Study Guide

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Part II, Chapter Seven

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Part II, Chapter Seven

  • It’s a Friday and everybody is taken for X-rays to check for tuberculosis. Chief knows the orderlies are actually checking to see if all their inside machinery is operating OK.
  • Next to the X-ray room is the Shock Shop.
  • When orderlies take someone to electroshock therapy, they drug the patient and then drag him inside. As the orderlies bring patients out, they’re still smoking—not cigarettes either. It’s more like they’re sizzling from the electric shocks.
  • McMurphy asks what’s going in the room next door. Harding explains that it’s a Shock Shop, a free trip to the moon. Wait, he adds, it isn’t free. You pay with brain cells rather than money.
  • What the hell are they doing it for? McMurphy asks.
  • For the patient’s good, of course, Harding responds.
  • Why doesn’t the public get outraged? McMurphy wants to know.
  • Because, Harding responds, the public wants things fixed and they want it fixed the quickest possible way.
  • McMurphy points out that it’s like electrocuting somebody for murder.
  • Harding says that in both cases, the electrocution is a cure.
  • Harding tells McMurphy that a trip to the Shock Shop doesn’t hurt. Still, nobody wants another treatment because it makes you change. You forget things. Then there’s a "wild carnival wheel of images, emotions, memories" in your head. You don’t know where the wheel will stop.
  • McMurphy admits that he doesn’t understand electroshock therapy and he definitely doesn’t understand the asylum.
  • Harding assures McMurphy that he’s unlikely to visit the Shock Shop because that’s only for people with extreme cases. Same with lobotomies.
  • That’s when McMurphy finds out that Nurse Ratched has a say-so over who gets lobotomies, too (scary).
  • They start to discuss Nurse Ratched and McMurphy says he thinks she’s only part of the problem. If she was gone, the system would still continue.
  • The rest of the Acutes don’t agree but Chief understands what McMurphy’s talking about. It’s what Chief calls the Combine— the machine-like nature of the way the system works.
  • Most of the guys think that the only problem is Nurse Ratched needing some sex. McMurphy points out that if sex was the real issue, the solution would be just to throw her down and solve her worries.
  • The guys really do think that’s the Big Nurse’s problem, and that McMurphy’s the man to fix it. But, McMurphy’s all "hell no." Who can blame him?
  • Harding accuses McMurphy of "conforming to policy" just to get an early release from the asylum.
  • McMurphy’s not hiding anything and says that’s he’s definitely hoping for an early release. In fact, he blames Harding for not telling him the risk he was running when he first arrived. McMurphy thinks that the patients should have warned him because he’s got as much to lose by staying here as the rest of them.
  • Harding points out that McMurphy is wrong on that point. McMurphy is committed. Harding, on the other hand, is voluntary—he can leave whenever he wants. In fact, only a few men on the ward are committed—Scanlon, the Chronics, and McMurphy.
  • McMurphy now getting scared. And angry.
  • McMurphy asks Billy if he’s committed and Billy shakes his head.
  • If he’s not committed, McMurphy wants to know why on earth Billy would stay in the asylum.
  • What about you, Sefelt? He asks. You could get along outside— if you had the guts.
  • Billy screams suddenly. Sure they could, if they had guts. Billy starts freaking out and saying he doesn’t want to be in the asylum, he’s only there because he doesn’t have the guts to live on the Outside. By now, Billy’s crying and stuttering.
  • McMurphy turns around to speak, but stops when he sees the way the men are all looking at him.
  • McMurphy simply says, "Hell’s bells," and goes back to sit on the bench. He looks at the Shock Shop door and murmurs about how he can’t get it all straight in his head.

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