In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest the author makes several references to nature throughout the novel. What are three specific, significant scenes related to nature and what is the author telling...

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest the author makes several references to nature throughout the novel. What are three specific, significant scenes related to nature and what is the author telling us through these references to nature?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three scenes in which nature is alluded to occur in Part I, Chapter 4; Part II, Chapter 2; and Part III, Chapter 2, and each of these scenes is metaphoric.

  • Part I, Chapter 4

Chief Bromden, the narrator, perceives Nurse Ratched as a part of the "Combine," his name for those controlling people who not only try to manipulate the ward (the Inside), but also the outside world whenever they can. In Chapter 4, the patient Harding expands upon this theme of the government, represented by Ratched as the oppressor against the individual, represented by the rabbit. After the therapy session in which Nurse Ratched manipulates the men, McMurphy asks the others why they allow her to manipulate them as she does. Further, he speaks of how the stronger will conquer the weaker in this world.

The rabbits accept their role in the ritual and recognize the wold as strong. In defense, the rabbit becomes sly and frightened and elusive and he digs holes and hides when the wolf is about. And he endures, he goes on. He knows his place. He most certainly doesn't challenge the wolf.

Of course, Harding metaphorically sees the men as the rabbits. timid and weak as they are confronted by Nurse Ratched "Combine."

  • Part II, Chapter 2

In this chapter, the Chief continues to watch and evaluate Nurse Ratched, realizing how she emasculates the men much as her mother did to his father. One night he awakens and pulls the tied sheet off himself and goes to the wired window where he notices that someone has been burning oak leaves. For the first time, he realizes that the hospital is in the country. 

"It's fall coming. I kept thinking, fall coming; just like that was the stragest thing ever happened. Right outside here it was spring a while back, then it's summer, now it's fall--that's a curious idea.

This sudden notice of nature is a metaphoric awakening for Bromden, a return to life from the "fog" that he so often finds himself. He watches the shadow of a dog move outside the window and he is reminded of his youth when he hunted with his father.  Thus, in this scene, Chief Bromden becomes a man again, a man with a history. But, his memories and feelings are halted by one of the balck boy's hand upon his shoulder.

  • Part III, Chapter 2

In this chapter, the ward members go on a fishing trip which the doctor chaperones. Nurse Ratched has been against it because the ocean is dangerous at this time of year, but McMurphy insists that the men should face danger and be brave as men should be. He gets the "whores" to take them deep-sea fishing. McMurphy intimidates the men pumping the gas, he convinces the old Swede George to pilot the ship and Billy and the Chief catch herring. Even though the others pretend to be brave, Chief narrates, they all enjoy themselves and feel manly for the first time in a long time. On the boat, the men do natural activities and they are the dominant ones, not Nurse Ratched. George pilots the boat, McMurphy makes love, Billy and the Chief catch large fish. The fishing trip metaphorically returns their manhood to the inmates of the mental ward.


It is apparent that the appearance of Nature establishes the balance of man/female that should exist, but does not in the ward of the mental hospital. The memories of the natural world re-establishes the order of life with men dominating. Although they merely pretend to be brave before the dockworkers, the men,yet enjoy themselves and feel better about themselves.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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