Monday, January 31, 2011

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next by Ken Kesey takes place in a mental institution. The narrator of the novel is Chief Bromden, a man who all of the patients think is deaf and dumb. Bromden suffers from hallucinations during which he feels the room filling with a thick fog created by a huge mechanized matrix called The Combine which controls everyone in its grasp. The institution is run by Nurse Ratched, also known as Big Nurse, an impatient and intense woman with calm, cold disposition. When the story begins, a new patient, Randall McMurphy, arrives at the ward. He has just come from a work farm at Pendleton as part of his sentence for statutory rape. He is clearly sane and came to the hospital to avoid working. Others in the ward are Dale Harding, the president of the patients’ council, and Billy Ribbit, a thirty-year-old who stutters and seems to be very nervous most of the time. Ratched immediately sees that McMurphy is a manipulator and a con artist. During the first therapy meeting, McMurphy explains his arrest for statutory rape, saying that the girl was of legal age and certainly more than agreeable. Dr. Spivvey, the main doctor for the ward, questions whether McMurphy is faking insanity to get out of doing hard labor at the work farm. Afterward, McMurphy talks to Harding about the way the inmates submiss to Nurse Ratched so readily. McMurphy complains to Ratched about the loud music that constantly plays on the ward, but she refuses to turn it down. He suggests opening the tub room as a game room, but she refuses. At the next meeting, Dr. Spivey mentions casually that he talked to McMurphy about opening up the tub room as a game room and thinks that it is a great idea. The other inmates agree to carry out the plan while Nurse Ratched's hands begins to shake her hands—her first significant sign of weakness.McMurphy next wants to make a schedule change so the patients can watch the World Series during the day and do their work at night. The patients gradually grow more assertive in their opposition to the nurse boys and Ratched, and it begins clear that McMurphy is creating havoc in his attempts to over throw the ward. During a staff meeting, the doctors discuss McMurphy with Ratched. They believe that he 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. Nurse Ratched regains her control over the ward after McMurphy gives up his struggle against her, knowing that she controls whether or not he leaves. McMurphy realizes that Chief Bromden is neither deaf nor dumb. The two grow closer and along with planning the boat trip for the ward patients, plan McMurphy’s escape. Harding and the other patients decide to craft McMurphy's escape when Candy arrives on a Saturday night for her meeting with Billy. They bribe Mr. Turkle, the night watchman, with liquor and an offer of sex with Candy, McMurphy’s lady friend, and the other patients have a party that night. When Nurse Ratched arrives, she gathers the patients together in one room to take roll. She realizes that Billy Bibbit is missing. She finds him in the Seclusion Room with Candy. She chastises him for having sex with such a lowly woman, then tells him that she will tell his mother. Billy begins to stutter and shake, but she takes him into the doctor's office to calm down. When the doctor arrives, he finds that Billy has cut his throat and committed suicide. Ratched blames McMurphy for Billy's suicide, and he reacts by trying to choke her. Although the nurse boys pull McMurphy off of her before he can kill her, he rips her uniform and shows her chest to the patients. Nurse Ratched takes time off to recover, and when she returns, she cannot speak. Many of the patients check out of the hospital. Weeks later, McMurphy returns to the ward, now comatose after having a forced lobotomy. Chief Bromden suffocates 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.
1. McMurphy’s plan for a mental vacation and break from life ultimately end up in the deterioration of his life as he knows it, making him miserable and trapped. Would you take the risk in escaping the troubles and monotony of your life by trying to escape to a mental institution or some sort of hospital where faking an illness could ultimately cause everyone to baby you and give you everything you need for the rest of your life?

2. The way that Nurse Ratched is brutal and mean, and her methodic way of running the ward makes the patients bored, tired, and irritated. If you ran the floor in a mental institution, would you make the patients have the same boring meaningless activities every day or would you try to make their experience somewhat enjoyable even if it meant slightly messing with the stability of their daily pattern and hope that it didn’t interfere with their sickness?

25 comments:

Bojana D 11.12 said...

1. I probably wouldn't try to escape my troubles by going to a mental institution or hospital. You are so limited in a hospital and cannot do normal daily activities. I would not want to give up my freedom for everything to get handed to me. I like working for things because when they're achieved the challenges of the journey that got you there makes it so much better.

Kelsey M. 11/12 said...

Everyone gets to a point in their life where they feel overwhelmed and want to give up. Sometimes we may think irrationally about these kinds of feeling, but they are never anything to act on. I think someone faking a mental illness just to get away from the troubles of their real life is horrible. It not only is wrong but takes the attention away from the people who really need it. This is also not a way to solve your problems. Just because you leave your problems behind, does not mean that they will go away. I would not want people to baby me either. When you feel overwhelmed in life, I feel that you just need some time alone to figure stuff out, and you should not just be given the easy way out.

Heather M. 13-14 said...

i dont think that i would escape anywhere like a mental institution or hospital, because i would constantly have to fake who i really was. I would have to always make myself seem like i was insane and deserved to be in a hospital, and thats not my idea of a nice place to escape to. And having everything done and just handed to me would be difficult for me to get used to because i would eventually want to do things for myself and earn them my own way.

Rachael B MOds 5-6 said...

Bojana-I agree. In a hospital, you can't run around and enjoy all of the things that I don't think we even realize we are taking for granted most of the time. For example, you don't realize how much you love the freedom to run around and rip leaves off of the trees, feel rain, and be at your own free will to come and go as you please. I can't imagine even being restricted when it comes to seeing and talking to the people that I love the most. It might be cliche, but truly, you never know what you've got till it's gone.

Rachael B MOds 5-6 said...

Kelsey-I never have actually thought of it your way. I completely agree. It actually is quite a selfish act after you think about it. Not only are you trying to avoid all of the things that might require a little extra effort but essentially pay off and make a person well rounded, but it also takes away the attention that the people who need it more depend on. I think the book is a little unrealistic in this sense. When McMurphy comes in, he wreaks havoc over everything, including even breaking glass windows with his hands and taking all of the patients in the ward out of the hospital...and yet? No one goes completely insane. It makes all of this seem normal.

Rachael B MOds 5-6 said...

Heather-all I have to say to that is AMEN!

It's wonderful to have freedom and know that even if things aren't always going your way, you at least still have the freedom to be independent and unique and say what you need to say, do what you need to do, and live. I don't think I could spend my whole life feigning insanity just to escape reality. Truly, I think that would actually be the reason I'd go insane in the end.

Kelsey M. 13-14 said...

Rach I just got so confused by this very long summary. haha. Anyways, I think living in a mental hospital would be way more boring then anything in everyday life because you can't do anything you want to do. I think that he is mentally ill because I don't think a sane person would want to go to a mental institution.

JessieW 11-12 said...

2. If i ran the floor in a mental institution i would spice things up by changing activities every once in awhile. i wouldn't make huge changes, because that could interfere with their sickness, but i would make small changes to keep things interesting. I would do this because honestly i don't think being bored, tired and irritated would be good for a mental patients health either.

Ashley A. 11-12 said...

I think that faking mental illness is not the thing to do when you feel you need a break from your life. I would get so irritated at having to fake being sick or handicapped all the time, the doctors adn nurses would quickly discover I was faking.
If I ran a mental institution, I would make small daily changes while keeping teh general schedule the same, such as going outside the same time everyday, but doing a different activity every time the patients go out.

Deanna K 5-6 said...

1. Yes, living in a mental institution would definitely not be fun, especially if you are faking your illness. I would do everything within my power to escape the hospital, even run away. You have no freedom living in one of those institutions. Although I do agree they help a lot of people and are a positive thing, if i were faking my illness, i would escape at all costs.

2. I would be like Nurse Ratched. People in mental institutions need that methodic way, that pattern to rely on everyday because they are far from stable. I would hopefully go with the ideal that routine creates familiarity. Switching up their day-to-day life could be disastrous if they are unstable.

Matt P. 13-14 said...

1. I would not want to escape to a place where everyone would do everything for me because it seems to me this would get very boring very fast and soon I would want to go back to my old life. I agree with the fact that everyone would like a break once in a while, but this does not mean pretending to have a condition in order to be admitted into a place where one does not have to do anything is justified.

2. I wouldn't want to turn out like Nurse Ratched, but I think it is necessary to keep a rigid routine because the people that go to the ward or are admitted to the ward go because they need help. This means sacrificing some freedoms in order to live a life where their symptoms are reduced.

Brad S 11-12 said...

1. Everyday, we are all faced with tough decisions that impact our futures. Stress is an every day occurrence that no one can escape from. Life is not meant to be easy, which is why there is so much stress from wars, illnesses, and personal problems. To try to escape those things, which in fact make us imperfect but make us human, is in turn trying to "die." Frustration would occur with not being able to handle simple tasks physically, but being perfectly capable mentally. I would not try to fake an illness just to get a few days away from my problems. If we back down from the hard things in life then that will only make us weaker.

Joe K. 11-12 said...

I would do all I could to make their experience enjoyable. I would do different and excitign things in an effort to make their life as good as possible. I would never want to allow their lives to boring and monotonous. The death of their soul would hurt me and is something I would simply not allow.

Hannah L 13-14 said...

2. I don't know if I would be able to run the floor of a mental institution but if I did I think I would try and do things that would be enjoyable but also take into consideration how it would affect them and maybe do certain things with some patients and different things with others, even if that wasn't necessarily the way things were supposed to be done.

tyler k 13-14 said...

I wouldn't try to escape because i believe life is what you make of it and people tend to create their own troubles. A break isn't needed if one would organize life to a more acceptable and enjoyable standard.

Eric Y 13-14 said...

For question one, I dont think i would spend my time in a mental institution to escape life for a little while, I wouldnt feel like im earning my keep.

For two, I wonder if in Ratched's early years if she was a nice lady. Perhaps she had tried to be cooperative in the past. I would do whatever got the job done, even if I had to be incredibly dull and strict.

Cassie M 11-12 said...

2. I would make it an enjoyable place. There are ways to make things worthwhile and stable. They need a daily pattern, but just like everyone else, they should have fun things to do once in a while. I think some patients may be too unstable to participate, but those that are able should not have to suffer a droning existence. I would rather risk some instability than have irritated, bored patients.

Richard B. said...

To answer question two, I would slightly alter daily activities to be enjoyable, and if this did not interfere with anyone's sickness, then I would see no harm in it and continue doing it.

Jacob B 11-12 said...

I would not fake an illness just to escape monotony in my life. i would not want to give up my freedom for that. to answer question 2 i would try to give them an enjoyable experience.

Cieran B. 5-6 said...

1. No for in life you cannot get everythig You want and life is hard. There are solutions to a persons troubles and monotony but escaping to a mental institution is not a sane one.

Kara K. 5/6 said...

1. I would not put myself into a mental institution or hospital to escape all my troubles and problems. When you are in an institution like these, you have little freedom for yourself. I would never want my freedom taken away. It is always rewarding to get something you worked hard for. If everything is given to someone, then they never will achieve rewards. I want to be able to feel like I did something with my life. Having everything handed to me, would be a waste of time.
2. I think that changing the daily pattern of their lives would not make a huge difference. I would make small changes so if it did have an effect on their lives, it would not be huge. Being in an institution like these can probably get boring and stressful and times for the patients. They need something to look forward to and not have the same thing going on every day.

Erika B 13-14 said...

1. Everyone has stressful moments in their lives. There are days when people can be so stressed that they just want to stop doing everything. While escaping the stress and doing something new for a little while is a fine idea, escaping to a mental instituion and faking sickness is a definite no in my book, as it should be for everyone. Those places are meant for people with servere mental problems, and I find it sick that someone could ever see that as an escape. On the other hand, if someone has that thought crossing their mind, maybe they really are mentally ill?

Megan L.11-12 said...

Patients in mental clinics don't need variety in their lives. As mean as it sounds, the more stimulation a mental patient gets, the more unstable his or her sickness becomes. I side with the nurse because it's about making the patient healthy, not making their lives fun. If the patients' lives were fun, they wouldn't be in the hospital.

Liz S.11-12 said...

1). No. I don't know any sane people who want to surround themselves with INsane people. Doesn't sound fun. I definitely wouldn't take that trade in.

2). No. I would hope that by keeping them bored and complacent they would be "less dangerous," so to say. Like, no big changes to freak anyone out/send them on a mental breakdown.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

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