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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 2, Chapter 1 | Summary



The fog has disappeared, and everyone is waiting to see what Nurse Ratched will do next. Bromden is expected to clean the staff room during the upcoming meeting, but he worries that the staff has realized he's not actually deaf and dumb (he is allowed to be in the room only because the staff members think he can't hear them). He decides to go anyway.

Dr. Spivey starts the meeting with a discussion of McMurphy's behavior and what to do about it. Nurse Ratched doesn't say a word, so it's up to the three residents to discuss the problem. One resident says McMurphy is a psychopath; another thinks he's faking it. The residents all eventually agree that they don't want to be in a room with McMurphy should he lose his temper. They decide he should be sent to the Disturbed ward.

The residents are pleased with themselves, believing they have come to the conclusion desired by Nurse Ratched. She surprises everyone by saying that McMurphy needs to stay on the ward. Sending him to Disturbed will only make him a martyr in the eyes of the other patients. She tells the doctor and residents that McMurphy will eventually show his true cowardly nature if allowed to stay on the ward. It is up to the staff to decide when he is allowed to leave the hospital.


Nurse Ratched is a master of commanding a room. She says nothing after the incident in front of the television, but all eyes in the ward are on her. She stays silent until the very end of the meeting, yet each person in the room actively tries to please her. She has always been the sole dictator on the ward, and even though her power has been called into question, the staff still regards her as their leader.

Nurse Ratched is willing to give up her ideal ward to get revenge against McMurphy. She has been humiliated in front of her patients, her staff, and her superiors. Now she wants to return the favor. She believes that, sooner or later, the other patients will turn on McMurphy, and her control over the ward will no longer be called into question.

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