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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 2 | Summary



Bromden is worried about Nurse Ratched's newfound show of confidence, but McMurphy doesn't seem to notice or care. He continues to taunt the staff even after he collects on the bet. She retaliates by assigning him latrine duty, which he shirks.

There isn't much cleaning going on in the ward at all. Every day during the World Series, the men put down their brooms and mops to line up in front of the dark TV screen. McMurphy entertains them with personal stories, his laughter filling the day room. Bromden forgets to worry about Nurse Ratched and the Combine and comes to realize that McMurphy is happy with himself the way he is. That's why he's not afraid of Nurse Ratched.

For the first time in years, Bromden is seeing clearly, and he figures that the fog machine broke down after last Friday's therapy meeting. He creeps out of bed one night and goes to the window, noticing for the first time that the hospital is in the country.


McMurphy's confidence separates him from the other men in the ward. While others seem ashamed of who they are, McMurphy accepts and embraces all the different facets of his personality. This inner confidence gives him the strength and courage to lock horns with Nurse Ratched at every opportunity.

Lack of self-confidence is what brought many of the men to the hospital in the first place. Harding, for example, "forces" his elegant, graceful hands into manual labor. He consciously rejects a feminine pastime for a more masculine activity in an effort to be someone he's not. He's not comfortable with who he is, nor does he like who he is trying to be.

Bromden, like the other men in the ward, is awed by McMurphy's self-confidence because it is the very thing he lacks. He wonders how it is possible "that anybody could manage such an enormous thing as being what he was." For his whole life, Bromden has been "the way people wanted"—the hulking brute, the silent Indian. McMurphy, who is able to play any role he chooses, is "extraordinary."

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