One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


Key Quotes

1. “I been silent so long now it’s gonna roar out of me like floodwaters and you think the guy telling this is ranting and raving my God; you think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But please. It’s still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.”

In this quotation from the first section of the novel, Chief Bromden addresses the reader directly. He is telling the story of McMurphy and the hospital after his own escape, and now has the ability to look back upon these events in order to narrate them. We have already been introduced to Chief’s delusions and know that he is a psychiatric patient, but the tone of this passage illustrates that Chief is not really insane. His ability to perceive that what he is about to relate may sound like “ranting and raving” and his admission that it is still difficult to have a “clear mind” demonstrate his self-awareness and powers of observation. Most importantly, Chief’s insistence that what he’s going to tell us is “the truth even if it didn’t happen” underscores one of the novel’s major themes about perception. Many of the things that Chief relates throughout the novel are not literally true, but nonetheless they are full of truth, whether on a symbolic or metaphorical level. Chief’s ability to identify the difference highlights his reliability as a narrator. At the same time, it brings us into the world of the novel, which requires our willingness to explore altered perceptions of reality.

2. “I remember the fingers were thick and strong closing over mine, and my hand commenced to feel peculiar and went to swelling up out there on my stick of an arm, like he was transmitting his own blood into it. It rang with blood and power. It blowed up near as big as his, I remember...”

In this passage from the first section of the novel, Chief describes shaking hands with McMurphy. We get a clear sense...

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Essays About One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest