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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest

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Matthew Soukup

on 1 June 2015

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Transcript of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Novel Exploration
The novel
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
, written by Ken Kesey, surrounds the ideas of the oppression of society. In the late 1950’s when Kesey was writing the novel, he had a job at a mental institution where he spoke thoroughly with the patents. Kesey also participated in many LSD trials, which then influenced how he wrote
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
. The novel, based mostly in a mental institution in the 1960’s, is written from the perspective of patient Chief Bromden, a six-foot seven inches tall Native American who has hallucinations and paranoia. Bromden, who pretended to be deaf and dumb for 10 years, realized after he escaped, he had been brought back to sanity after becoming close friends with Randle McMurphy, a fellow patient.

The theme throughout this book that will be explored is the theme of the certainty of one being mentally disordered.

Throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest, Ken Kesey creates quotes which reflect theme, character motives, and hidden meanings.
The main character's developed throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are Cheif Bromden, Nurse Ratched, and Randle McMurphy.
Literary Elements-
Throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, many different literary elements were used in order to convey the main theme of the book. Ken Kesey explores the theme of the confidence of one’s sanity.
– The fog is a hallucination from Chief Bromden. He believes the fog is coming from hidden machinery behind the walls and the Nurse Ratched is controlling it. The fog is a symbol of the wrath and strict control of Nurse Ratched, as it can make you “ strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog.” Until Randle McMurphy came to the ward, Chief often found that he “could relax and lose [himself].” The fog represents the complete control Nurse Ratched had over them.

– Throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chief Bromden refers to the asylum system, society, and the government as the ‘Combine.’ Chief describes the “nation-wide” combine as “really big force, and the nurse is just a high-ranking official for them.” So in conclusion the ‘Combine’ represents the corruption and influence that the entire world possesses.
Nurse Ratched, often referred to as “Big Nurse,’ was the authoritarian dictator for a ward in a mental institution. Nurse Ratched believes that rules need to my implemented and followed otherwise there will be strict punishment such as electroshock therapy and/or in McMurphy’s case a lobotomy. Nurse Ratched’s actions follow a machine like formation and are quick, thoroughly thought-out, and precise with specific intentions. The oppressive nurse often seen as a head figure throughout the book has patients that all have some level of fear of her. The one character that ‘Big Nurse’ clashes with the most is Randle McMurphy. Her oppressive and authoritarian outlook on nearly everything is in great opposition to McMurphy’s fervent and sexual motives. Nurse Ratched can barely withstand McMurphy’s outlandish motives and needs her ward to be running smoothly like an automated machine. In the end, Nurse Ratched cannot tolerate his actions and is ultimately put through a lobotomy and would never have the same spirit or personality again.
Spoken by Randle McMurphy, this quote goes to point out the absence of laughter throughout the ward. McMurphy believes that without laughter, we are all lost in our life without enjoyment and freedom. Laughter is McMurphy’s tactic with resisting the oppression and pressure from society and especially Nurse Ratched. The other patients who have not laughed throughout their entire stay at the institution and succumbed to Nurse Ratched’s pressure and were deemed insane. The quote is closely related to another quote; “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.”
“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”
Machines within the walls
– Throughout the novel, Chief Bromden is convinced that the walls, aids, and nurses are made of “motley machine parts.” The imagery illustrated through Chief Bromden’s hallucinations created a lack of humanity throughout the hospital and a sense of fear and oppression. Bromden describes Nurse Ratched as being as “big as a tractor, so big I can smell the machinery inside the way you smell a motor pulling too big a load."
The protagonist Randle McMurphy is the initial force driving the change throughout Nurse Ratched’s ward. Initially only pretending to be insane and put in the mental institution to get out of physical labor, he soon realizes the severity Nurse Ratched’s rule and the effects on the patients. He’s a wild gambler that’s anti-authoritarian and sticks out from the rest of the patients. Unlike almost all patients on the ward, McMurphy is not afraid of Nurse Ratched and has had many attempts at overthrowing her rule. McMurphy was often seen as an idol throughout the ward and encourages the patients to find ways out and to discover self-respect. Randle proves that the patients are once again sane men while on the fishing trip, looking up to him as a hero. Through many self-sacrificing schemes against Nurse Ratched, McMurphy ultimately disallows enough of Nurse Ratched’s power to leave behind a tolerable ward. At the end of the book, after McMurphy’s lobotomy, Chief Bromden suffocates and kills him to preserve McMurphy’s reputation throughout the ward and is also see as the final win against Nurse Ratched.
Throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chief Bromden often found himself lost in the ‘fog.’ The fog according to Bromden, was controlled by Nurse Ratched and was used during times of stress in the ward. Over time the Chief had got used to it and found it comforting as he could lose himself and all sense of reality. The fog is a representation of Nurse Ratched’s wrath and influence, and Bromden would find himself lost for very long ends at a time in it. The fog reveals Bromden’s lack of courage that made him feel ‘smaller’ now then he was when he was younger. It wasn’t until Randle came that he had regained his strength and once again had become as ‘big’ as he was when he was younger.
“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”
Chief Bromden Unnoticed
– Throughout the novel, Chief Bromden is often unnoticed and disregarded by the ‘Combine.’ Bromden believes that he has been invisible as early as when he was when a child and government officials were on his reserve to buy the land. He had gotten used to this throughout his life and as a result had pretended to be deaf and or dumb. Often Bromden would use this to his advantage such as being able to listen in on staff meetings while he cleans. He is finally freed from his commitment of being deaf when Randle McMurphy had influenced him and then the other patients. This motif of Chief Bromden being invisible is used by Ken Kensey to fortify the idea of oppression and the results from it.

– Until Randle McMurphy came to the ward, there hadn’t been a hint of laughter. McMurphy believes that laughter holds the key to sanity, and “when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.” The reoccurring scenario when Randle seems to be the only one laughing goes to show the level of oppression the patients had gone through. towards the end of the book, specifically at the end of the fishing trip; the group of patients had all successfully broke free of their laughing deprivation and in a way had become sane once again.
Chief Bromden is the narrator for the entire novel in which it includes his experiences with hallucinations. Throughout the novel, Bromden continuously changes toward a more sane sense of reality with the motivation from Randle McMurphy. In the beginning Bromden is seen as deaf and dumb as he hasn’t spoken a word nor responded to any attempts of communication throughout his time at the institution. When McMurphy is first introduced, he soon finds out that Bromden is neither deaf nor dumb, but just pretending to be. McMurphy finds a way to talk to him and from there on out, Bromden changes from being scared of the ‘combine’ and of Nurse Ratched, to stepping up and defending not only himself but the other patients as well. Chief Bromden is a representation of what can happen to oneself after long, harsh and cruel oppression from the ‘combine,’ otherwise known as society and the government.
Throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chief Bromden pretends to be deaf and dumb through the first 10 years of his stay in the mental institution. Bromden’s reasoning for it first started with other people acting as if he were invisible. Chief Bromden’s sense of invisibility adds to his character throughout the book. During the period of time when he was pretending to be deaf and dumb, he had felt smaller and weaker at that point than he had when he was younger. He didn’t regain that ‘size’ until he been motivated and influenced by McMurphy.
“It wasn’t me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all.”

The novel
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,
had started off slow and uneventful, but soon picked up and explored the ideas of conformity. The novel by Ken Kesey, allowed me to view society differently from how I would normally. The book made me wonder about how far mental institutions have come since the 1960’s. The ideas of hierarchy and conformity had me engaged and interested, and the imagery of the machinery captivated me. My first impressions with the book were ones of boredom and disinterest since it seemed as if there were no events or significance situations. It wasn’t until Nurse Ratched and Randle McMurphy had started to clash over the grant to watch the World Series, that I found interesting. From that point onward McMurphy’s schemes against the Big Nurse kept me on my toes. I would recommend the book to only a couple of my friends and/or just the people that liked the movie but have not read the book.
(n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http://

Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008, November 11). One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory. Retrieved May 19, 2015.

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