Thursday, 25 October 2018 05:03

Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  Image submitted by Stephanie Thornsbury

HAMLET - You may have seen the 1975 movie of this book. The movie starred Jack Nicholson and, although it was wonderful and the acting was spot on, it still did not do this book justice. 

It is an oldie but a goodie and deserves to be mentioned in my recommendations.

Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is concerned with life, freedom, joy, and the world. He is fighting a battle within himself and against a society that fosters the feelings of guilt and shame.  These feelings and ideas are displayed for the world to see in his first novel. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest takes place in a mental institution. The storyteller, Chief Bromden, is a longtime resident of the institution and has retreated from life throughout hits stay. He does not talk and the staff is convinced that he is deaf and dumb. Little do they realize that he lives as a constant observer, paying attention to every detail of what goes on. 

His visions and observations often blur the lines of sanity and insanity. The people he sees as evil (e.g., “Big Nurse” and the all-powerful “Combine”) that he views as the behind-the-scenes controller of everything are all a mixture of a little fact and a little fantasy. 

Then enters McMurphy, a loud, boisterous gambler, full of spunk, spirit, and a lust for life itself. HE is upset and horrified by the docile nature by which the other men seem to accept their fates and the ruling power of the “Big Nurse.” He begins to fight this system tooth and nail and thus the real battle begins. He comes to realize the danger in which he has put himself and his fellow inmates. 

The first time I read this book, years after seeing the movie, I laid awake for a long time, just thinking. The book made me feel a lot and see a world that I knew had existed but didn’t quite grasp how bad it had been for those involved. Realizing the way that the mentally ill had been treated and “cured” not that long ago is both saddening and terrifying. 

Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, once said that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a book that “… tells the same story as the most popular novels of the last century.” Focusing on the paradox of attempting to be a human being while also being a well-oiled machine in capitalist society, it takes a look at the demands of the world - the world where we seem to be either savior or slave - and builds on it. The book leaves the reader with a third option: to change the system and create something new, not necessarily through rebellion or harming your culture, but simply seeing and creating a vision and then making it reality.  This book has the effect of leaving the reader slightly undone, and thinking.


Last modified on Thursday, 25 October 2018 09:18