One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestWho hasn’t seen the film version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?  Once again, I had to make a conscious effort not to bring my movie viewing experience to this read.  Since the protagonist’s physical description from the book did not match Jack Nicholson’s physique, I thought I could easily separate the two, however, Nicholson’s unforgettable facial expressions kept haunting me.

An inmate serving time at a work farm decides to plead insanity and is transferred to a mental hospital.  He believes his remaining time will be a walk in the park, however, his rebellious ways are punished with EST and he becomes an example to the other patients of what awaits those who decide to buck the ways of the head nurse.

The story’s narrator, Bromden, is a native American long-term patient who is believed to be deaf and dumb.  His mental instability is revealed in his paranoid thoughts and hallucinations.  His observations of the arrival of McMurphy expose the abuse of power by Nurse Ratched and the extreme measures she takes to make a point.  Bromden also flashes back to his younger years, however, it is not quite clear what brought him to the hospital.

Nurse Ratched, the hospital’s head nurse and sadistic caregiver rules her ward autocratically.  Her cold demeanor and icy glares unnerve the patients, doctors and aides who submit to her for fear of some form of vicious reprisal.  She is a tightly closed book that McMurphy manages to open slightly only to have the book slammed down on him.  More insight into what makes this bitch tick would have been welcome.

The larger than life Randle Patrick McMurphy is the unsuspecting inmate transfer who arrives on the scene and is shocked by the patient’s submissive behavior.  He questions every rule and boldly confronts Ratched, unaware of the powers she possesses.  His presence impacts many of the patients, some of whom come slowly out of their quiescent states and realize that McMurphy may be their savior in the guise of a fast talking pugilistic gambler.  In the end, he is the martyr that delivers them from evil.

There would certainly be great dialog with Mr. Kesey whose life seems quite interesting. I’d have to ask how he was able to read, presumably under the influence of hallucinogens.  Hopefully, he’d share the experience that lead to the writing of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and perhaps more.

My rating for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an 8 out of 10.

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Next up, Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin…Pnin


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