One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest By Ken Kesey Summary and Analysis Part 2: The Way the Big Nurse Acted

Summary

McMurphy continues to bedraggle Ratched and her staff, while entertaining the patients with stories of his experiences. Chief observes McMurphy as an "enormous thing," and feels small by comparison, even though Chief is 6'7" tall. He says that McMurphy likes to paint pictures and writes with a perfect hand. He recognizes McMurphy as a man in control of his own life.

During the night, Chief awakens and notices that all the fog is cleared. He unties himself and looks out the window, where he observes a dog sniffing gopher holes by the light of the moon. The mongrel rolls playfully in the grass, shaking moisture off it "like silver scales."

A flock of geese flies in front of the moon, changing their V formation temporarily into "a black cross opening and closing." The dog follows the trail of the geese toward a road and an oncoming car. Chief watches as the dog and the car make "for the same spot of pavement," but doesn't find out what happens because a nurse and an aide put him back to bed.

Analysis

Chief's admiration of McMurphy increases, and he notices that the other patients also are gaining respect for him. He marvels that the Combine has gotten to him and the other patients, but not to McMurphy. He recognizes that McMurphy isn't extraordinary, but simply who he is, which he observes is enough to foil Nurse Ratched. Chief contrasts his impressions of McMurphy with his own reflection in the mirror. He sees a reflection that he refuses to believe is his. The reflection is a large man with chiseled features, but Chief admits that "It wasn't even me when I was trying to be that face…. It don't seem like I've ever been me. How can McMurphy be what he is?"

When Chief observes the dog from the hospital window, the reader is inclined to believe the dog symbolizes McMurphy. The dog casts a long shadow and lolls on the grass in the moonlight. He recounts that the dog runs toward the road as he hears "a car speed up out of a turn. The headlights loomed over the rise and peered ahead down the highway. I watched the dog and the car making for the same spot of pavement." The reader can infer that Chief is foreshadowing the fate of McMurphy as a force of nature destined to fail against the forces of mechanization.

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