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| Kesey, Ken: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Kesey, Ken: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
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One Flew Over the
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S
by Ken Kesey
Ken Kesey is an American author who was born in Colorado in 1935. He
studied in Oregon and Stanford and after finishing his studies he passed
turbulent years in California. In 1968 he settled down in Oregon. Kesey’s
experiences with the drug scene and the situation in hospitals were an advantage
when he wrote the novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in
1962. The book was a great success - not only students liked it.
Since he is very reserved and does not want to speak about himself, he
pretends to be deaf and dumb. He has been in this hospital for a long time and
for this reason he exactly knows the “curing methods” of the staff.
He is a peaceful and calm human being and never had any problems with other
patients, the Big Nurse or the Black Boys. As time passes he becomes a close
friend to McMurphy. Once he helps McMurphy to beat up the Black Boys. At the end
this friendship makes it even possible for him to kill McMurphy in order to
release him from his pain.
She has a very strong personality and so she wants to rule over all the
patients. She is very self confident and convinced to act in the absolute right
way. She is very strict and does not tolerate any humour. She puts pressure on
the patients in order to control them. When she realises that McMurphy has more
power on the patients then her she sends him to the Lobotomy in order to keep
McMurphy is a harmless criminal. He is self-assertive and very intelligent.
For this reason the Big Nurse does not succeed to put him under her control.
McMurphy does not pay attention to the commands of her and the Black Boys. First
the patients are shocked of McMurphy´s behaviour but then they realise that
the Big Nurse has no influence on him.
He is very friendly to the patients and want them to be independent. He
learns them how to seize the day and to have fun.
Chief Bromden, a half breed Indian who pretends to be deaf and dumb is the
narrator of the story. He has been in the mental hospital for decades and knows
exactly what is going on there. He describes the way the Big Nurse, Mrs Ratched,
influences and destroys the life of the patients and he gives insight in the
practices of mental treatment.
Ever since the Chief has been there the Big Nurse has lead all the
proceedings in the hospital. No patient dares to criticise the therapeutic
methods - although everyone knows the Shock Shop with the Electric Shock Therapy
(EST) and the Lobotomy where they cut out parts of the brain. Even patients who
are there for their own free will are afraid, so they suffer everything.
The new patient McMurphy is totally different to all the others. First of
all he is not really insane. He pretends to be mentally ill in order to be sent
to the hospital and not to jail. He does not follow the instructions of the Big
Nurse or the aides (called the Black Boys) and his influence on the other
patients rises. They start telling their opinion and realise that it is the Big
Nurse who is the source of evil. McMurphy brings life to the patients, he makes
them laugh and do things they have always wanted.
One day he organises a fishing trip. The Big Nurse does not want them to
go, but in fact she cannot forbid it. When they come back they have to take a
special shower for desinfection. In the shower room McMurphy has a hassle with
one of the Black Boys. The start fighting and Chief Bromden, no longer thought
to be deaf and dumb helps McMurphy. After that incident they are both sent to
the section “Disturbed” and get EST. The Chief is allowed to go back
to the others after some days, but McMurphy has to stay. However, when the Big
Nurse realises that McMurphy has even more power on the patients when he is
absent, she lets him come back, too.
One night McMurphy wants to escape but before he breaks out he celebrates
with the others. Unfortunately they all drink so much alcohol that McMurphy
misses the time to leave. The next morning the staff find the patients asleep
and still drunk. The Big Nurse starts an investigation on that case and causes
the suicide of one patient. She threatens to tell the patient’s mother
about his behaviour of that night. When McMurphy gets to know about the death of
his friend he cannot keep calm anymore and beats up the Big Nurse. After this
incident he is removed from the Big Nurse’s section. When he is brought
back a few days later he is not the same as before. They have chopped out a part
of his brain to keep him “harmless”. In the next night Chief Bromden
decides to release McMurphy from his sufferings and kills him. After that he
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a very interesting
book, that shows much about the everyday life in a mental hospital. Chief
Bromden and McMurphys stories are mainly nice and funny to read, but for me the
main subject is the treatment of the patients in such an institute. I understand
that for disturbed patients a particular medical treatment is necessary, but
reading about EST is very shocking and alarming. I think I wouldn’t know
so much about this topic if I didn’t read this book.