Study Guide

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Part IV, Chapter Four

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Part IV, Chapter Four

  • Chief narrates that, reflecting back on what happened next, he’s sure it was inevitable. Even if Mr. Turkle had woken up McMurphy and Sandy when he was supposed to, the final outcome would still have been the same.
  • Rumors spread like crazy around the ward when people begin to wake up. The patients who had been in on the action start telling the story with a kind of quiet pride that slowly becomes more boisterous.
  • Everybody’s herded into the day room, still in their pajamas, except for McMurphy and Sandy, who look kind of dreamy and satisfied.
  • When the nurse calls to report Mr. Turkle’s resignation, Mr. Turkle and Sandy crawl out the window and leave. Everybody is still too drunk to do what they should do, which is lock the window after them.
  • One of the orderlies finds the unlocked window. He locks it, then goes to get the role calling sheet. Then he discovers that Billy Bibbit is missing.
  • That starts a storm of laughter as everybody remembers where Billy Bibbit is and why. So the orderly goes in to tell the nurse that Billy is missing.
  • Nurse Ratched comes back out and demands to know what’s going on and where Billy is. Nobody speaks.
  • So she goes searching and soon finds Billy and Candy in the Seclusion Room. She’s appalled and asks him how he could do this with such a cheap girl. And most of all, she’s worried about how Billy’s poor mother will take the news.
  • That’s what gets to Billy. His mother. Billy stammers that Nurse Ratched doesn’t need to tell his mother, but Nurse Ratched reminds Billy that she and his mom are good friends.
  • Everybody stops laughing as they see Billy panic and begin to beg Nurse Ratched not to tell his mother. Freaking out, Billy tires to claim that the other men MADE him do it—they forced him.
  • Nurse Ratched leads him away, murmuring, "Poor boy, poor boy."
  • A lot of phone calls are made and when the doctor shows up, you can tell he already knows what the story is, and that Nurse Ratched blames Billy. But, she repeats the story for his benefit.
  • Nurse Ratched suggests that the doctor help Billy, who has been through a lot and is in a terrible state. The doctor follows her directions.
  • Scanlon tells McMurphy that they don’t blame him, they know where the blame lies. Chief reiterates the idea.
  • McMurphy relaxes and closes his eyes.
  • Then the doctor starts yelling and Nurse Ratched goes running. When she returns, she informs McMurphy that Billy has just cut his throat. She hopes he’s satisfied, she says, playing with lives. First Charles Cheswick (who drowned himself) and now poor William Bibbit.
  • Slowly, McMurphy stands up and then he smashes through the glass door.
  • Nurse Ratched is terrified and screaming. She screams when McMurphy rips her uniform down the front, exposing her chest. All of the men see how big her breasts are as they swell out of her uniform.
  • Finally, the staff pries McMurphy off of Ratched’s neck and he cries, falling backward. It’s the sound of an animal trapped, but one who doesn’t care anymore if he dies.
  • In the upcoming weeks, things at the ward change.
  • Sefelt and Frederickson sign out of the ward Against Medical Advice. Afterwards, three more men leave. Another six are transferred to another ward.
  • The asylum tries to push the doctor to resign, but he resists, saying they’ll have to investigate the situation and fire him if they want him to leave.
  • Big Nurse is in the hospital for a week and, with her gone, a lot of the guys are able to change some of the ward’s policies.
  • When Nurse Ratched comes back, they all run out to meet her, to ask about McMurphy. She jumps back when they approach and it’s clear that she’s still freaked out. It’s also clear that she can no longer hide the fact that she’s a woman. All of the men have seen her breasts and aren’t about to forget it.
  • Because she can’t talk yet (after being choked by McMurphy), she writes that McMurphy will be back.
  • Harding rips up her note and tells her she is full of bull.
  • She tries to get the ward back under her control, but McMurphy’s memory is too strong. She’s losing her power and losing her patients.
  • Chief doesn’t want to leave the ward until he knows for sure that McMurphy will be back.
  • Three weeks later, McMurphy does come back. Post-operative. He was given a lobotomy. They push him inside on a gurney and leave him near the Vegetables.
  • The Acutes discuss that they can’t be fooled—this isn’t McMurphy. Sure looks an awful lot like him, though. But it can’t be him!
  • As the afternoon wears on, the swelling on McMurphy’s face starts to go down, so everyone has to admit that it’s really him after all.
  • That night, Chief waits until everybody is asleep and then he goes over to McMurphy.
  • He takes a pillow and he smothers McMurphy to death, even though McMurphy’s body fights for life.
  • Scanlon whispers to Chief to take it easy. And then he wants to know if it’s finished. Chief says yes.
  • Scanlon says that Nurse Ratched will know that McMurphy was killed, so Chief had better get out of the ward while he still can.
  • Chief makes fun of the idea of leaving, because he can’t just ask to be let out of the ward. But Scanlon reminds him that McMurphy showed him how to escape a few weeks back.
  • So Chief goes into the tub-room and lifts the control panel. He heaves it through the window.
  • And then he runs for it.
  • He catches a ride with a Mexican fellow going north and makes up a story about being a professional Indian wrestler that the syndicate had tried to lock up in a nuthouse. The guy gives him a jacket to cover his green uniform and gives Chief ten bucks to use for food while he hitchhikes to Canada.
  • But Chief thinks he’ll stop at Columbia (the town he grew up in) on the way. He wants to see if any of the guys he used to know in the village are still around and not too drunk. He wants to see the country near the gorge again.
  • Mostly, he just wants to clear his mind. He’s been away—stuck in the asylum—for a long time.

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