Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST | Ken Kesey
06.26.2008 (first published 1962) | Penguin Classics
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Chief Bromden is a patient living on a mental ward run by the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched. Bromden has been here for years and most would categorize him as the mute, half-Indian found mopping random areas of the ward. What they don’t realize is that Bromden is a master of observation and what lies on the surface, may not be 100% accurate.

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You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself.

The novel showcases a point in Bromden’s residence on the ward when loud, boisterous, Randle Patrick McMurphy arrives. This booming red-head convict has managed to convince those manning the work farm he was recently sentenced to, that he is actually a psychopath in need of mental help. McMurphy is instantly at odds with Nurse Ratched, as he tries to shake up the rules of the ward and band together the other patients to achieve his goals. Bromden’s observations of this time give a glimpse into the various residents of the ward and as the reader gets to know Bromden, McMurphy, and the others, they are left to wonder about the notions of psychology and humankind during the 60’s. Can McMurphy triumph over the powers that be?

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Ting. Tingle, tingle, tremble toes, she’s a good fisherman, catches hens, puts ‘em inna pens…wire blier, limber lock, three geese inna flock…one flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

Kesey literally walks the reader through the doors and signs you up as a resident on this mental ward in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. Through the eyes and mind of Chief Bromden the reader learns the harsh realities that many patients at this time endured and not necessarily just those caused by orderlies or tyrants like Nurse Ratched. This is a story of triumph and heartache as the character of McMurphy pushes the residents to look inside themselves and overcome their challenges. While McMurphy’s motives may come across as selfish, it is up to the reader to see beyond his exterior. Chief Bromden is a man of surprisingly many words and a puzzle all to himself that the reader must also solve through a haze of fog caused by medications. As someone with a psychology background, I grew up watching and loving movies like the one based on this book, but the novel truly immerses the reader into the mind of Bromden in a way no movie could ever portray. Kesey greatly deserves the praise this novel has received over the years!

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