Study Guide

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

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Part IV, Chapter Three

  • In the past, Chief would wander around in the fog for days, even weeks, after getting electroshock therapy. He wouldn’t remember where he was or who he was.
  • McMurphy gets three more shock treatments that week. As soon as he starts to come around, Miss Ratched (this is the first time Chief refers to her as Miss Ratched instead of Big Nurse) comes around and asks him if he is ready to apologize and admit he was wrong. When McMurphy says no, she sends him back.
  • One time, McMurphy even reaches out and pinches Nurse Ratched’s butt as she walks away.
  • Chief tries to convince him to just say he was wrong and get out of the treatments. McMurphy laughs and says no way.
  • McMurphy insists it doesn’t hurt, but whenever he hears his name being called for treatment, his face becomes thin, scared, and taut.
  • Chief goes back to the regular ward after a week. There’s a lot he wants to say to McMurphy before he goes, but McMurphy is too out of it.
  • The Acutes and Chronics all ask Chief to tell them if the stories they’d heard were true—that they are electroshocking McMurphy every day but he’s still giving them hell. Chief tells them what he can and nobody thinks it’s strange that suddenly he can talk and hear.
  • Nurse Ratched brings up McMurphy’s treatment in the group meeting the next day. She says that electrotherapy isn’t working and they may need to do something more drastic.
  • Harding points out that Nurse Ratched hasn’t gotten to McMurphy, but from all reports, he has gotten to her.
  • Nurse Ratched can see that among the men, McMurphy is "getting bigger" all the time he’s gone. She decides he needs to be brought back to her ward so the men can see how vulnerable he actually is.
  • Everybody has figured out that she plans to bring him back only to really break him, so the men start plotting a way to help him escape from the asylum.
  • The men tell McMurphy of their plan to help him escape, but McMurphy points out that the day they selected is actually the day that Candy is going to sneak in to see Billy. McMurphy says he’s in no hurry and will wait to escape until after Billy’s date.
  • Nurse Ratched again brings up McMurphy in the group therapy meeting. She says that shock therapy isn’t working and maybe an operation is necessary.
  • McMurphy says that an operation really isn’t necessary. Then he makes an obscene suggestion that if she cuts off one pair of balls, he has another pair in the nightstand.
  • As old as Billy is, he still looks like a kid. And he still acts like a kid. More importantly, his mother still treats him like he’s a kid. (As we'll see, Billy's relationship with his mother becomes important in the next chapter.)
  • At midnight, McMurphy discusses with the man on staff, Mr. Turkle, what’s going to happen—how Candy is coming to visit. It seems like McMurphy has already told Mr. Turkle about the plan in the past and is now just reminding him.
  • McMurphy, Billy, and others are discussing the plan. They’ll let Candy in the window and the two lovebirds can go to the Seclusion Room for privacy.
  • Turkle wants something in exchange for his help: some alcohol and a bit of time with Candy.
  • The girl is late and Billy gets more and more nervous, afraid she might not come. So they agree that maybe she can’t see the ward because there are no lights on.
  • Just as they get the entire ward lit up, there’s a tapping on the window and there she is.
  • There are two girls—Candy and the other girl, Sandy, who hadn’t shown up to the fishing trip. Sandy has just left her husband.
  • Both women are drunk and Candy says they had to keep asking for directions at every bar they passed on their way there.
  • The group hears a supervisor coming along and they all run to the bathroom to hide. The supervisor is looking for Mr. Turkle, who is in the bathroom with everybody else.
  • He steps out of the bathroom and the supervisor wants to know is why all the lights are on. He doesn’t have an explanation.
  • McMurphy says somebody needs to go out and help Mr. Turkle, so Harding flushes the toilet and heads out, zipping up his pants as if he had just been going to the toilet.
  • Together, Harding and Mr. Turkle get rid of the supervisor and everybody comes back out into the hall.
  • They all start passing around wine and vodka bottles that the girls brought, rapidly getting drunk.
  • Now the men want to get into the room where all of the medications are so they can mix drugs with alcohol. Mr. Turkle doesn’t have the key to the room, but he lets the men attempt to pick the lock.
  • While McMurphy works on picking the lock, the others go to the Nurses’ Station to raid the filing cabinets.
  • Billy and Candy start going through his file. She can’t believe he’s "phrenic this and pathic that" because he seems more normal than all those things.
  • McMurphy manages to bust into the drug room and they all start mixing cough syrup with vodka.
  • The men are having a good old time playing tag in the dark hallways with wheelchairs, but then Sefelt has a seizure. Sandy is awed by it because she’s never experienced anything even remotely similar.
  • Harding comes and sprinkles pills all over Sandy and Sefelt. Then he prays to God, saying that he hopes God will accept these two sinners into their arms, as well as the rest of the men, because he’s just realized this is the end, it’s their last fling.
  • All of the men realize the seriousness of their escapade when Harding says that "Miss Ratched shall line us all against the wall, where we’ll face the terrible maw of a muzzle-loading shotgun which she has loaded with Miltowns! Thorazines! Libriums! Stelazines! [Those are all medications.] And with a wave of her sword, blooie! Tranquilize all of us completely out of existence."
  • Billy Bibbit and Candy go to the Seclusion Room.
  • Chief suddenly realizes he’s drunk and it makes him realize that maybe the Combine isn’t all-powerful. The men are basically having a party in the Combine’s stronghold, so the men themselves must be powerful.
  • For the first time in ages, Chief feels good.
  • Most of the men now go to bed, leaving Chief, Mr. Turkle, McMurphy, Harding, and Sandy to talk about how to clean up the ward and whether there will be repercussions.
  • Harding says McMurphy is too far gone to realize the seriousness of the situation.
  • Harding comes up with a plan to make it look like Turkle was tied up by McMurphy and then McMurphy had broken into the drug room and then escaped from the ward.
  • McMurphy says it’s too much like TV.
  • So then McMurphy asks Harding and Chief if they want to leave right now and escape with him.
  • Harding says he’s not ready to leave yet.
  • Chief says somebody should stick around the ward for a few weeks after McMurphy goes just to make sure everything doesn’t slide right back to the way Nurse Ratched wants it.
  • McMurphy says that after he escapes, Harding can be big goose loony again. But he doesn’t know what Chief can be.
  • They all go back to bed, and Sandy joins McMurphy in bed. Turkle is supposed to wake McMurphy up in one hour.
  • McMurphy and Sandy curl up and fall asleep. And that’s how the orderlies find them when they come in at 6:30 to wake everybody up.

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