(No Series)

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.

“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

Mental illness is always sad, I don’t care how it’s portrayed. It’s a serious subject that only deserves serious treatment, but even the insane have a sense of humor.

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest worked so well because the characterization was firm, realistic, detailed, and perfectly coordinated to play out the story. Told through the narrative viewpoint of Chief Broom, a silent man who pretends like he can’t speak or hear, he relays the horrors of the institute, the rigidity of the rules weighed down under the iron thumb of Nurse Ratched. R.P. McMurphy swoons in to shake up the institution, inject life into the dead characters, dare against the rules, remind them of their immortality within mortality.

I’ve seen in discussions that perhaps ‘Big Nurse’ isn’t as bad as portrayed and that it was through the colored glasses of the characters that this picture was painted. That places like this only survive so well if placed under inflexible rules, stiff guidelines, no mercy for momentary lapses. The arguers have a point that adherence to rules and such must be used so that places where the mentally ill or dangerous dwell can be as safe as possible…but I disagree with their arguments about Big Nurse.

To me she is perfectly legal but perfectly horrid and immoral, a big problem about what is wrong with society, those in power who let it go to their head, emotional sadism that sucks out its resources from those who don’t know how to defend themselves and who do not have strong voices rooting for their protection. I think most agree to hate "Big Nurse" and people like her. I think those like her who cruelly suck the life and joy out of others are among the worse of people churned out by the human gene meat grinder.

“All I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.” 

Of course I knew already this would be sad – there was a spoiler for me. I hate spoilers with a passion, but in this case it at least cushioned the blow and I wasn’t as shell shocked. A bleak ending for a bleak subject, a bleak book, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel for one sole character?

On the downside, while I dug the story and characters, Ken Kesey’s writing isn’t my drug of choice. It was hard to get into the story due to the style, and I found myself irked by the subject matter because it’s something I get passionately enraged against in real life anyway.

Very gripping, emotional, and disturbing book. Not without flaws, but the story itself won’t leave me.

   Book Quotes:

“He knows that you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.” 

“They can't tell so much about you if you got your eyes closed.” 

   Movie Trailer:

   Similar Reviews: