Summary and Analysis
Part 2: They Take Me with the Acutes Sometimes
Chief accompanies the Acutes to the library, where Harding is visited by his wife. Harding introduces her to McMurphy. She tells McMurphy to call her by her first name, Vera, rather than Mrs. Harding. She insults Harding's laugh as a "mousy little squeak," which aggravates Harding. When she asks for a cigarette, Harding has none, prompting her to state in an emasculating fashion, "Oh Dale, you never do have enough, do you?" Harding challenges the statement, but allows his challenge to dwindle to nothing more than a grammatical correction.
McMurphy reservedly gives Vera a cigarette, saying he only has a supply because he bums them from the other patients. As he lights her cigarette, Vera leans before him to provide a clear view down her blouse. She insults Harding's friends, who stop by their house looking for him. She remarks on the friends' "limp little wrists that flip so nice," and she implies that she's being unfaithful with at least one of his friends.
When she leaves, McMurphy tells Harding that he doesn't feel sorry for him. He says that he has his own worries and doesn't have time to think about the troubles of the other patients. He later apologizes to Harding, but refuses to play along with the patient Martini who pretends to see men strapped to the wall. McMurphy tells Martini that he doesn't care for his "sort of kidding," and mis-shuffles a deck of cards that explodes "between his two trembling hands."
In this section, Chief observes that Harding's wife is an emasculating, "ball-cutting," flirt. Her actions imply that she is unfaithful because Harding is a weak lover and she has no use for his education. Kesey depicts Harding as an effeminate man whose education contributed to his emasculated state. The introduction of Mrs. Harding, however, evokes a sympathetic response toward Harding from the reader. Even though he denies it, McMurphy sympathizes as well, as evidenced by the pent-up aggression he displays after she leaves. Controlling his thoughts and angry impressions concerning Mrs. Harding causes him to lose control of the playing cards.