Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is a gripping novel centered around a mental facility and its patients. The novel is told in the perspective of first person, with the narrator being the protagonist. His name is Chief Bromden, and he is attending the ward because everyone thinks he is "deaf and dumb." However, Chief has simply made the realization that people do not listen to him due to his race, so he simply chooses not to talk. He fools everyone into thinking he is deaf, when really he understands everything and judges everyone. He does have a problem, however. He is a schizophrenic. He thinks that the "combine" is out to get him along with everyone else. He thinks that the combine is a society of machines that try to infiltrate everyday life to listen in on what he says and thinks. He always thinks he can hear machines. He thinks they are going to find out he is faking, and always has strange dreams. The other patients are mentally disturbed and each has different issues to deal with.
The antagonist throughout the novel is the nurse who oversees the section of the ward that the novel focuses on. Her name is Ms. Ratched, and she makes it her duty to attain total control. She creates a routine that is followed everyday that is never broken. She holds absolute power and uses it whenever possible. She gives the ward members little to no freedom, and makes it her agenda to point out their flaws in therapy sessions. Every day is the same in the ward, as the routine is followed.
One day, a new man arrives at the ward, and everything is soon to change. This man, McMurphy, was a prisoner at a work farm. However, he started many fights in order to be called insane, and transfered to the mental facility in order to get out of doing work. He does not actually have a mental disability, but says he does so that he does not have to return to jail. After seeing the total control the nurse has, he decides to make it his duty to try to break the other members free from the nurse's control. He breaks the routine whenever possible, disobeys the rules, and acts out in order to break away from her control.
McMurphy's actions have a profound effect on the other inmates. They relearn to stand up for themselves and make their opinions known. They begin to open up socially and interact in a more positive way. Cheif sees this, and wonders whether McMurphy could be the one to break the nurse's hold. One day Chief reveals himself to McMurphy, which only adds to his resolve. The climax of McMurphy's antics occurs as he sneaks the patients out and goes on a fishing trip in a stolen boat. One would think chaos would follow, but the members of the ward have fun and are able to be themselves. Nurse Ratched sees she is losing the battle, but soon comes up with a plan to regain power. McMurphy is a gambler throughout the novel. He bets the other inmates for their possessions and cigarettes. Nurse Ratched comes up with the idea to plant in the ward members' heads that McMurphy is scamming them.
The novel climaxes with McMurphy's final act. He invites prostitutes to the ward and bribes the janitor. He and the other ward members, including Chief, party all night and eventually pass out. The next morning, Nurse Ratched returns to the chaos and is furious. McMurphy is taken away and everyone wonders what his fate will be. Will McMurphy triumph over Nurse Ratched? What will become of the inmates if he does not return? How will Chief's new found self worth and confidence play out in his role in staying at the ward? You'll have to read the novel to find out for yourself.


1. All of the members within the ward are terrified by Nurse Ratched's wrath. If you were a patient and you saw a new member trying to fight the system would you try to help him? Would you have the strength to?

2. If you were in Chief's position, not thinking you had a problem when you actually did, would you stay at the institution? Would you be able to see past your paranoia to see that you are fooling yourself?


Natalie S Mods 5-6 said...

1) If I was a new member and I saw that someone was trying to fight the system I would definitely help out. In a situation like that, a patient does not have much to lose. They are already locked up and if its like in this case where a nurse is not treating the patient correctly, I would find the strength inside if me to fight it. I am not person who gives up so along with someone else , I would do my best to beat the system.

Kelsey M. 13-14 said...

1. I do not think I would help him ofr fear of getting in trouble and going somewhere worse then where I was. I think I would be scared of the nurse and too afriad of the punishment.

Hayley D 11/12 said...

1. At first I don't think that I would help him, due to how terrified everyone was of Nurse Ratched. Plus, they would probably punish someone who has been there longer because they know that those patients know the rules.But as I saw him slowly gaining more power I would most likely join his side in order to fight the system. The more people willing to stand up for what they believe in, the greater chance they have of making a difference.

Heather M. 13-14 said...

Im not sure if i would remain in the institution. I guess it would all depend on the problem i faced. If i legitimately had a problem that required treatment for me to live a normal life again, then i would probably be able to avoid fooling myself into thinking i didnt need help.

Matt P. 13-14 said...

I agree that it would be difficult to stand up to Nurse Ratched, and I think that I too would be hesitant to join in, at least until I saw others were doing it and being successful. I don't think I would have if Nurse Ratched started punishing the patients who stood up to her.

Matt P. 13-14 said...

It would be a tough choice, in Chief's position, to stay at the ward or not. Few of the patients are actually committed, so they have the option to leave whenever the choose. After seeing what happened to McMurphy (you'll have to read the book to find out :]), were I in Chief's position, I think I would have left, because I would not want anything to happen to me after seeing what the nurse is capable of.

Mrs. Sherwood said...