An Analysis Of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"
Politics and Activism

An Analysis Of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"

A Novel Review

4960
An Analysis Of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"
Art of the Beautiful-Grotesque

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the critically acclaimed novel by Ken Kesey. This novel centers on a mental institution and the crazy characters in it. Chief Bromden, the narrator, a supposedly mute and deaf half Native American patient, tells the story of what happens when Randle Patrick McMurphy comes to stay. McMurphy was sentenced to stay at the institute because he had “‘repeated outbreaks of passion that suggest the possible diagnosis of psychopath’” (44). Before McMurphy had arrived, the patients did what they were told and never questioned the system. After he arrived, the ward became a very different place. McMurphy fought for the rights of the patients and he ultimately paid for those rights with his life. McMurphy played poker with the men, taught Billy Bibbit how to dance, took the men on a fishing trip, got the Chief to speak and admit he was not deaf or mute, and got the patients a separate day room. He also started riots and made many people, especially Big Nurse or Miss Ratched, upset. Ultimately, McMurphy changed the lives of those men and made a difference in the lives of those who knew him. The main motif of this novel is the terrible treatment of the mental patients. The men are stripped down and hosed off like hardened criminals. They have to take medications that they do not know the purpose of. Big Nurse uses the electric shock treatment as a punishment instead of a treatment. Lobotomies were cruel means to an end; most considered this operation a fate worse than death including Chief Bromden who killed McMurphy after the man, who was once full of life, received one.

Chief Bromden is the main character. It is his lenses that the story is seen through. He has been at the institution for longer than nearly everyone there. He appears to be suffering from PTSD and he enjoys chewing gum. His only responsibility is to sweep. Because the faculty believes he is deaf and mute, he is allowed to sweep in areas where he can overhear sensitive information. He is the eyes and ears of the place, but ironically no one knows it. McMurphy is the Irishman sentenced to a mental hospital. He had previously been working at a farm where he engaged in a wild lifestyle. He was involved in everything from prostitutes to gambling. He makes a ruckus wherever he goes, the institute being no different. Billy Bibbit is a nervous fellow with a stutter who commits suicide at the end of the novel. He was a good friend of McMurphy’s and stood by him until the end. The “Black Boys” are a group of young African-American men who work for the nurses. They do menial labor and enjoy harassing the patients. Nurse Ratched is the antagonist of the novel, the enemy of all the patients. She has a vendetta against McMurphy and ultimately wins the battle between them. She is the one that arranges the torture and allows the “Black Boys” to do their worse. It was people like her that gave mental institutions a bad reputation and the reason why so many died without getting proper care. She is the one that arranged for McMurphy’s lobotomy.

This novel resonates with the historical and critical context in which it was written. This novel was written during a time where mental patients were greatly abused: from the treatment of the staff to their actual prescribed treatments. Many of the practices were inhumane and are outlawed today. The electric shock treatment and the lobotomies were common practice and today they are not used. However, the electric shock treatment is making a comeback, although it is being administered in a humane fashion. This book was first published in 1962, a time of when much turmoil in the United States was beginning. The revolution in the novel mirrors the way people tried to revolutionize in the United States in the sixties. For many, it brought about change for the better. Others were casualties like McMurphy ended up being.

The passage that elicits the strongest emotional response is from one of the last pages in the book. It is chief Bromden’s inner dialogue: “The big, hard body had a tough grip on life. It fought a long time against the having it taken away, flailing and thrashing around so much I finally had to lie full length on top of it and scissor the kicking legs with mine while I mashed the pillow into the face” (309). Chief Bromden killed McMurphy; he smothered him with a pillow. This passage causes the reader to feel queasy and disheartened; the hero is dead. Chief Bromden felt he was doing the right thing. The body in the bed next to him was no longer McMurphy, but a vegetable that resembled the once vibrant man. He could not stand to let his friend, the man that gave him gum and got him to speak, live like a thoughtless robot. He was no longer McMurphy or even just any other man, but now an “it”; he was not even considered human by the chief or by the others that knew him. This ending is devastating. It upsets both the characters in the story and the reader reading the novel. My initial reaction was denial; I could not believe what I had just read. After re-reading the passage several times, I came to the realization that what I was reading was correct; McMurphy did die. Never have I been so disappointed in an ending. I was upset with the chief’s character for killing his friend, even though I can understand why he did it. I believe all lives are sacred and to take one is a grave injustice; although so was what was done to McMurphy. The lobotomy was worse than death, especially in the eyes of the mental patients who feared receiving the procedure. I was outraged with Kesey for writing this ending; why did he allow McMurphy to die such a horrible death? Why would he allow such injustice to happen to the man fighting for the helpless and the injustice of others? Perhaps he did it to teach his readers a lesson: even the mighty will fall. What a sour view on life je must have had.

Unfortunately, that sour view is what the mental patients of Ken Kesey’s time had to look forward to. They were stuck in a ward of fear and shame where no one was going to come rescue them. Look at what happened to the person that tried, and he was only fictional.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Swoon

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less

We have all been there. Mindlessly scrolling through social media and then we see that post. We see someone we once saw a future with creating it with someone else. However this time it was really different. A lot of times when we say we are happy for someone we don't really mean it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Photo by Samuel Branch on Unsplash

Affirmations affirm beliefs that we are in need of strengthening. They help up to focus on goals that we are striving for or on a powerful part of ourselves that we need a little reminder is within us.

They specifically focus on positive outcomes or belief systems that we're working to solidify, rather than solely focusing action on eradicating something "bad" or "wrong" from your life.

Keep Reading... Show less

About a year ago, I began my own fitness journey. Growing up, I had played soccer and kept busy, but after an injury cut my soccer career short I suddenly became very inactive. It took years of misfires before I finally found a new active passion for weight lifting. Getting started is never easy, and setting up for success is the best plan of action to assist anyone in your life who is thinking about starting their own journey. These are a few items you can gift for the fitness rookie in your life:

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Nordstrom's Biggest Sale Has The Most Legendary Deals On Luxury Beauty Brands We've Ever Seen

Counting down the days to the Chanel box set gracing my front door.

I oftentimes (excessively) use the excuse of my job as a writer to justify my excessive spending habits.

I needed the new Huda Beauty palette before anyone else in the name of journalistic integrity. It was my job to test out the new Francis Kurkdjian fragrance to make sure I could tell people whether or not it was truly worth the splurge (it was).

Keep Reading... Show less

Some people are so good at downplaying their sadness that even they don't realize how much they do it. When you ask them how they are they will always say that they are good, even when they aren't. They exhaust themselves by plastering an energetic and carefree persona in the spaces that you watch them in because at least to you they can control how they appear. They can pretend to be the happy person they want to be when everyone is telling them how funny and bubbly they are all the time.

Keep Reading... Show less

Mental health is not an easy endeavor. It's not a fad. It's not a bandwagon that you can hop on and off of whenever you want to. Your yearly dose of sadness is not depression. I'm not here to define what depression — or anxiety, or any other type of mental health issue looks like — but I will tell you what it's not.

Keep Reading... Show less
Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

Whether it's dealing with a global pandemic or getting fired from your job, the fear of not knowing can become consuming if it isn't controlled. Below are some easy ways to take back control and establish a peace of mind.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

My South Asian Roots Inspire My Future Career As Both A Scientist And Journalist — Here's How

Being born to culturally diverse parents, I feel like I have the best of both worlds!

Erikka Chowdhury

To all of those who don't know me, I'm an American girl with South Asian parents who have carved their own niche as immigrants in the USA.

Keep Reading... Show less

The beaches are starting to open up. At least in Cape Cod, where my family and I were able to vacation this week. Near our house, we have a bit of a private beach, which is great.

Keep Reading... Show less

I sometimes look back at the days when I had anorexia and think to myself what would have happened if I had taken another bite? Nowadays, I spend days dreading over my figure and wondering if the old sundresses and outfits even fit. I tell myself that they do, but I feel like reality holds a different truth.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments