One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Top Ten Quotes
- “So she really lets herself go and her painted smile twists, stretches to an open snarl, and she blows up bigger and bigger, big as a tractor, so big I can smell the machinery inside the way you smell a motor pulling too big a load” (p. 5).
Bromden’s vision of the Big Nurse as an agent of the Combine.
- “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” (p.8).
Bromden announcing the story he is about to tell.
- “I was a whole lot bigger in those days” (p. 36).
Chief Bromden recalls his youth.
- “I mean—hell, I been surprised how sane you guys all are. As near as I can tell you’re not any crazier than the average asshole on the street—” (p. 63)
McMurphy’s verdict on the other patients in the ward.
- “Brain Burning” (p. 178).
Harding’s term for electric shock therapy.
- “What can you pay for the way a man lives? What can you pay for what a man is?” (p. 208)
Chief Bromden’s memory of his father’s reply to the government agents who wanted to buy his land.
- “[H]e knew you can’t really be strong until you can see a funny side to things” (p. 227).
Bromden speaking of McMurphy.
- “While McMurphy laughs. Rocking farther and farther backward against the cabin top, spreading his laugh out across the water—laughing at the girl, the guys, at George, at me sucking my bleeding thumb, at the captain back at the pier and the bicycle rider and the service-station guys and the five thousand houses and the Big Nurse and all of it. Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy” (p. 237).
Bromden’s observation about McMurphy on the fishing trip.
- “Anointest my head with conductant. Do I get a crown of thorns?” (p. 270)
McMurphy as he is being prepared to receive electric shock therapy.
- “[O]ne flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest . . . goose swoops down and plucks you out” (p. 272).
A children’s song chanted by Chief Bromden’s grandmother. (McMurphy is the goose who swooped down and plucked the chicks out of the nest—the patients out of the psychiatric ward.)