Ken Kesey begins One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with a brief exposition, which explains the setting, from Chief Bromden. Immediately afterwards, Kesey gets into the inciting incident. This hooks the reader from the beginning.
29 The novel starts with a prisoner, Randall P. McMurphy, arriving in a mental ward in order to escape prison camp. Once at the ward, McMurphy starts trouble for the Big Nurse. After about a week or two, he finds out that his actions could keep him in the ward, because the Big Nurse is in charge of his release. Therefore, he immediately cools down his pranks on the Big Nurse. Then when he realizes that the men look up to him, he starts his attack on the Big Nurse again. Eventually, the patients join him on his attack, turning the ward into a battleground between the Big Nurse and the patients.
124 The climax occurs when Candy, a friend of McMurphy who they met on a fishing trip, comes to the ward at night and the patients party. McMurphy takes a nap in order to rest for his escape, but he does not wake up in time and the Big Nurse catches the patients. Later, she finds Billy Bibbit in bed with candy and threatens to tell his mother in order to get a finger pointed at McMurphy. Billy gives in and is brought into the doctor's office where he slits his throat. Outraged, McMurphy tries to strangle the Big Nurse, but the black boys pull him off.
217 In the end, many of the patients check out, with a newfound courage bestowed upon them by McMurphy. McMurphy gets a lobotomy and is a reminder of the Big Nurse's supremacy. Reluctantly, Chief Bromden smothers McMurphy to end his suffering and steal the Big Nurse's victory. Finally, Chief Bromden escapes.