McMurphy: “You let me go on hassling Nurse Ratched here, knowing how much I had to lose, and you never told me nothing.”
In this session of group therapy, McMurphy accuses the men of betraying him by not telling him how much he was risking with his rebellious behavior. What started as a prank has taken a dire turn. This quote is the only time McMurphy comes close to expressing regret for his choices and actions. It is a moment of pause and reflection in the film as both we as viewers and McMurphy assess whether he can afford to continue his opposition to Nurse Ratched’s repression. These lines introduce the concept of betrayal and the fact that McMurphy clearly is saddened by the men’s failure to provide him with critical information about the hospital’s policies, particularly Nurse Ratched’s ability to decide the length of McMurphy’s stay. The film suggests that for McMurphy and for humanity, ignorance has devastating consequences. It further suggests that, as interconnected human beings, we have responsibilities to protect one another. With this line, McMurphy publicly acknowledges that he has pitted himself in opposition to Nurse Ratched and admits that he has gone too far to change the outcome. His friends have failed to warn him, and he has lost his physical freedom to Nurse Ratched. An unstated question seems to hang in the air, heightening the tension of the scene. Might there yet be more for him to lose if he continues to fight her? As the scene unfolds, McMurphy must decide whether or not to escalate their conflict despite the magnitude of the risks.