One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


Part 1, First Half

The narrator, Chief Bromden, wakes up before the other patients on the ward. Chief begins his narration with a paranoid speculation on the “sex acts” he believes the black orderlies are hastening to “get... mopped up” before anyone sees. When the orderlies see Chief, they hand him a mop and gesture toward the area they want him to clean. Since Chief Bromden has successfully convinced everyone that he is both deaf and mute, the orderlies don’t hesitate to openly mock him as he sets to work. In spite of Chief’s impressive size—he is 6 feet, 7 inches tall—the orderlies are not afraid of him. He submits to their commands docilely and tries to go unnoticed as much as possible.

Nurse Ratched, whom Chief thinks of as the Big Nurse, arrives on the ward for the day. Chief describes the nurse in cold, mechanical terms as having lips and fingertips like “polished steel,” skin like “enamel,” and a large wicker bag full of “wheels and gears, cogs polished to a hard glitter... needles, forceps, watchmaker’s pliers, rolls of copper wire.” He reflects that her large breasts seem out of place on someone so “smooth, calculated, and precision-made” and that “you can see how bitter she is about it.”

Nurse Ratched immediately reprimands the orderlies for standing around talking, and then instructs them to give Chief Bromden his Monday morning shave. Chief hides in the broom closet, but they find him. During his shave, Chief hallucinates that the shaver is some kind of terrible machine and he can’t keep himself from yelling. As he is forcibly sedated, his hallucination takes the form of a fog machine and Nurse Ratched shoving her wicker bag into his mouth.

When Chief emerges from the “fog,” he is in the day room. He can’t remember exactly what has happened for the past couple of hours, but knows that he was not taken to the Shock Shop this time. He believes that he must have been locked in the Seclusion Room. Now, the ward door opens,...

Sign up to continue reading Part 1, First Half >

Essays About One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest