One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975
While serving time for insanity at a state mental hospital, implacable rabble-rouser, Randle Patrick McMurphy inspires his fellow patients to rebel against the authoritarian rule of head nurse, Mildred Ratched.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest takes place in a mental institution in the Pacific Northwest. The narrator of the novel is Chief Bromden, also known as Chief Broom, a catatonic half-Indian man whom all of the inmates and staff assume is deaf and dumb. Bromden often suffers from hallucinations during which he feels the room filling with a dense, overwhelming fog generated by a huge mechanized matrix called The Combine which controls everyone in its grasp. The institution is dominated by Nurse Ratched (Big Nurse), a cold, precise woman with calculated gestures and a calm, mechanical manner. When the story begins, a new patient, Randall Patrick McMurphy, arrives at the ward. He is a self-professed “gambling fool” who has just come from a work farm at Pendleton as part of his sentence for statutory rape. He clearly is completely sane and lucid, at the hospital only to avoid the work detail. Others on the ward include Dale Harding, the president of the patient’s council, and Billy Bibbit, a thirty-year-old who stutters and appears very young. Ratched immediately pegs McMurphy as a manipulator.
During the first therapy meeting, Nurse Ratched begins examining Harding’s difficulties with his wife. McMurphy takes the opportunity to explain his arrest for statutory rape, suggesting that the girl was of legal age and certainly more than consenting. Dr. Spivey, the main doctor for the ward, questions whether McMurphy is now feigning insanity to get out of doing hard labor at the work farm. Afterward, McMurphy confronts Harding about the way the inmates defer to Ratched so readily. He suggests it is a “pecking-party” in which the patients are to turn on each other. Harding admits that all of the patients and even Dr. Spivey are afraid of the Big Nurse. He adds that the patients are rabbits who cannot adjust to their rabbithood and need Big Nurse to show them their place. McMurphy bets him that he can get Nurse Ratched to crack within a week.
McMurphy awakens early the next morning to take a shower. He complains to one of the black boys who serve as Nurse Ratched’s henchmen that the patients are only allowed to brush their teeth at certain times. When Ratched arrives, McMurphy stands in front of her in a towel, claiming that his clothes have been taken. He threatens to drop his towel (though he has shorts on). Ratched screams to one of the boys to get McMurphy some new clothes.