Summary and Analysis Part 4: There Had Been Times



McMurphy is given three more electroshock treatments, but his rebellious behavior continues while he is assigned to the Disturbed Ward. He declares that the treatments serve to recharge his batteries. He even goes so far as to pinch Ratched's behind. Chief recognizes, however, that McMurphy's stoicism falters whenever he hears his name called for another treatment.

McMurphy's absence from the ward, however, is serving to increase his legend among Harding, Scanlon, Bibbit, and the others. Realizing this, Ratched makes plans to bring McMurphy back to the ward. Fearing that she'll make an example out of McMurphy by keeping him in an electroshock-induced stupor, the patients devise an escape plot for him.

When McMurphy returns, he rejects the escape plan because he wants to be present when Starr visits for the express purpose of relieving Bibbit of his virginity.

During the next group meeting, Ratched suggests to Doctor Spivey that perhaps more drastic measures are required to curtail McMurphy's aggressive tendencies. She suggests an operation, which prompts McMurphy to ask, "There's no cause to do any cuttin', now, has there?" Not realizing he's talking about castration, Ratched begins to respond that the new procedure for lobotomies doesn't require cutting. When she realizes he's talking about his testicles in an attempt to make fun of her, she stops smiling.

McMurphy bribes the elderly African-American night watchman, Turkle, to allow Starr and her friend, Sandy, to enter the ward. The two women bring ample amounts of alcohol with them and, combined with Turkle's marijuana, the ward denizens throw a party. Sefelt experiences sex with Sandy while in the throes of an epileptic seizure. Sandy says, "Never in my life experienced anything to come even halfway near it." The remaining patients get drunk, and Bibbit retires to the Seclusion Room to have sex with Starr.

McMurphy and Harding discuss Harding's voluntary incarceration at the hospital, and Harding indicates that he's "different," presumably homosexual. McMurphy responds that all individuals are different but not all individuals feel it necessary to seek psychiatric care. The men make plans to allow McMurphy time to sleep before he escapes with Starr and Sandy. McMurphy and Sandy go to bed "more like two tired little kids than a grown man and a grown woman in bed together to make love." No one wakes up in time, and the African-American aides discover the debauchery when they arrive in the morning.


McMurphy's demeanor is reflected in the actions of his fellow patients. Harding is the first to push his luck with Nurse Ratched, ribbing her that the patients have heard that McMurphy pinched her posterior region.

Chief reminisces about a conversation he overheard between Bibbit and Bibbit's mother, an emasculating woman intent on keeping her 31-year-old son a dependent child upon her. The conversation as related by Chief includes very heavy Oedipal overtones, which Bibbit seems to be overcoming as he nears the impending loss of his virginity to Starr.

During the debauchery of the ward party, Harding reveals to McMurphy that he has known his whole life that he is "shall we be kind and say different," indicating that he knows that he is a homosexual. Lack of social acceptance of homosexuals, believes Harding, caused him to go "crazy." He now feels that he is almost ready to rejoin society and accept himself. He credits McMurphy for his recovery, but notes that it has cost McMurphy his own sanity.