncharacteristically subdued, McMurphy leaves the ward for an intake interview with Dr. Spivey and returns more jovial than ever before. At the daily group-therapy meeting, Dr. Spivey interrupts Nurse Ratched to tell the patients about the carnival he and McMurphy want to host. The other patients love the idea, but Nurse Ratched shuts it down.

They then talk about Dr. Spivey's other idea—turning the tub room into a game room for patients who don't want to listen to the loud music. Dr. Spivey has already come up with solutions for all of Nurse Ratched's qualms, and this round ends with a win for McMurphy.

Bromden feels uneasy. Deep down he knows that Nurse Ratched will never lose. When she starts the fog machine again, Bromden welcomes it.


McMurphy manipulates Dr. Spivey just as he manipulates the rest of the men on the ward—by figuring out what he wants and then letting him think that he's getting it. Dr. Spivey wants to be viewed as a powerful authoritarian figure. He has worked closely with Nurse Ratched for many years, and despite the fact that he outranks her, she is in charge. Dr. Spivey wants to play the hero.

McMurphy provides Dr. Spivey with two opportunities to do just this. The carnival suggestion was never going to be considered seriously, but Dr. Spivey needed the confidence boost to successfully bring the proposal about the tub room to fruition. By that point, Dr. Spivey is feeling so brave that he rejects Nurse Ratched's reasons for why such an arrangement isn't possible. It's the first time he stands up to her, and McMurphy's carefully crafted plan to procure the tub room for the Acutes is a success.

Bromden has been around long enough to know that this battle of wills between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched has only begun; he also knows it won't end well. Bromden is so scared of what may happen between the two that he is willing to keep things exactly the way they are. This speaks to both his fear of the head nurse and his affinity for McMurphy. To Bromden, it would be better for Nurse Ratched to remain in control, as it would spare McMurphy from having to face the horrors of her full wrath.

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