CP English 11
15 December 2014
In 1962, Ken Kesey published one of the most well-known and controversial novels of all time, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Ken Kesey was born on September 17, 1935 and raised in Springfield, Oregon. Kesey was a very intelligent young man who attended Stanford University and earned himself a scholarship to their writing program. However, Kesey was not the typical writer, he volunteered to be a test subject for drugs being developed for the U.S. Army. Additionally, he frequently wrote under the influence of acid because he believed it was the key to individuality and the way to truly connect with his imagination. Kesey had hundreds of interesting and influential life experiences, but arguably his most important experience was working on a psychiatric ward. Kesey observed the patients and how the ward was operated; this is what led him to writing the most popular and wide read novel of his career, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Elton Kesey). This novel is about a mental patient named McMurphy who is admitted into a psychiatric ward and causes a great deal of havoc in the operation and organization of the ward, but also inspires the patients to fight for their lives back.
This novel begins in a psychiatric ward during the mid-1950s and is told using a first person point of view, from the eyes of a patient named Chief Bromden. Nurse Ratched, who is in charge of the ward, runs it in a tyrannical manner. However, she realizes that her dictatorship is going to be put to its first true test when the patient Randle McMurphy is admitted onto the ward. He exudes Marcavage 2
confidence and immediately lets everyone know that he is going to be in charge, “I’m thinking about taking over this whole show myself” (Kesey 29). McMurphy immediately realizes that the patients are afraid to speak up and even laugh once in a while due to Nurse Ratched’s strict and authoritarian control. McMurphy decides that he is going to abrogate the Nurse’s tyranny of the ward and obtain the patients’ dignity and pride back. The novel progresses and McMurphy continues to relentlessly fight for control of the ward. He clashes numerous times with Nurse Ratched in a constant struggle for power. McMurphy feels as though the patients are being disrespected and treated like animals, he finally decides to stand up for the patients by attacking an advisor on the ward. He is joined by Chief Bromden who “picked up him off and threw him in the shower,” Chief broke the man’s arm espousing for his abused friend (Kesey 355). Consequently, both of the men are punished with electroshock therapy due to their actions. However, this only results in McMurphy’s heroic reputation growing due to his nonchalant attitude regarding the treatment.
An evening when the Nurse is not present, McMurphy throws a huge party in the ward; at this point in the novel, the Nurse is defeated and has lost complete control over the ward. McMurphy has accomplished what he was striving to do and has sparked life in the ward by inspiring the patients around him. When the Nurse arrives the following morning, she finds the ward completely destroyed and attempts to gain her control back by threating one of the weaker patients which results in the patient taking his life. The Nurse accuses McMurphy of being the reason for the tragic suicide. “First Charles Cheswick and now William Bibbit! I hope you’re finally satisfied” (Kesey 412). McMurphy is so enraged by the Nurse’s words and actions that he attempts to strangle her, but is unsuccessful. The Nurse realizes that she has let everything get out of control, in a desperate attempt to gain her power back, she has McMurphy lobotomized, which is a procedure that takes out the part of his brain that allows him to think and act on his own. McMurphy is brought back to the patients’ area and is no longer even recognizable to the patients; he has...
Cited: “Ken Elton Kesey.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014. Web. 14 Dec. 2014
Kesey, Ken. One Flew over the Cuckoo 's Nest, a Novel. New York: Viking, 1962. Print.
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