One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest By Ken Kesey Summary and Analysis Part 4: Up on Disturbed

Summary

McMurphy apologizes to Chief for getting him involved in the fight as the two are led to electroshock therapy. Alluding to his stay in a Chinese prison camp in the Korean War, McMurphy refuses to cooperate with Ratched to prevent the electroshock. Emulating the crucifixion, McMurphy lies down on the electroshock table and asks for a crown of thorns.

As Chief recovers from his electroshock, he remembers his mother's emasculating behavior toward him and his father. She civilizes them by forcing them to take her last name, Bromden, and moving them to town where "getting a Social Security card [is] a lot easier." He recites the nursery rhyme from which the book takes its title, a game called Tingle Tingle Tangle Toes. In the game, Mrs. Tingle Tangle Toes catches hens and puts them into pens while a goose flies overhead looking to pluck one of the hens out. Chief awakens soaked in his own urine in the Seclusion Room. He says he knows he has the aides beat this time.

Analysis

McMurphy enters the Disturbed Ward as a swaggering, drawling cowboy hero who even spits one of his teeth five feet into a metal wastebasket. Resigned to his eventual fate, he adopts the two-dimensional persona of the Western hero to continue his encouragement of the other patients, most notably Chief.

As Chief and McMurphy recover from electroshock, they hear a patient screaming, "I'm starting to spin, Indian," which reminds the reader that McMurphy's initials — RPM — are also the acronym for "revolutions per minute." Chief falls asleep "plagued by a hundred faces" like the screaming patient. He wonders how McMurphy can sleep, because Chief figures that McMurphy must see twice as many, if not thousands of faces. Chief describes the faces as exhibiting a "starved need…wanting things…asking things." From this, the reader may draw further comparisons with Christ, who redeemed the world's sinners. Other religious imagery in this section includes McMurphy requesting a crown of thorns and anointing his temples with the conductor before receiving his electroshock.

This section of the novel is also notable for its inclusion of the Japanese nurse. This nurse disapproves of Nurse Ratched's methods, yet is not a woman of easy virtue. Her character displays that Kesey's depictions of women in the novel are not entirely misogynistic.

Interestingly, the electroshock jars loose further memories from Chief. He recalls air raids from his Army tenure and other events back further in his childhood. He remembers his mother refused to take her husband's Indian name. Instead, she tells him, "We ain't Indians. We're civilized and you remember it." Later, Chief is led back to the ward where he perceives a light fog produced by the Combine, but refuses to "slip off and hide in it. No…never again…" He tells the reader that he knows "this time I had them beat," indicating that his cure is nearly complete.

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