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 8 | Summary



McMurphy is upset on the way back to the ward, and Bromden, sensing impending danger, resists the urge to comfort him. At the therapy meeting, McMurphy is agitated when Nurse Ratched assures Sefelt that the Dilantin isn't impeding his ability to get an erection. He's just old, she tells him.

Nurse Ratched ends the meeting by telling the men that they will no longer be able to use the tub room for games and socializing. She frames it as their punishment for shirking their cleaning duties during the World Series. McMurphy struts over to the nurses' station to get one of his cigarettes. He punches his fist through the glass window, removes a cigarette, and lights it. The ringing in Bromden's ears stops.


Bromden cares deeply about McMurphy, partly because he admires him but also because of the way McMurphy was able to see past his facade to the person inside. He worries about McMurphy's sudden change in behavior, both because he is "scared it would happen, and ... just a little scared it wouldn't." Bromden wants McMurphy to protect himself, but he also wants McMurphy to be the hero they all need him to be.

McMurphy struggles with who he wants to be. He tries to keep his cool when Nurse Ratched refuses to accept Sefelt's erectile dysfunction as a side effect of his medication. It isn't until she takes away a privilege that he worked so hard to get that McMurphy completely loses his cool. Though he's angered by Sefelt's humiliation, he doesn't spring into action until his own happiness is threatened.

The McMurphy who puts his hand through the window is a very different man from the one who had been trying to remain unobtrusive just a few hours before. Bromden tells the reader, "He was the logger again, the swaggering gambler ... the cowboy out of the TV set walking down the middle of the street to meet a dare." This is the McMurphy who first entered the ward a few weeks ago, thumbs in his pockets and full of confidence. He knows who he is—the hero.

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