One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest By Ken Kesey Summary and Analysis Part 3: Two Whores

Summary

The day of the fishing trip, Chief refuses to sweep the floor for the African-American aides. McMurphy enlists Rub-a-Dub George, a cleanliness-obsessed Swedish sailor and fisherman, in the crew. When Candy Starr appears without her friend to pick up the patients for their excursion, Nurse Ratched announces that they can't go because there isn't enough room in one vehicle for all the patients. McMurphy talks Doctor Spivey into driving his own car. Spivey consents, partially because of his physical attraction to the alluringly attired Starr.

The group stops at a gasoline station on their way to the docks where they are treated rudely by the station attendants. McMurphy intervenes and the group is invigorated, a feeling that quickly evaporates when they reach the docks. Fishermen at the docks make negative comments about the patients and lewd remarks to Starr. The group, separated from McMurphy, make no effort to defend themselves or Starr from the rude behavior. The boat captain refuses to rent the boat to McMurphy because proper legal waivers weren't filled out. Frustrated, McMurphy gives the captain a bogus phone number and, while the captain makes a phone call, loads the boat and heads out to sea with the group.

McMurphy takes Starr below deck for a sexual interlude, and the group takes turns fishing. Before long, they are upon a school of fish and are bringing in salmon. The pandemonium that ensues resolves itself in the group engaged in the regenerative act of unabashed laughter. Spivey lands a huge flounder, which takes him more than an hour to bring on board. This causes the group to experience rough waters on their way back to dock. When they notice that there aren't enough lifejackets for the entire group, Chief notices that McMurphy wears one anyway.

When they return, their prodigious catch earns them the respect of the fisherman at the dock. The change in the patients is apparent to everyone: "these weren't the same bunch of weak-knees from a nuthouse that they'd watched take their insults on the dock this morning."

Driving back to the hospital, McMurphy convinces the group to drive by one of his boyhood homes. Chief notices that McMurphy is acting tired beyond the exertions of the day's excursion while McMurphy relates a lurid tale of losing his virginity when he was ten years old to a girl the same age or younger. While he relates further stories of barroom fights and sexual conquests, Chief recognizes a frantic look on McMurphy's face, "like there wasn't time left for something he had to do…"

Analysis

For the patients' morale, the fishing trip is a resounding success. The group starts out by mimicking McMurphy's bravado after the encounters with the surly gas station attendants, but reverts to their weaker selves when confronted by the fishermen at the boating dock. After removing themselves from the mainland, however, the group finds their respective footing through camaraderie, laughter, fishing, and the company of a woman who isn't a "ball-cutter."

The strain of improving the morale of his fellow patients begins to show on McMurphy, however. He begins to fear for his life, which is displayed when he chooses a life jacket for himself even though there aren't enough for the entire group. On the car ride back to the hospital, he tells a horrible story with a forced bravado that betrays his fatigue. Chief, watching McMurphy's face in the intermittent light of oncoming vehicles, notices that his hero's expression is frantic.

The religious imagery becomes much more apparent in this section as well. The character of Ellis, who is introduced as posing as if crucified in Part 1, tells the group that they are to be "fishers of men," which is the same instructions Jesus Christ gave his apostles. Christ's twelve apostles are echoed by Kesey's use of twelve group members who accompany McMurphy on the fishing trip.

Glossary

wheedle to influence or persuade (a person) by flattery, soothing words, coaxing, and so on.

jounce to shake, jolt, or bounce, as in riding.

flophouse a very cheap hotel frequented chiefly by indigents.

keelhaul to haul (a person) down through the water on one side of a ship, under the keel, and up on the other side as a punishment or torture.

troll to fish with bait or a lure trailed on a line behind a slowly moving boat.

gaff a spar or pole extending from the aft side of a mast and supporting a fore-and-aft sail.

jetty a kind of wall built out into the water to restrain currents, protect a harbor or pier, and so on.

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