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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Part 3, Chapter 2 Summary

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Part III, Chapter Two

  • In the morning, Chief sees his name signed up for the fishing trip and he gets really excited.
  • The orderlies are wondering who signed up Chief’s name.
  • Chief acts deaf to their laughing at him but when they stick a broom out to him to do some work, he turns around and walks the other way. He has never before refused to do what they ask of him.
  • McMurphy is in the dorm making a fuss so the orderlies leave Chief alone.
  • The Acutes get ready for the trip, while the Chronics wander around and stare at Chief. He feels guilty because he’s the only Chronic invited (or going) on the trip.
  • McMurphy tries to talk one more Acute into going, but the remaining Acutes are too scared because of Big Nurse’s stories about the rough sea.
  • Old Swede (also known as Rub-a-Dub George) starts to tell McMurphy that the red worms he’s planning to use for bait won’t work. They need herring.
  • McMurphy says George seems to know a thing or two about fishing, and George admits that he worked as a fisherman for twenty-five years.
  • McMurphy declares George will be their captain.
  • George is tempted but he doesn’t want to risk getting dirty.
  • McMurphy asks him if it’s true that the ocean could be risky this time of year.
  • George replies that it’s true. Then he starts twisting his hands around his shirt and asks if McMurphy thinks he’s afraid of Nurse Ratched’s stories.
  • At last, George is convinced to come and be their captain.
  • McMurphy’s "aunts" (prostitutes) are late in picking the men up for the fishing trip. Turns out to be just one of them, and she’s younger than anybody expected and in a small car to boot.
  • The girl comes inside and all the men gather around her. She stops to look at them and begins to squirm under the constant gaze.
  • Billy Bibbit whistles, letting her know how good she looks.
  • Big Nurse comes out to let McMurphy know that he can’t take all ten men in that tiny car. She thinks he’ll need to cancel the trip, but McMurphy says he’s already paid the boat man seventy dollars.
  • Doctor Spivey comes in and just starts to stare at the girl. McMurphy figures it out real quick and convinces the doctor to come alone and bring his car.
  • And they’re off.
  • Finally outside, everybody becomes nervous. McMurphy tries to make the men lighthearted by telling jokes.
  • At the gas station, the attendants realize that they’re from the hospital and try to manipulate them into buying more expensive gas and other items that they don’t need. But McMurphy saves the day. Not only do they want regular gas, but they’re entitled to a discount since it’s a government-sponsored expedition. He tells the guys at the gas station that they’re hot off the criminal insane asylum ward and they’d better watch out. See that Indian back there?
  • Chief stands up so they can see his size.
  • They end up completely intimidating the gas station attendants.
  • Harding suddenly realizes that mental illness contains a sort of power. The more insane a man becomes, the more powerful he can be. Like Hitler.
  • Chief sips a beer and feels good.
  • Chief muses in retrospect that the patients thought that McMurphy had taught them to be courageous and use it. Really, though, with McMurphy, the men were just pretending to be brave, not really being brave.
  • McMurphy knows that the men's tough looks are all show.
  • On the Outside, Chief sees all that the Combine had been able to accomplish during the years he’s been inside the ward.
  • The group runs into a problem at the dock. The captain who was supposed to take them out said he needed a signed waiver clearing him with the authorities.
  • So McMurphy and the captain go to the phone to make a phone call and clear the situation up.
  • The dock workers by the boat on the dock start to tease the cute prostitute, asking her why she’d been put in the asylum. Then another jokes that she wasn’t committed to the asylum, she’s part of the cure.
  • The girl looks at the Acutes, wondering why they don’t defend her, but all their bravery walked away with McMurphy (who’s busy on the phone).
  • McMurphy comes back saying it’s all set. Captain Block is still on the phone but they can get ready and then go as soon as he comes out.
  • And they shove off. The doctor is nervous and says, "Shouldn’t we wait for the captain to come out?" McMurphy replies that if they wait, the captain will come out and tell them that the number McMurphy gave him is just a flophouse in Portland—not the number for the asylum.
  • As they take off, the captain comes crashing down the dock toward them.
  • McMurphy and Candy, the prostitute, go off to the cabin to be alone, leaving George as captain and Harding as second-in-command.
  • At first everybody is excited about stealing the boat, but then they become really quiet.
  • Sefelt gets a bite on his fishing line, but Billy catches the first fish. Then Chief catches a huge fish that’s as big as a fence post.
  • Candy tries to fish and ends up flashing everybody because, although she has Billy’s jacket on, she doesn’t have her t-shirt on anymore. There’s so much commotion that George takes his eye off where he’s going and runs right into a log, which stops the engine.
  • McMurphy just laughs at the whole scene. Chief decides that McMurphy knows that you have to just laugh at the things that hurt you.
  • Then everybody starts laughing—all the men and the doctor and Candy and even Chief.
  • Despite joining in on the laughter, Chief feels like he’s not completely a part of the group. He’s somehow watching the situation from a distance.
  • They keep fishing and start cleaning fish (meaning chopping the fish up and getting rid of the head and guts and stuff). The doctor catches a 200- to 300-pound fish. They have so much extra weight in the boat now that it creaks and pitches all the way back to shore.
  • They’re three life-jackets short and Billy, Harding, and George volunteer to be the life-jacketless ones.
  • They sail through some pretty serious waters to reach shore, only to face the captain they ditched and a bunch of cops.
  • The doctor faces them and says that because they’re a legal, government-sponsored institution, they have to take it up with the proper authorities. Furthermore, if the captain really wants to make a case, he’ll have to explain why they were short three lifejackets on the boat.
  • So the cops leave and then McMurphy and the captain get into a shoving match. Once their spat is out of the way, the two of them go get more beer.
  • The men are just waiting for the dockhands to say something about Candy again, but Chief says that the dockhands sensed they’re not the same scared men who sailed out of here earlier in the day. All the dockhands say is that Chief’s fish is the biggest halibut they’ve ever seen.
  • Candy cuddles up to Billy on the way back to the asylum and he says he’d like to take her out on a date. She says she’s free to come visit in two weeks. When Billy asks McMurphy what time she should come, he says two o’clock in the morning on Saturday. They’ll get some of the aides to let her in so she can visit Billy.
  • When the men arrive back on the ward, the Acutes who hadn’t gone are curious about the trip.
  • Harding says McMurphy is exhausted because of what went on in the cabin below deck (with the girl).
  • Chief thinks McMurphy’s tired for other reasons. McMurphy had insisted on driving past his childhood home, and after that, Chief had noticed that McMurphy seemed exhausted. As they were leaving, they saw a yellow rag tied to a tree in the back of the house. McMurphy said that the first girl he ever slept with wore that dress. He was about ten years old (!) and she was younger. He thought they should announce it in some way. He thought it was like they were married because they’d slept together. She gave him her dress and said he could have it and she would go home in her only her underwear as an announcement. So he threw the dress out the window that night but the wind caught it and tied it around the tree. And it’s still there.
  • McMurphy says that little girl is the one who turned him into a "dedicated lover." Then he’s quiet.

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