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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 3, Chapter 2 | Summary



Bromden wakes early, excited about the impending fishing trip. McMurphy rouses the other fishermen from bed and manages to convince George, a former professional fisherman, to join them.

McMurphy's friend Candy, a prostitute, arrives at the ward, much to the pleasure of all the patients and Dr. Spivey, who is cajoled into driving a second vehicle. The patients feel uncomfortable outside of the hospital, and Bromden knows they are all contemplating turning back. Their attitudes change during a stop at a gas station. The attendants hassle and belittle the men before McMurphy introduces the group as being "hot off the criminal-insane ward." His cockiness rubs off, and soon the rest of the group is shouting orders for the attendants. "Never before did I realize that mental illness could have the aspect of power, power," Harding says.

Their false bravado disappears when they get to the docks. McMurphy goes into the captain's office to settle some paperwork, and a group of "loafers" starts hassling Candy. Not one of the patients comes to her defense. McMurphy, having lied to the captain, flies out of the office and hustles everyone onto the boat. The Acutes and Bromden spend the afternoon fishing and drinking beer while McMurphy and Candy bunk in the cabin. The fish are biting, and the men shout for McMurphy's help reeling them in. He laughs and just watches. Soon the men are working together, wrestling fish onto the deck of the boat.

George guns the boat for shore as a storm approaches. The police are waiting for them, but a brief fistfight between McMurphy and Captain Block settles everything. The group heads back to the hospital, making a quick detour to look at McMurphy's childhood home. They finally return to the ward. The men are riled up from their day at sea, but McMurphy heads straight to bed.


The fishing trip is a turning point for Bromden and the rest of the men on the boat. They begin the day ashamed of themselves and their hospital-issued greens, but they return home no longer the "weak-knees from a nuthouse." Their confidence, initially modeled after McMurphy's bluster and swagger, becomes real as they are forced to take on leadership roles and solve problems on their own. For the first time in years, they laugh.

McMurphy fades into the background as the other men come alive. He spends most of his time on the boat below deck or standing on the sidelines, and he stands back when the others ask for his help. Bromden notices his exhaustion during the drive home, his face "an expression that was allowed only because he figured it'd be too dark for anybody in the car to see."

This strain is the result of McMurphy's commitment to helping the rest of the men in the ward. He feels a compulsion to make things right for them, and it's eating away at his own masculinity. It is Billy, not McMurphy, who takes off his life jacket so Candy can have one, a show of manly chivalry. Billy cradles a sleeping Candy in the car while McMurphy safely drives his half of the group home. McMurphy's desire to help his friends is wearing away at his innate masculinity, pushing him into the role of caregiver.

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