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Free Study Guide-One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey-Free Notes
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PART II

Summary

Part II, the shortest part of the novel, deals with McMurphy's discovery of one of the cardinal rules of the hospital and his final acceptance as the savior of the patients. The section begins with the patients still sitting in front of the television, staring at the blank screen, an act that they continue to do for the rest of the week. As a result of McMurphy's influence over the patients, the staff has a meeting about him and argue about what makes him tick. Most of the staff feels that McMurphy is an extraordinary man that should be sent to the Disturbed ward, but Nurse Ratched disagrees. She believes he is just an ordinary patient who will come around, just like the others have.

Unwilling to admit that she cannot control McMurphy, she chooses to fight it out with him, believing that she will win. McMurphy, however, continues to irritate Nurse Ratched. When he is given latrine duty, he sticks an obscene note under the rim of the toilet, which the Nurse finds and reads during an inspection. He also influences the other patients to voice their grievances to the staff. Chief Bromden is amazed at McMurphy's influence and power. He cannot believe that anyone can be brave enough to just be himself, like McMurphy does.

One day while swimming, McMurphy finds out from the lifeguard that a patient who has been involuntarily placed in the hospital, like he has been, cannot leave unless the Nurse thinks he is fit to go. This knowledge changes McMurphy's whole outlook. If he is ever to leave, he must change his ways. He tries not to cause any more trouble and becomes a model patient.

The Nurse is glad that McMurphy is finally settling down and feels like she is winning the battle with him. The patients understand what McMurphy is doing and resent the change in him. The Chief's paranoid hallucinations, which had abated, return, and Cheswick, one of his most ardent followers, drowns himself in despair.


Harding, one of the patients, is paid a visit by his wife, who is totally domineering, much like Nurse Ratched. During the visit, she insults Harding and leaves abruptly. McMurphy is shocked to see how outsiders treat the patients; he also realizes that Harding does not stand a chance. Inside the hospital, he is dominated by the Big Nurse; outside, he is dominated by his wife. This realization furthers McMurphy's belief that he must do something to help the patients. He even has nightmares about their plights. Yet he realizes that if he fights for their rights, in the process he will lose his own.

Three weeks after they voted for the World Series, the patients are up for their regular medical checkup. Harding explains to McMurphy the meaning of shock therapy. He describes it as "brain burning" and says it is the Combine's way of making the patient into what society expects him to be. If the shock therapy does not work, the hospital performs a lobotomy, referred to as "frontal lobe castration", on the patient to guarantee conformity to society's ways.

Harding then tells McMurphy that he and most of the other inmates have voluntarily committed themselves. McMurphy cannot believe his ears; but then he realizes that they have no self- confidence to live in the outside world. He finally acknowledges that he is their only hope and commits to becoming their savior.

To retaliate against McMurphy's increasing influence, Nurse Ratched takes away their game room, saying it is for their own good. McMurphy refuses to let her get away with this without a protest. He walks up to the nursing station and smashes the glass that separates her from the inmates. He then very politely apologizes, saying that he did not see the glass. Nurse Ratched knows better.

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