One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is a novel, which depicts the lives of the
classified, mentally insane in a struggle against the authority of a hospital
ward. Over the course of the novel, the hospital ward turns into a place of
rebellion while the wise-guy hero, tries to reform the institution while
dignifying the people within. The story is told in the first person point of
view by Chief Bromden a huge patient who is sharing his mental hospital
experience. He is a disturbed man who has fooled all of the other patients and
the staff into believing that he is deaf and cant speak. He thinks of the
hospital as a place of fear, rather than of a place of healing. This partly has
to due with the head of the hospital ward, Nurse Ratched; a woman who believes
in order at all times. She is viewed as the hospitals most powerful person, in
turn, the least liked by the patients. In order to escape the Nurse, Chief
Bromden thinks back to his childhood in an Indian village, but this also evokes
the Combine force, which sends his mind into a deep fog. Early on in the story
Kesey, introduces the character Randolph McMurphy, a newly admitted patient. He
is a boisterous man with much self-confidence and a very friendly personality.


He claims that hes only at the hospital to enjoy an easier life compared to
the life he was living at a state farm. McMurphy quickly familiarizes himself
with the people surrounding him and tells stories to all of the patients. His
humorous personality enlightens the patients and the ward in general. However,
Nurse Ratched doesnt like this change because she feels McMurphy is a
manipulator. Her controlling personality clashes with his easy going personality
and as expected she tries to enforce rules, while he is ready to rebel against
them. Nurse Ratched has dealt with people similar to McMurphy by punishing them
with electro-shock therapy or with lobotomies. Both are to degrade the”offender”, the latter of the two makes the patients feel inferior to
society on account of their sexuality. McMurphy is greatly disturbed by the
Nurses antics. He is dissatisfied by the way she treats the patients at the
daily Group Meetings. She decrees the patients self esteem so greatly that she
furthers them all into a state of depression. McMurphy decides that hes going
to take a stand and he bets Harding, a patient who is intelligent, but is
ashamed of his effeminacy, that he can make the Nurse loose control of the ward
without getting in trouble. During his fight against the ward, McMurphy
entertains the patients with his skirmishes with the Nurse. They all appear to
be on his side, until an issue concerning watching the World Series on the
television arises. McMurphy takes a stand, but only one man stands by his side,
Cheswick. In order for the patients to watch the baseball game they would vote
on it at the next Group Meeting. McMurphy needed one more vote to secure the
game, so he turned to Chief Bromden, who was in a deep fog. McMurphys
personality forced the Chief back to reality. However, McMurphy still wasnt
allowed to watch the game. Yet, he raised the spirits of the patients and he
became somewhat of a hero to them. Soon, McMurphy comes to the realization that
the only way he was going to get out of the ward is if Nurse Ratched releases
him. Thus, he begins to obey the rules set forth by the Nurse. He also learns
that the majority of the patients were sent voluntarily to the ward. This
inspires him to destroy the fear that has entrapped the patients. McMurphy
begins by planning a fishing trip that was successful and proved to the Nurse
that these insane people were really capable of more than she gave them credit
for. McMurphy is suspicious of Chief Bromdens deaf and dumb act and finally
breaks through to him. The Chief describes to him the Combine, which consists of
people like the Nurse, the government, and his mother. Generally anybody that
destroyed tradition, nature, and freedom. After this talk that ended the years
of silence, McMurphy makes a deal with Chief Bromden. If he grows strong enough
to break the Nurses control panel; McMurphy will let him go on the fishing
trip for free. McMurphy at this point has helped nearly all of the patients by
bringing them back to a more natural state of being. However, he has worn
himself down and seems as though he is worst off than when he originally came
into the ward. After getting in trouble with Chief Bromden for sticking up for a
man who was mistreated, they both had to undergo shock treatments. Once they
returned, the patients were attempting to plan an escape for McMurphy, but he
wouldnt leave until Billy Bibbit had a date. By the time, that this happens,
McMurphy is too worn down to escape from the Nurse. The Nurse has continued her
relentless attack on the unstable and makes Billy feel extremely guilty and this
leads to Billys suicide. McMurphy is now completely disgusted with Nurse
Ratched and attacks her. She is so completely humiliated that she could never
regain control of the ward. Thus, she orders a lobotomy on McMurphy and he
returns a ruined man. The setting of the hospital ward in Oregon is a microcosm
of the world outside. The mental ward follows the expected cruelty, which has
always existed in mental hospitals. This is seen through Nurse Hatcheds use
of mental and physical abuse used to punish those who misbehaved. This ward is
seen as a microcosm because outside Indian villages were being burned and
conformity of homes and families were being formed. Like the hospital ward, any
action against this conformity or abuse on the less fortunate is simply regarded
as insane and never occurs. This is known as the workings of the Combine. These
comparisons of both worlds provokes a feeling of helplessness because the reader
relates to the outside society, yet it is so closely paralleled to the victims
of the ward that it becomes a common and relatable issue. Throughout the novel
there are many themes presented that put great closure to the book. One of which
is that people will always live their lives differently, yet some people are so
set down and stubborn with their ways that they perceive others as being wrong.

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Kesey portrays this through Nurse Ratched and McMurphy. McMurphy is a man who is
often portrayed as the frontier hero. He is his own man and is a true
non-conformist. While Nurse Ratched represents order and obsessive control
during all circumstances. Sexuality is a prominent issue among the characters of
the ward as well. Nurse Hatched uses this issue to manipulate the patients, most
notably Harding and Billy. They are both partly in the hospital because of their
sexual shortcomings. Nurse Hatched denies the sexuality of her patients and even
herself. This inferiority to the rest of society does not help in the betterment
of the patients. The characters have already been reduced to such incompetent
people by the Combine, Nurse Hatched, and especially society that the fear and
vulnerability that lies within these characters is what makes them victims of
society. One of the most powerful themes which runs through this novel is that
of laughter. McMurphy is such a strong man partly because of the way he can
laugh off mistakes, the world, and most importantly himself. In the opening of
the novel, McMurphy walked into a world where nobody could laugh, but with his
help and example he broke through the patients insanity barriers and got them
all back to laughing. The level of a characters ability of laughter can be
related to their level of insanity. McMurphys personality was a shining
beacon on the faces of the patients. His attitude inspired other patients and
gave them the strength that they needed to face the reality of their lives. In
Conclusion, Ken Keseys One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is an incredibly
inspiring novel that at face value tells the story of a hospital ward, but in
thematic terms portrays societys way of dealing with the undesirable things.