One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest | Study Guide

Ken Kesey

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest | Part 4, Chapter 2 | Summary



McMurphy introduces himself and Bromden to the residents of the Disturbed ward, but his usual cocky facade is wavering. Exhausted from the fistfight downstairs, the men are relieved to be ushered into the nurses' station, where they are met by the kind head nurse. She says she wishes she could keep Nurse Ratched's patients for longer. She does not approve of Nurse Ratched's methods, saying, "It's not all like her ward. ... Army nurses, trying to run an Army hospital. They are a little sick themselves."

Nurse Ratched and the two aides injured in the previous day's fight appear in Disturbed the next morning. Bromden is going to the Shock Shop no matter what, but McMurphy can get out of it if he simply admits he was wrong. He refuses.

The lifeguard waits for his turn at the Shock Shop, crying and chanting, "Guts ball, guts ball." Bromden hallucinates during the former professional footballer's treatment, then starts yelling as if he's in an air raid. McMurphy attempts to calm him down before volunteering to go first. Then it's Bromden's turn. He has visions of his father, his grandmother, and his time in the army. When he finally regains consciousness, he realizes it's the first time he's actually attempted to come out of a shock-induced stupor. He says, "I knew this time I had them beat."


Both Bromden and the reader are surprised to find that there are kind, considerate staff members at the hospital who disagree with Nurse Ratched's methods. Yet the Big Nurse's power extends past her own ward. "No, you probably won't be very long—I mean—like you are now," the Disturbed ward nurse explains, indicating the length of Bromden's and McMurphy's stays. This also serves as foreshadowing. The nurse in the Disturbed ward knows that Nurse Ratched has "therapeutic" punishments in store for the two men, and they won't remain the same—sane—for long.

Bromden seems like a different man when he steps into the Disturbed ward. Instead of shrinking back into the shadows to avoid notice, he stands tall and proud for all to see. He feels good about himself, and his confidence outweighs the crippling pain in his back. It is this same confidence that helps him emerge from the fog of shock therapy so quickly. He has taken the lifeguard's shouts of "guts ball!" to heart, ready to charge headfirst into whatever situation lies ahead.

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