One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


Key Facts

Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Author: Ken Kesey

Type of Book: Novel

Genre: Counterculture novel

Original Language: English

Written in: California during the late 1950s, while Kesey was a creative writing student at Stanford University

First published: 1962

Narrator: Chief Bromden, also sometimes called Chief Broom

Point of view: First person limited, through the eyes of Chief, after his escape from the hospital.

Tense: The first section of the novel is in present tense; after that, it alternates between past and present tenses

Set in: The ward of a mental hospital in 1950s Oregon.

Protagonist: Randle Patrick McMurphy

Climax: After a brief period of good behavior, McMurphy signals his renewed commitment to rebellion by smashing in the glass window of the Nurse’s Station at the end of Part 2. This act represents McMurphy’s now deliberate choice to assume a leadership role and marks the beginning of his martyrdom.

Falling action: Chief begins speaking to McMurphy; McMurphy promises to restore Chief to his former strength; McMurphy leads the men in a fishing expedition that allows them to reconnect with their own power and freedom; McMurphy is given electroshock treatment after he and Chief fight with the orderlies; Billy loses his virginity during the ward party and then commits suicide; McMurphy attacks Nurse Ratched and is then lobotomized; Chief euthanizes McMurphy and escapes from the hospital.

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