Study Guide

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Part 1, Chapter 9 Summary

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Part I, Chapter Nine

  • At breakfast, McMurphy is loud, thinking Big Nurse is going to be easy to break. Chief, however, observes that McMurphy simply caught Nurse Ratched off-guard with the whole towel episode. Chief honestly expects the Big Nurse to come back stronger.
  • McMurphy tries to goad Billy Bibbit into laughter by pretending to reminisce about the two of them hooking up with some prostitutes ("twitches") in Seattle. Of course this didn’t actually happen; McMurphy is just messing around.
  • Billy practically blushes and grins himself to death when McMurphy makes up stories of hookers being impressed by Billy’s 14-inch… well, you get the point.
  • McMurphy seems pretty happy. He’s being served some decent food, which is better than he ever got working on a farm.
  • He flirts with the cook and the girl who pours coffee. He also offers to pinch some food to give the orderly, who refuses because it’s against ward policy to eat with the patients. So McMurphy just eats three delicious bananas in front of the rule-abiding orderly.
  • The clock is lying, saying it’s only 7:15, when it should be reading closer to 8 o’clock.
  • McMurphy points out that the clock is like a target. Incessant gambler that he is, he bets some of the Acutes that he can hit face of the clock with a chunk of butter. Some of the Acutes put money down and promptly win it back when McMurphy’s butter ball hits the wall six inches to the left of the clock.
  • McMurphy wins the money back after betting again about how quickly the butter chunk will slide down the wall.
  • McMurphy spends the morning playing blackjack. The constant music playing in the day room is getting to him, though, so finally he asks Big Nurse to turn it off.
  • Nurse Ratched asserts her authority. She smiles and very pleasantly says, "No." Then she informs him that he’s being very selfish because the Chronics have no entertainment if they don’t listen to music.
  • McMurphy’s aware that everybody is listening in on the conversation, so he asks if he and some of the Acutes can just go into another roomone without music.
  • Nurse Ratched sweetly informs McMurphy that there aren’t enough staff members to watch over two day rooms. In other words, "Sorry, sucker, I’m the boss around here."
  • The big Ratched-McMurphy showdown has begun. Right now, we’ll say the score is tied at 1 vs. 1, with McMurphy holding a point for his obnoxious boxer shorts and Ratched scoring a goal for annoying music.
  • At 11, the doctor comes in and informs McMurphy that it’s policy to interview new Admits on their second day. So off McMurphy goes for a chat with the doctor.
  • McMurphy is loud and happy and laughing. He’s even the first in his chair for the 1:00 group meeting.
  • Big Nurse comes in and starts the meeting by saying that yesterday, they were making some real headway with Harding’s problem (a.k.a. obsessive jealousy over his wife and her breasts).
  • The doctor interrupts and says he’d like to talk about something new today. During his chat with McMurphy, he discovered that the two of them went to the same high school.
  • The nurses look at each other while the doctor continues. 
  • While the doctor and McMurphy are reminiscing, they get to remembering the carnivals that the school always had. The doctor wants to know, what would the men in the ward think about having a carnival?
  • Everybody remembers what happened to Taber a few years back when he tried to organize a carnival. But finally Cheswick gets up and says he thinks that a carnival is a great idea.
  • Then everybody jumps on the bandwagon and mentions a particular talent they havelike palm readingthat they could perform for a carnival.
  • Finally the doctor asks Nurse Ratched what she thinks. She agrees that it might have some therapeutic benefits… but it should be discussed in a staff meeting first. ( This woman is like a Dementor from the Harry Potter books: she’s sucks the happiness out of everything. )
  • Everybody knows at this point that there will never be a carnival.
  • Because she’s a control freak, Nurse Ratched tries to bring the meeting back on track. Before she can, though, McMurphy snaps his fingers and says there’s one other thing Doctor Spivey wants to discuss: the hard-of-hearing guys and the radio.
  • Big Nurse’s head gives a little jerk.
  • The doctor says that the mixed population is not the most ideal for the Therapeutic Community, especially those hard of hearing. He proposes an interesting solution: turn the music up louder for the Chronics with "auditory weaknesses," and turn the unused tub/storage room into a game room (second day room) where there’s no music.
  • The group doesn’t respond because they know Big Nurse is about to make a move. She says that the doctor’s plan is impossible because the ward doesn’t have the personnel to watch over two day rooms.
  • Well, the doctor has thought of this, too. Since it is the Chronic patients who will remain in the day room with the music, and most of them are confined to wheel chairs, one nurse and one aide should be sufficient to keep down any riots, right?
  • Suddenly, all the Acutes are on the doctor’s side.
  • The doctor smiles and blushes, pleased to be so popular. He says that now that the logistics are handled, what will they be discussing today in the group meeting? Apparently he doesn’t realize how much he’s riled up Nurse Ratched.
  • Big Nurse jerks her head again and picks up a folder from her basket. It looks like her hands are shaking.
  • McMurphy speaks up again. He wants to discuss what his dream the other night meant. It was him in the dream but he also looked like his daddy who had iron bolted through his jaw….
  • The Big Nurse looks calm, patient, and terribly, terribly cold. It’s like she’s thinking, "I can wait. I can outwait you all."
  • Chief reflects that for a minute, he thought she was whipped. Now he realizes that she wasn’t, even though McMurphy seemed to be on top for the moment. In other words, the score is 2 McMurphy, 1 Ratched. But, the battle isn’t anywhere close to being over.
  • Nurse Ratched switches on the fog machine. (Not literally. This seems to be the way Chief describes losing consciousness.)
  • Chief sinks back into the fog. The happiness he felt a few moments ago has been replaced with hopeless.
  • He’s glad when the fog gets so thick that he can lose himself in it again.

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