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Free Study Guide-One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey-Free Notes
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PART III

Notes

By smashing the glass on the nurse's station two different times, McMurphy shows Nurse Ratched that he is not scared of her. As a result, she even appears to back off for awhile; in truth, she is just waiting for the appropriate time to show her real strength against him. McMurphy, however, is encouraged by her more withdrawn stance, and begins a new series of attacks. He breaks Washington's nose, disobeys the rules, and flirts with the student nurses. He wins Doctor Spivey to his side, and, with his help, manages to keep the patient basketball team from being disbanded. He even attacks the Nurse's sexuality by asking her what size braces she wears. The other patients follow his lead, flirting with the student nurses and disobeying rules.

When the Chief starts talking, he tells McMurphy memories of his childhood. He states that his mother was a very big woman, but his perception is clouded by his paranoia about size and power. She was big to him, even though she was only five feet nine, because she seemed so powerful. He tells McMurphy that his father was also big, but his mother and the Combine belittled him into smallness. As a result, the father drifted deeper and deeper into alcoholism. The Chief blames everything bad on the repressive society that was capable of seizing his family's land and destroying his father.

The Chief feels that the Combine has made him shrink in size; it is really his sanity that has shrunk, due to the repressive society that surrounds him. McMurphy promises the Chief that he will restore him back to his original size and tells him "you growed half a feat already". He asks Bromden to promise to lift the control panel when he is "big" again, and the Chief agrees; McMurphy sees this as another opportunity to make money through a bet. The Chief, however, seems to gain energy just talking to McMurphy, and before long he is even brave enough to turn down orders given by the Black orderlies.


Most of the part is centered on the fishing trip that McMurphy arranges for the patients. When the inmates set out, they are scared and unconfident; only Candy Starr's sexuality can ease their fears. At the service station, McMurphy tries to boost their confidence by showing them how to use their insanity to their advantage. On the boat, McMurphy goes below with Candy and keeps a low profile. The patients truly enjoy themselves; they catch fish, get drunk, and have fun. They learn to be self-reliant and even brave a storm.

As they head back to the hospital, the Chief sees McMurphy's face in the light of an oncoming car. He appears tired and drawn, as if he has no energy left. Ironically, as McMurphy gives the patients strength, he grows weaker. As he lets the patients handle their own problems and grow more sane in the process, he is losing his sanity.

It is important to notice the description of one of McMurphy's tattoos given in this part. It is a picture of a poker hand of aces and eights; the hand is known as "dead man's hand", because Wild Bill Hickok was supposedly holding such a hand when he was murdered. The tattoo seems to foreshadow McMurphy's fate--that he will become a dead man.

The religious imagery that was begun in Part I is further developed in this part. When the patients are preparing to leave for the fishing trip, Ellis, the "crucified" man, tells them to be "fishers of men," the phrase used by Christ when asking his disciples to help convert people to Christianity. Appropriately, McMurphy, like Christ, has twelve followers.

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