One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey



Published: 1962
Genre: Classic / Fiction
Age Category: Adult
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought it
Rating: star ratingstar ratingstar ratingstar ratingstar rating

“In this classic of the 1960s, Ken Kesey’s hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, back by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story’s shocking climax.


Honestly, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the single novel that comes to mind when I am asked about my favourite book. To briefly summarise, the novel tells the story of a group of supposedly mentally ill men in a psychiatric ward who are ‘ruled’ by a tyrannical nurse, Nurse Ratched. Being compelled to conform to a very specific schedule, they live quite miserable lives. They are told when they may sleep, wake, eat, shower, etc. (Remember – this is the 1960’s), and everything that is done to them (including electric shock therapy) is apparently done ‘to cure them’. One day, there is a new admission into the ward, Randle McMurphy. Having a defiant, rebellious, and cunning nature, McMurphy leads the rest of the patients on a path of rebellion against nurse Ratched and her ways, showing them that there is more to life than what they experience in the ward. The sad part is, many of the patients are quite convinced that in following the harsh rules of the ward, they are being cured of their mental illnesses, despite many of them being there for several years with minimal progress.

I found that the way in which this story was presented was very unique and clever. It was written from the point of view of a character who pretends to be deaf and dumb, although the reason for this and the reason for his hospitalization is ambiguous. To me this character, Chief Bromden, is a very interesting one. Throughout the novel, he probably says only around 5 sentences due to his ‘deafness’, and his role in the actual plot is minimal. He is rather simply observing all that occurs in the ward and making very interesting judgements, and we are in his mind, reading the story from the perspective of the silent patient. This in itself just got me so intrigued. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the use of perspective in this novel to me was just…very interesting.

As for Randle McMurphy, damn. McMurphy is quite possibly my all time favourite book character. His rebellious nature and the way he challenges the nurses, the system, and the way they dealt with and ‘cured’ the patients was just brilliant in my opinion. Contrary to what you may be thinking, (or how I am making it out to be), McMurphy is big, loud, sexual, confident, and very, very foul-mouthed. But then again, his character is perfect, as his characteristics completely clash with the oppressed ward, and it is his cheerfulness and confidence that convinces the rest of the patients to rebel. Oh yeah, and one more thing, he wasn’t even mentally ill. He just acted sick and came to the ward because he wanted free food. Something I would do.

McMurphy did everything – literally everything he could possibly think of to make sure that he annoyed the living hell out of nurse Ratched, and disrupted everything in every way possible – all while showing the other patients a good time. One example, and I absolutely loved this part, is when McMurphy wanted to watch the baseball finals on the television along with the other patients, however, nurse Ratched refused. So what does McMurphy do? He challenges her by sitting in front of the blank, turned off television…and he cheers and commentates as though the game is on…for an hour. This didn’t have too much of an effect on nurse Ratched, not until the other patients joined McMurphy. Then sh*t got real.

Besides McMurphy, another character I just loved was poor Billy Bibbit. Billy is the youngest patient, and he has a stammering problem. That’s right, a stammering problem. Who the hell gets sent to a psychiatric ward for stammering?  *facedesk*

But anyway, he was just such a cute and innocent character.

One more thing I found unique about this book, is that here and there Ken Kesey (the author) has boldly added his own little sketches to go with the story. The illustrations seemed simple, but there was so much meaning behind every one of them.

As for the ending, it was pretty sad, but it was a good sad ending in my opinion. Everything made perfect sense, and overall the story was just wrapped up beautifully. Being my favourite book, I could talk about One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest so, so much more. But a book review can only be so long. Although it is a bit of a slow read, this is a novel I would definitely recommend, and is surely one that you can gain a lot from.

AbouttheauthorKen Kesey was born in La Junta, CO, and brought up in Eugene, OR. Kesey spent his early years hunting, fishing, swimming; he learned to box and wrestle, and he was a star football player. He studied at the University of Oregon, where he acted in college plays. On graduating tken-kesey3he won a scholarship to Stanford University. Kesey soon dropped out, joined the counterculture movement, and began experimenting with drugs. In 1956 he married his school sweetheart, Faye Haxby. At a Veterans’ Administration hospital in Menlo Park, California, Kesey was paid as a volunteer experimental subject, taking mind-altering drugs and reporting their effects. These experiences as a part-time aide at a psychiatric hospital, LSD sessions – and a vision of an Indian sweeping there the floor – formed the background for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, set in a mental hospital. In 2001, Kesey died of complications after surgery for liver cancer.



 Thanks for reading!

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