Study Guide

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Part 1, Chapter 15 Summary

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Part I, Chapter Fifteen

  • Chief knows how "they" work a fog machine because he used a fog machine overseas during the war. If his platoon suspected a surprise attack or bombing, they would fog the field to reduce visibility.
  • The fog on the ward is something that Chief loses himself in, sometimes so deeply that he forgets where he is. He used to get so scared by the fog that he’d yell to be foundand end up in the Shock Shop.
  • Now, Chief had decided it’s better to be lost and quiet than to yell and be found.
  • While Chief is busy cleaning the floors near the Nurses’ Station, he hear Big Nurse on the phone telling the doctor that it’s time to discuss McMurphy and whether he should be on the ward or not.
  • Chief realizes that’s why she’s fogging the ward for the meeting so she can secretly do something to McMurphy.
  • Through the fog, Chief hears Billy Bibbit describe how he flunked out of college. Big Nurse asking him if he can remember when he first started to stutter (Billy speaks with a stutter).
  • Then everything fades. A chair comes floating out of the fog to the right. Then a Chronic, Colonel Matterson, floats into sight. He’s slowly reading things that are written on his yellow hand. Chief follows along with what Matterson is reading, something about Mexico being an acorn, a hazelnut, a rainbow, and so much more.
  • Apparently Matterson has been babbling nonsense for the entire six years that he’s been on the ward. Only now, everything Matterson is saying seems to make sense to Chief.
  • To his left, Chief sees old Pete, who’s talking about how tired he is.
  • Chief can see how hurt old Pete is, and realizes that Pete's pain is like Chief’s pain from the war.
  • Billy Bibbit comes floating by, to explain how he screwed up a marriage proposal.
  • I can’t help you, Billy, Chief thinks. Nobody can.
  • During the war, Chief saw his friend tied to a tree, screaming for water. He was supposed to go help his friend, but was afraid that he’d be killed by the enemies.
  • The faces keep going past Chief in the fog.
  • He wonders if this is what it’s like to be a Vegetable.
  • Chief sees his father hunting in the woods, taking aim at a buck. He misses several times and Chief has to take the buck down.
  • He hears McMurphy arguing with Big Nurse about changing the cleaning schedule so the men can watch the World Series. Chief feels that McMurphy is trying to pull Chief out of his safety again.
  • McMurphy wants to call another vote to push Nurse Ratched to change the cleaning schedule.
  • It’s the group meeting and Big Nurse asks if anybody has thought that McMurphy is imposing his desires on everybody else too much.
  • A patient named Scanlon sticks up for McMurphy, saying that there’s no harm in a vote or changing the cleaning schedule. He challenges the nurse, saying she probably wants to ship McMurphy off to the Disturbed Ward just for asking for another vote.
  • McMurphy says he wants to see which of these "birds" has guts to stand up for what they want.
  • So they vote.
  • Chief can tell the first hand that goes up is McMurphy’s. Other hands come up through the fog. In fact, all twenty of them raise their hands in a vote against Nurse Ratched and against the way she’s been running the ward for so long.
  • But Big Nurse has her way. Though all twenty Acutes voted for him, there are a total of forty patients on the ward if you include the Chronics. So he failed to get a majority.
  • Nurse Ratched politely says, "I’m afraid the vote is closed." The tally for the Ratched-McMurphy showdown is now McMurphy 2, Ratched 2. Or is it?
  • McMurphy is seriously mad but Nurse appeals to the doctor. Isn’t she being fair? And the doctor backs her up.
  • McMurphy gets more and more angry because she has been so unfair. Meanwhile, Nurse Ratched suggests that they wrap up the group meeting early today due to McMurphy’s disturbance.
  • McMurphy tries to get one of the Chronics named Ellis to vote, but the man doesn’t raise his hand.
  • Now McMurphy’s standing in front of Chief, asking him to vote.
  • Big Nurse thinks she’s completely defeated McMurphy and is already packing up her papers.
  • For some reason, Chief is raises his hand. He tells the reader that McMurphy put a hex on him and his hand is raising of its own accord.
  • No. Chief corrects himself. He’s lifting his hand of his own accord.
  • McMurphy whoops and hollers. Cheswick adds a "Yippee."
  • Nurse Ratched says with a smile "The meeting was closed." As she turns and walks away, Chief sees that her neck is red and swelling, like she’s so mad she’s going to explode.
  • She doesn’t blow up right away, though. She waits in the Nurses’ Station behind the glass.
  • It’s game time and McMurphy turns on the television while Big Nurse’s face gets redder and redder.
  • Everybody’s watching what she’s going to do, even the orderlies and nurses.
  • Nurse Ratched, from behind the glass of the Nurses’ Station, flips a switch and turns the TV off.
  • McMurphy pretends he doesn’t notice that the picture is gone. He just sits back, lights a cigarette, and acts like he’s watching the game.
  • Big Nurse waits a while and then she comes to the door and tells McMurphy that he’s supposed to be working with the other men on house chores during these hours. Her anger is showing. "I’m warning you!" she says.
  • Nurse Ratched is losing her cool and everyone’s watching. She’s a control freak and can’t help but say, "You are… under the jurisdiction of me…" Oops. Did she mean to say that? She corrects herself to say "the staff" instead of "me." But she keeps losing it, making a fist and using words like "control."
  • Slowly, the men stop doing their house chores and sit down in front of the TV with McMurphy.
  • Ratched complains and moans, and shrieks and shouts, but the men just sit in front of the TV and watch a perfectly blank screen.
  • The new battle score is definitely now McMurphy 3, Ratched 2.
  • Chief says that if somebody came in not knowing the situation, they’d think all of the men watching the TV were "crazy as loons."

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