One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest Paradox

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Ken Kesey’s ideas and intentions were lost in translation as his novel was transformed to a motion picture in 1975. Although both the novel and film are bona fide works of genius and highly respected, their creators are polar opposites and it is reflected in the differentiation between the two. Kesey’s writing is poetic and savvy, having the ability to influence the reader’s emotions and compel them to consciously scrutinize his message. Contrarily, the film is more literal and manages to find levity behind what Kesey meant to be serious. The very fact that Kesey’s novel was modified to conform to popular demand contradicted and crippled its true meaning. However, even though the novel compared to the film has some drastic changes, it is still possible to derive at least one of Kesey’s original themes.

The most noteworthy variation between the two is the film’s inverse narrative from the book. Kesey’s use of Chief Bromden’s narration was the backbone and driving force of the entire novel. Kesey created extensive depth and development with Chief, in turn allowing the reader to comprehend the social conflict theme beneath his character. Cheif is a schizophrenic Indian, whose craziness represents this critical theme, as it has been induced by society and the institution he is placed in. Chief’s course throughout the novel is to redeem his conscious perspective of reality. His hallucinations represent society’s methods to mold individuals into what is thought to be acceptable. Against the foundation of Kesey’s novel, the film uses McMurphy’s perspective, altering much of the meaning behind Kesey’s novel. The film omits any sort of development with Chief, consequently doing away with Kesey’s message of social conflict.

Furthermore, the film strays from Kesey’s depiction of Nurse Ratched as a machine-like tyrant ruler, to a bit more tranquil and composed nurse. The depth given by Chief’s description of Nurse Ratched, one being her as “big as a...
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