Study Guide

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary

By Ken Kesey

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Part I, Chapter Six

  • One Christmas at midnight, somebody who perfectly fits the description of Santa Claus comes stumbling into the ward. The orderlies corner him. They keep him in the ward for six years before they discharge him. (Um, our narrator seems a bit delusional.)
  • Big Nurse controls the speed of timeshe’ll slow it down or speed it up to keep things under her control.
  • She usually makes time move at a slow crawl, to make everybody go crazy.
  • Sometimes, instead of fog, she lets a chemical gas in through the vents. The whole ward turns solid and still when she changes the gas to plastic. On those days, Chief struggles to get free from the plastic so he can go to the bathroom, but he can’t get up out of the chair. Finally, he pees his pants. (Warning: with passages like these, we recommend that you use them to understand the truth of his feelings, not the truth of the events he describes.)
  • Fog usually makes you lose track of time. Since McMurphy arrived, though, the fog hasn’t been around.
  • McMurphy chats as he plays cards with the others. The music coming in through the speakers in the ceiling starts to drive him nuts. The music is basically always on, but most of the other patients have learned to tune it out.
  • McMurphy decides to get the music turned off, no matter what it takes. Harding, however, warns McMurphy that getting the music turned off will make Nurse Ratched angrya good way to quickly lose his bet about getting under the Big Nurse’s skin without punishment.
  • Chief watches McMurphy, who is playing cards with the other guys, try to get them to loosen up and experience freedom through gambling. The patients are really scared, so McMurphy starts to let them win.
  • Everybody knows McMurphy is letting them win, but they’re all happy to get back the cigarettes they originally lost to him. They have smirks on their faces like they’re the biggest, baddest gamblers around.
  • The orderlies round everybody up for bed. Nurse Ratched warns Nurse Pilbow that McMurphy is a "sex maniac," which makes Nurse Pilbow so nervous that she can’t even dispense medicine right.
  • McMurphy sees her fear so he gives Nurse Pilbow a big friendly grin. His look makes her so nervous that she drops a water pitcher.
  • McMurphy says, "Let me help," and sticks his hand inside the nurse station door. She gets even more frazzled and holds up a cross, like that will frighten him away. But all McMurphy does is pick up the pitcher she dropped and hand it to her.
  • McMurphy asks Chief if he wants his pill, but Chief shakes his head "no."
  • McMurphy starts getting dressed for bed and Chief looks at the new man’s shortsthey’re black with big white whales and red eyes. McMurphy explains that a woman gave him the shorts because she said he was a "symbol." Then he gets into bedhe’s in the bed next to Chiefand tells Chief that he better get to bed because the orderlies are coming.
  • Chief looks around and gets into bed just before the orderly comes over to tie a sheet over Chief.
  • In the dark, McMurphy starts to giggle. He says, "Why, you sure did give a jump when I told you that coon was coming, Chief. I thought somebody told me you was deaf."

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