Study Guide

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Part I, Chapter Eleven

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Part I, Chapter Eleven

  • Chief says that there are entire days lost to the fog. Most of the men don’t realize they’re caught in it, but Chief does. If McMurphy knows he’s lost in the fog, he doesn’t let on that it bothers him.
  • No matter what the nurses or orderlies do to McMurphy, he keeps his temper. Occasionally, a stupid rule will make him mad, but he expresses his anger by being extra polite until he sees how funny it is that the nurses treat the men like children. This is so absurd to him that he can’t help laughing.
  • One time he does lose control. Surprisingly, it’s not because of the orderlies or Big Nurse; the problem is his fellow patients.
  • It happens at a group meeting. McMurphy had been getting the guys to bet on the World Series and he asks Nurse Ratched if she can switch the cleaning schedule so the patients can watch the television in the afternoon. Of course, Nurse Ratched says rules are rules and the answer is a big fat "No."
  • McMurphy was expecting that response. What bugs him is that the Acutes just give in. In Chief’s words, the men "sink back out of sight in little pockets of fog." In McMurphy’s words, the men are "too chicken-s***."
  • McMurphy tries to get them to speak up, considering that they have a little "personal interest" in watching the games, meaning that they’ve bet money on it.
  • Finally one of them says he’s just used to watching the 6 o’clock news. If switching the schedules would mess everything up as bad as Miss Ratched says…
  • McMurphy tries to take a vote. Cheswick is the only patient to vote with McMurphy. Scanlon finally half-votes. Nobody else will raise a hand.
  • So Big Nurse continues on with the group meeting.
  • After the meeting, McMurphy’s so mad that he refuses to say a word to anybody.
  • Billy Bibbit that tries to explain to McMurphy that some of the men have been in the ward for five years, and most of them will still be there when McMurphy leaves. Finally, Billy gives up trying to explain.
  • McMurphy argues with a few of the guys for the rest of the afternoon. Nobody even wants gamble anymore because McMurphy took all their money in a few games. (He stopped letting them win.)
  • Harding points out that McMurphy has been with them for a week without overthrowing the government.
  • Chief suddenly feels like a spy. He imagines the mop handle in his hands is made of metal and it’s hollow. Inside, there’s a miniature microphone allowing Big Nurse to listen in.
  • McMurphy manages to get half the Acutes to agree to vote with him if he brings up the issue of watching the baseball game again. He says he doesn’t understand why more won’t join him, especially Harding.
  • The Acutes try to explain that a baseball game isn’t worth getting on Nurse Ratched’s wrong side.
  • Feeling insulted, Frederickson tries to dare McMurphy to smash his way out of the ward through the window. But Cheswick tells McMurphy to forget it because the windows are made specially so that you can’t break them with a chair.
  • McMurphy is seriously considering breaking out of the asylum. He suggests a table might be big enough to bash the window.
  • Cheswick says a table is no different than a chair.
  • McMurphy says he’ll have to think about it until he comes up with a plan to bust out. Basically he says, "If you fellas don’t think I’ll break out, then you’ve got another thing coming."
  • Next, McMurphy asks if a bed would do the trick. Or a steel panel?
  • Somebody says McMurphy can’t lift a steel panel, so the ever-competitive McMurphy bets them that he can.
  • He tries and strains really hard, but it’s true; McMurphy can’t lift the panel. He gives up.
  • McMurphy then looks at the guys and starts fumbling around for the IOUs he won in the last few days. He tries to sort them out, but his fingers are frozen. Finally, he just throws the whole bundle onto the floorrepresenting forty or fifty dollars from each guyand he turns to walk out.
  • "But I tried, though," he says. "Goddammit, I sure as hell did that much, now, didn’t I?"
  • He walks out the door, leaving the IOUs behind for those who want them.

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