One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
3 May 2011 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest In the novel, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” by Ken Kesey, the book has a lot of meaning, symbolism, and imagery. This book has been criticized by many around the country and has even been considered to be banned in high schools nationwide. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is seen as obscene, racist, immoral, and sexist to some eyes. It does have some bizarre language, and some obscene scenes, but every great literature attempts to give an accurate picture of some part of the human condition, which is less than perfect. Sutherland 42) Being in a mental hospital, there are going to be some language that may be offensive and there also will be situations there that are a little obscene. Kesey’s book is set in a mental hospital; the language, attributes, and habits of the inmates are typical of disturbed men whose already distorted world is being further systematically dehumanized by the ward nurse. (Sutherland 42) People need to look past the racist language of the inmates or the non-appropriate behavior the mental patients are exposing and need to see the story in reality.
The book wouldn’t be a good book if there wasn’t any misbehavior going on inside the hospital. These things happen in there. There is nothing Kesey can do to make everyone enjoy this book, but it is certainly one worth reading. Ken Kesey (1935-2001) was born on September 17, 1935 in La Junta, Colorado where he was raised on farms in Colorado and Oregon. At the University of Oregon, he participated in wrestling and track. On graduating he won a scholarship to Stanford. Kesey soon dropped out, joined the counterculture movement, and soon began experimenting with drugs.
In 1956 he married his high school sweetheart, Faye Haxby and had three children together. In 1959 he volunteered to be a subject in experiments with hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and other psychotropic drugs, which were legal at the time. Kesey got paid 20 dollars a week for the experiments. Near the end of the experiments, he began working the night shift in a mental ward. While working at the mental ward, Kesey started to feel like the patients weren’t really crazy after all, just more individualized that the rest of he world was willing to accept. Some of the novel was written while he was under the influence of LSD and peyote. Soon the US Government banned the substances and Kesey fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution, and later turned himself in for possession of marijuana and was jailed for five months. These hallucinogenic experiences would change his outlook and inspire his writings. He published One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1962 which was his most successful book. The book also got made into a movie in 1975 where it won all five academy awards.
In addition to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey had other novels which include Sometimes a Great Notion, Caverns, Sailor Song, and Last Go Round. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is narrated by Chief Bromden, an Indian who is also a paranoid schizophrenic that is six feet, eight inches tall. He’s been in the ward the longest and he is believed to be deaf and mute by everyone around him. The plot for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is about a criminal, Randal Patrick McMurphy, who is sentenced for a short term for statutory rape gets transferred from a work camp to a mental hospital for evaluation.
He wants to avoid hard labor and serve the rest of his sentence in the more relaxed mental facility. Although he has had past experiences with fights and rough behavior, he shows none of that at the mental hospital. Even though people have suspected that he was just acting to get out of working, he shows no sign of mental illness. McMurphy’s ward is run by a brutal, hardened nurse who uses humiliation, unpleasant medical treatments, and boring and consistent daily routines to suppress her patients. McMurphy makes himself known as the leader, and the other patients accept him as one.
McMurphy notices that all of the patients at the mental hospital are more scared of Nurse Ratched than getting out of there to the real world. The crew that is in McMurphy’s ward consists of Billy Bibbit; a nervous young man who is always stuttering and stammering every time he talks; Charlie Cheswick, a man who is known for his temper and immature fits in the group meetings; Martini, who is delusional; Dale Harding, a high educated paranoid who is married; Tabor, who is an aggressive man who uses profane words; and Chief Bromden, a six foot seven Indian who is believed to be deaf and dumb.
McMurphy comes into the ward challenging Nurse Ratched by trying to disobey or to go against everything she does. Nurse Ratched runs her ward with strict perfection, doing everything every day in a timely routine. The nurse has even selected her staff and aides personally in helping her run her ward. McMurphy goes around the ward in a humorous mood all of the time. He tries to find the funny side of everything that goes around in the ward, and is also trying to get everyone else to loosen up. His good mood slowly starts to get everyone else in the ward to lighten up, and they start to laugh themselves.
It takes them a while to get used to what is going on because they have been scared and in fear of the way Nurse Ratched runs her ward. McMurphy talk to Harding about what is going on here in the ward. Harding admits that all of the patients and even Dr. Spivey are afraid of the Big Nurse. He adds that the patients are, “rabbits who cannot adjust to their rabbit hood and need Big Nurse to show them their place. ” McMurphy bets him that he can get Nurse Ratched to crack within a week. McMurphy carries on with his bet doing his best to crack Nurse Ratched.
A new patient joins the ward that, like McMurphy is involuntarily committed. He informs McMurphy that his behavior towards Ratched puts him at risk of Ratched extending his stay at the hospital indefinitely. McMurphy becomes worried and starts to behave himself as a result. Unfortunately he has already caused the other patients to be unruly. After one these patients, Cheswick, tries to get McMurphy to back him up in getting his cigarettes. McMurphy doesn’t help him and he later commits suicide as a result. Ratched tells McMurphy that the other acute patients have voluntarily committed themselves and can leave at any time.
This, as well as Cheswick’s suicide, angers McMurphy and he begins to rebel again. Nurse Ratched, on her part, simply waits for McMurphy to mess up During a staff meeting, the doctors discuss McMurphy with Ratched. They believe that he is no ordinary man and might be dangerous. Ratched, however, claims that McMurphy is not an extraordinary man and is subject to all the fears and timidity of the other men. She is confident that she can break McMurphy, for he is committed to the hospital and they are in control, able to decide when he will be released.
McMurphy is able to get the group of patients to muster up enough courage to go on a group fishing trip joined by a morphine-addicted doctor and a prostitute, Candy Starr. Nurse Ratched tries to scare the patients into not going, but McMurphy comes out on top. The trip brings the group closer together and established their individual identities. While getting chest X-rays for TB in another part of the hospital, McMurphy learns about the Shock Shop, where patients get electroshock therapy, and he learns about lobotomies, partial brain removal designed to tame the wildest patients.
He confronts Harding and the other patients about why they never told him directly that Nurse Ratched controls whether or not he leaves. They claim to have forgotten he was involuntarily committed, for with rare exceptions, all of the others entered the hospital voluntarily. McMurphy cannot conceive that these men would choose to live in the hospital, but Billy tells him that they are too weak to leave. Nurse Ratched tries to turn the other patients against McMurphy. Chief is almost convinced but McMurphy defends another patient against an orderly, reminding all of the patients he is on their side.
A fight ensues and Chief and McMurphy are sent to the Disturbed Ward and given electroshock therapy. Chief eventually returns to the group and realizes that he and McMurphy have been branded heroes by them. For the first time since being in the ward, Chief reveals he can speak and tells them about McMurphy. McMurphy’s absence only increases his legend. When he finally returns he is in a delicate state but pretends to be OK. The other patients are continuing to become saner and realize that McMurphy is losing his grasp and needs to get out. The plan to help him escape but McMurphy refuses to leave before keeping a promise to elp Billy Bibbitt lose his virginity to Candy Starr. Starr and another prostitute are able to successfully sneak into the ward, along with liquor and marijuana, making for a crazy evening. When Nurse Ratched arrives the next morning, the patients are united against her. But she notices Bibbitt sleeping with Starr next to him and tells him that she will tell his mother about this. Bibbitt becomes agitated and betrays his friends, especially McMurphy. While waiting to see the doctor, Bibbitt slits his throat, killing himself. Ratched blames McMurphy who then tries to strangle her.
McMurphy is then transferred to Disturbed again, and this time they start the electroshock therapy. After all that has happened, a lot of the patients get the courage to finally leave the hospital on their own free will. Weeks later, McMurphy returns to the ward, now comatose after having a forced lobotomy. Chief Bromden smothers McMurphy with a pillow in order to put him out of his misery, then throws the control panel in the tub room through the window and escapes the institution, fulfilling McMurphy’s escape plan for himself. Randal Patrick McMurphy is symbolic in many ways in this story.
Ken Kesey refers McMurphy as Jesus Christ. McMurphy paid the ultimate price to give the other men in the hospital the courage and free will to finally stand up to the big nurse and get themselves out of there. McMurphy challenged the big nurse ever since he came in the door. He knew that his behavier was not acceptable but he still was determined. McMurphy did this because he knew the other men had no self-confidence to do anything themselves. He knew nothing would change unless someone could take a stand. If he never acted like he did, none of the men would have been able to leave the hospital.
One of the events that compare McMurphy to Jesus Christ is when the ward goes on the fishing trip. McMurphy chooses twelve men to go with him on the fishing trip, just like Jesus Christ did with his twelve disciples. Jesus chooses his twelve disciples because each person that he chose had a certain quality that he could use. McMurphy did the same thing when he chose George to go on the fishing trip being an experienced boat capitain. When they begin the fishing trip, each man is quiet and each feels powerless. They have no self confidence in their inner self and they show it. But as the fishing trip goes on, that slowly starts to change.
When they begin fishing, each patient begins laughing having a good time and they start to forget their problems. They all loosen up on the fishing trip and gain some self-confidence. At the end of the trip, every patient changes inside, Bromden says, “The way you see the change in a person you’ve been away from for a long time, where somebody who sees him every day, day in, day out, wouldn’t notice because the change is gradual” (P. 212). (Mary Borton) Everyone gains confidence towards the end of the day and finds out who they really are just like Jesus did with his disciples.
Another reference to Jesus Christ is when McMurphy goes through electroshock therapy. The big nurse thought electroshock therapy was needed because she thought it was the only way it was going to “tame his behavior. ” When McMurphy and Bromden are waiting outside the electroshock thearapy room to get treated, McMurphy volunteered himself to go first. He’s laid on a table that’s shaped like a cross, “They put the graphite salve on his temples. “What is it? ” he says. “Conductant,” the technician says. “Anointest my head with conductant. Do I get a crown of thorns? ” (P. 37) (Mary Borton) McMurphy sacrifices himself for Chief Bromden there just like he sacrificed himself for the whole ward. Works Cited Page Borton, Mary. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Ken Kesey’s use of symbolism. . 27 April 2011 <http://share4. esd105. wednet. edu/mborton/lesken_kesey. htm>. Reott, Jason. KEN KESEY Biography – Writers. . 3 May. 2011 <http://www. findbiography. org/writers/ken-kesey>. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. . 1 May. 2011 ;http://www. lonestar. edu/library/kin_cuckoosnest. htm;. Liukkonen, Petri. Ken (Elton) Kesey (1935-2001). 4 May. 2011 ;http://www. kirjasto. sci. fi/kkesey. htm;. Oregon Hustorical Society. Ken Kesey Biography. . 4 May, 2011 ;ohs. org/. ken-kesey. cfm;. Sutherland, Janet. Defending a Controversial Book. : National Council of Teachers of English, 1972. Boyd, George. McMurphy as Christ Figure. New York: Theology Today, 1972. Boardman, Michael. McMurphy as Tragic Hero. : Journal of Narrative Technique, 1979. Madden, Fred. Big Chief as Narrator and Executioner. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue Research Foundation, 1986. Wallace, Ronald. Comedy in Cucko’s Nest. : Curators of the University of Missouri, 1979.