In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, at the beginning of the movie we're told that Chief is a deaf and dumb. However, when McMurphy and Chief were talking just before the electroshock therapy scene, we came to know that Chief is not a deaf and dumb and he can talk.

So, what made him to fool the doctors? Is that just to escape from nurse Ratched's therapy? I believe the movie adapted from a novel, so, Is anything mentioned in the novel?

1 Answer 1


According to the source novel, he pretends to be deaf and dumb because it allows him to hear the secrets of the people around him.

They laugh and then I hear them mumbling behind me, heads close together. Hum of black machinery, humming hate and death and other hospital secrets. They don’t bother not talking out loud about their hate secrets when I’m nearby because they think I’m deaf and dumb. Everybody thinks so. I’m cagey enough to fool them that much. If my being half Indian ever helped me in any way in this dirty life, it helped me being cagey, helped me all these years.

This odd behaviour stems from his childhood and beyond:

It hadn’t been just since I came in the hospital, either; people first took to acting like I couldn’t hear or talk a long time before that. In the Army anybody with more stripes acted that way toward me. That was the way they figured you were supposed to act around someone looked like I did. And even as far back as grade school I can remember people saying that they didn’t think I was listening, so they quit listening to the things I was saying.

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