Literapedia Book Notes for

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey


  • Chief Bromden(ch # 1)— The narrator of the book. He pretends to be deaf and dumb while living at the mental hospital.
  • Randle McMurphy (ch # 1)— The new patient at Pendleton. He cracks jokes and starts trouble. The other patients look up to him.
  • The Big Nurse or Nurse Ratched (ch #1)— She is the head nurse who is cruel and terrifying. She insists on order and control.
  • The Black Orderlies (ch # 1)— They are The Big Nurse's assistants who aid her cruel behavior.
  • Dale Harding(ch # 3)— One of the patients at Pendleton.
  • Billy Bibbit(ch #3)—Another patient at Pendleton with a bad stutter.
  • Dr. Spivey(ch#5)—A doctor at Pendleton. He and McMurphy get along well.
  • Charles Cheswick (ch# 10)—The first patient to go along with McMurphy's rebellions.
  • Nurse Pilbow (ch# 6)- A nurse with a birth mark who is scared by McMurphy
  • Candy and Sandy (ch#25)—The prostitutes that McMurphy knows.
  • Mr. Turkle (ch# 7)—The kind nighttime orderly.

Chapter Summaries

  1. Chief Bromden, who pretends to be deaf and dumb, is harassed by the three black orderlies who think he is deaf and dumb. The Big Nurse instructs the orderlies to shave Bromden first which he tries to avoid so they drug him.
  2. Randle Patrick McMurphy is admitted into the ward. He is different than most patients, telling jokes and talking loudly
  3. McMurphy introduces himself to the “Acutes” and the “Chronics”, shaking hands with everyone. Billy Bibbit and Harding are introduced, and McMurphy and Harding dispute over who is the “bull goose looney
  4. The Big nurse is obsessed with everything being in place. Bromden runs through the hospital schedule
  5. The patients meet for a group therapy session where they discuss secrets and humiliating things about each other. Pete Bancini complains of being tired and punches an aide. The big nurse tranquilizes him and Bromden bets to get the best of her
  6. McMurphy complains about the loud music when he is playing cards. He scares the birthmarked nurse who has heard of his reputation, but he gets out of taking his medicine. He figures out that Bromden is not deaf
  7. Bromden does not take his medicine and pretends to be asleep. He sees the whole ward sinking into the ground to a room where workers cut open patients. Bromden sees Blastic’s leg cut open only to reveal wires, and he is then woken up by an aide, still convinced it was real
  8. McMurphy wakes up earlier than all the other patients. The Big Nurse asks why he is only wearing a towel and he said he wasn’t issued a replacement. He drops the towel to reveal he is wearing shorts which angers the Big Nurse
  9. McMurphy meets with Dr. Spivey who he gets to bring up his ideas at group therapy. Dr. Spivey’s suggestion of a carnival is denied, but his suggestion of playing the music in another room is accepted.
  10. McMurphy and others play Monopoly.
  11. At the group meeting, McMurphy proposes changing the TV schedule so they can watch the World Series, but only one person votes with him because the rest are scared of the Big Nurse. The patients are in the hydrotherapy room where McMurphy tries to lift the control panel, but fails
  12. A doctor comes to visit while Chief Bromden is sweeping. He imagines himself in a picture.
  13. Bromden discusses the fog and how it gives him a feeling of being safe, something that McMurphy does not understand.
  14. Bromden contemplates a man in “Disturbed” killing himself
  15. Bromden is drifting into the fog during the group meeting. McMurphy stops working and sits by the blank tv, and others start to follow
  16. Since the staff members think Bromden is deaf, he is instructed to clean the staffroom during the staff meeting. The staff try to figure out what to do with McMurphy, but the Big Nurse thinks they should keep him where he is and he will eventually change
  17. The patients continue to watch a blank TV in the afternoons. McMurphy skips his medication one night and the birthmarked nurse and an aide put him back to sleep
  18. More and more the patients start complaining at group meetings. The ward goes to the swimming pool where McMurphy finds out he won’t be released at the end of his farm sentence, so he does not want to rebel anymore. Cheswick, after being sent to Disturbed, drowns himself in the pool.
  19. Sefelt starts having convulsions in the lunch line. The Big Nurse blames this on him not taking his medication, because Frederick takes it from him.
  20. The control returns back to the ward
  21. Harding’s wife visits and he mocks her. McMurphy explodes when Harding asks his opinion of her.
  22. McMurphy learns that the Big Nurse can give anyone shock treatment or a lobotomy. McMurphy is surprised to learn that the Acutes are there voluntarily and questions Bibbit as to why he is still there.
  23. Nurse Ratched tells the patients at group meeting that the privilege of playing cards in the other room will be taken away. McMurphy walks to the nurses station and punches through the glass to get his cigarettes, claiming that it was so clear, that he didn’t know the glass was there.
  24. McMurphy is back to his old ways and proposes a fishing trip. Bromden says “thank you” to him, revealing that he can speak. McMurphy pays for Bromden’s part of the fishing trip on the condition that he can train Bromden to be strong enough to lift the control panel in the hydrotherapy room
  25. The patients, Candy, a hooker, and Dr. Spivey go on the fishing trip. There are some problems with the men at the dock, and the police, but they are all solved. On the way home they pass by McMurphy’s old house where he tells them how he lost his virginity when he was 10 to a younger girl
  26. The Big Nurse posts every patient’s finances revealing that McMurphy is the only one making money which causes the others to lose trust in him. In the showers, McMurphy and Bromden who is now strong get in a fight with an orderly and are sent to Disturbed
  27. McMurphy and Bromden are both subjected to shock treatments.
  28. McMurphy is brought back to the regular ward after more shock treatments. The other patients urge him to escape which McMurphy agrees to do after Candy and Sandy come that night. He decided to sleep before he left, but he did not wake up before the staff arrived
  29. In the morning, the Big Nurse discovers the party. She calls out Bibbit who kills himself in the doctor’s office. McMurphy attacks the Big Nurse and tries to strangle her. He is given a lobotomy and returns nothing like he used to be. To save him from the state he was in, Bromden suffocates him then throws the control panel into the window and escapes.

Book Note Creator

Sarah Garrison '08