One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
by Ken Kesey
A Pecking Party
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
McMurphy describes a "pecking party" as a situation in which chickens see blood on another chicken and start pecking at it like crazy until they’re all bloody, pecking at each other in a frenzy, and end up killing each other. McMurphy points out that Nurse Ratched’s Therapeutic Community meetings are pecking parties. Nurse Ratched gets one of the men to reveal his weakness, and then all of the patients follow her lead, "pecking" at the man. This starts off a chain reaction that hurts all of the men, sets them all against each other (instead of against Nurse Ratched), and keeps them all feeling weak (and emasculated). Thus the "therapeutic" meetings aren’t a time when patients can provide each other with mutual and beneficial help, but a time when they end up hurting each other and making it all worse.