One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

1258 words - 6 pages

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a tragicomic novel written by Ken Kesey and was first published in 1962. It is set in a mental hospital during the late 1950s. McMurphy is described as having a "voice loud and full of hell" as well as a laugh that is "free". The issue of authority and the individual are discussed through many characters. The never-ending fight between the individual craving for more freedom and society which is represented by institutions is also portrayed through many.Kesey seems to follow a fairly straightforward course in unfolding the plot of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Except for a few flashbacks and digressions, the story is essentially told from beginning to ...view middle of the document...

He introduces himself to everyone in the ward, shaking hands and filling the silence with loud laughter. The attraction of the psychiatric hospital for him was the idea of enjoying better meals and an easier lifestyle. This is not exactly what he finds. McMurphy immediately engages in a long, hopeless, and endless battle with Big Nurse, a classic control freak. What McMurphy has brought to the ward is a touch of normalcy. What Nurse Ratched wants is a group of docile and quiet men who do not upset or question how she has ordered things. The more successful McMurphy is at upsetting the status quo, the more intense the battle becomes between him and Nurse Ratched. He also demands in group therapy meetings that democracy reign and that Nurse Ratched loosen up some of the ties that bind the residents to a senseless, rigid schedule that only serves to dehumanize them. What starts as a rollicking rebellion against authority becomes a tragedy. McMurphy is repeatedly subjected to electric shock therapy. He manages to joke about it and to gather the strength to organize a fishing expedition for some of the men. His final challenge is a party at night in the ward that turns into a fiasco. The drunken orgy, complete with prostitutes, is McMurphy's demise. Big Nurse finally pulls the plug and sends him for psychosurgery. He returns, lobotomized, as a human vegetable. All the lights in this bright mind and brave personality have been extinguished. His energizing influence on the residents lives on, however. Several leave to go home after McMurphy's demise as their leader, and Chief Bromden escapes from the ward and heads for the country. Despite his final degradation to a vegetative state, he wins the fight for freedom that he has fought so bravely. But the rewards are not his. They belong to his fellow patients.The main action of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest consists of McMurphy's struggles against the strict rules of Big Nurse Ratched. Her ward at the hospital is a society in itself, for it has its own laws and punishments, both for the inmates and for the orderlies and nurses who watch over them. McMurphy challenges the rules from the time he arrives, from upsetting the supposedly "democratic" procedure of group therapy to brushing his teeth before the appointed time. By having McMurphy question and ridicule Nurse Ratched's ludicrous, controlling rules, Kesey portrays the individual's struggle against a conformist society as a noble, meaningful task. McMurphy's fight within the small world of...

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