Read the passage beginning “Well say, buddy, is this the way these leetle meetings usually go?” (p53) and ending “The hell with you, buddy” (p55). In what way does this exchange between McMurphy and Harding help you to appreciate the various conflicts and confrontations in the novel?
The passage deals with McMurphy’s reaction to his first experience of Miss Ratched’s group therapy sessions. (He immediately analyses and describes the meeting and the patients like a “Bunch of chickens at a peckin’ party” (p54)). Upon hearing this, Harding becomes defensive, and in return tries to condescend and dismiss the description, “I have not the slightest inclination what you’re talking about” (p54). He does this in order to patronise McMurphy, hiding his feeling of shame.
However, McMurphy continues his analogy, and starts to talk of how the meetings can be compared to a group of self-destructive chickens who end up pecking each other to death. This is an important point in the text, being the first example of McMurphy rebelling against the hospital, appearing as an alternative to the institution’s view. It could be used as an example of him acting as a ‘Christ-like’ figure, showing him as someone trying to teach the patients what is wrong with the so-called therapeutic meetings. His ‘peckin’ party’ analogy could be described as a ‘parable’. In other words, his story serves as a way of communicating an important point across.