One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
The significance of the title can be interpreted in this quote. The story is about a struggle in a psychiatric ward, where many “cuckoos” reside, “Ting. Tingle, tingle, tremble toes, she’s a good fisherman, catches hens, puts ‘em in pens… wire blier, limber lock, three geese inna flock… one flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest… O-U-T spells out… goose swoops down and plucks you out.” This is where the title comes from, the cuckoo’s nest being the psychiatric ward and McMurphy being the goose who plucks “you” out. The author of this book is Ken Kesey, also author of Demon Box and Sometimes a Great Notion. Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado. He graduated from the University of Oregon, and later studied a Stanford. Kesey was head of a group called The Merry Pranksters, who traveled around the country staging happenings. Kesey’s playful attitude is reflected in the main character, McMurphy, who is often pulling pranks in the psychiatric ward. The oppression of society is a big theme in the novel. The narrator (Chief Bromden) often reflects on how the Combine is taking over. The Big Nurse is never happy unless there is complete order in her ward. She often holds group meetings, in which she belittles her patients to where they are merely rabbits, and not men. Often, when a patient would act inflammatory, she would place him in Disturbed. There was always the threat of Electro-shock therapy, and even lobotomy. The only way to get out of the ward was if you gave up your personality and conformed to her rules. Most of the patients who are in the ward were forced there because of the oppression they faced outside of the hospital. Chief Bromden’s father was the chief of his village. The government was trying to push him off his land, and although he tried to maintain his way of life, his people were being bribed, and his wife would work on him too, until all he became was a drunk, inept man. Harding (another patient) committed himself because he couldn’t take society’s forefinger pointing at him, whilst millions chanted, “Shame, shame, shame!” Even at the climax of the novel, McMurphy wasn’t acting on his own. “We couldn’t stop him because we were the ones making him do it. It wasn’t the nurse that was forcing him, it was our need that was making him push himself slowly up from sitting, his big hands driving down on the leather chair arms, pushing him up, rising and standing like one of those moving-picture zombies, obeying orders beamed at him from forty masters. It was us that had been making him go on for weeks, keeping him standing long after his feet and legs had given out, weeks of making him wink and grin and laugh and go on with his act long after his humor had been parched dry between two electrodes.” So, even the patients, who had suffered the oppressions of society, became a society of their own, forcing McMurphy to stand up for them because they were too small to do it themselves. Another theme in the novel is machinery taking over. Throughout the novel, Chief talks about implants and monitoring devices placed throughout the hospital. In his “visions” he pictures the Big Nurse as various types of machinery, “So she really lets herself go and her painted smile twists, stretches to an open snarl, and she blows up bigger and bigger, big as a tractor, so big I can smell the machinery inside the way you smell motor pulling too big a load.”
Another theme is maintaining your humanity. The oppression the Big Nurse wields over the patients, shrinks them down until they’re no longer human. “No. You were right. You remember, it was you that drew our attention to the place where the nurse was concentrating her pecking? That was true. There’s...
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