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?