One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:A Review

Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Author: Ken Kesey
Genre: Fiction
Quotation: “Never before did I realize that mental illness could have the aspect of power, power. Think of it: perhaps the more insane a man is, the more powerful he could become.”
Would recommend to: anyone that loves a classic or is interested in mental health.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an entrancing novel about the conditions of mental hospitals during the 1960s. Kesey’s novel incorporates complex themes that challenge traditional thinking about mental health, democracy and the treatment of the “insane”.

The novel is narrated from Chief Bromden’s perspective. A patient who has been on the ward longer than anyone currently admitted and who is assumed to be deaf and dumb, but really hears everything said in his presence. Randall P. McMurphy is admitted onto the ward during one of the Chief’s low times, but immediately sees right through his ruse, befriends him and forces him to fight the fog.

Nurse Ratched, the all-powerful ward nurse, has the power to discharge patients, initiate treatments and make change happen when she wants it. Nurse Ratched embodies the idea of power abuse. She manages the ward in her way, keeps the men submissive and sick, and brings terror with every step she takes.  Until McMurphy is admitted, she gets away with her tyranny, but he immediately commits himself to overturning her hand and showing the men that life is meant to be experience.

“’But I tried, thought,’ he says. ‘Goddammit, I sure as hell did that much, now, didn’t I?’”

The novel also tackles theme of free will and the purpose behind choice.

Many of the men on the ward voluntarily checked into the facility, a fact that astonishes McMurphy who is committed and can only be released by Nurse Ratched’s approval. There’s a point in the novel where McMurphy asks why they don’t just leave, and they admit their fear of the outside world. But through everything they experience with McMurphy – the choices they make and battles they fight – they find they are no longer scared. They would like to walk out that door just like they came in. Sign themselves out a give one last finger to the big nurse.  The choice is what gives them power – Ratched’s knowledge that they are better, no thanks to her – that is what proves they have finally left their problems behind them.

Kesey does an amazing job throughout the novel of touching upon the mistreatment of the patients in a direct yet subtle way. Their situation is never glossed over, but it is also not directly described as an abusive situation full of mistreatment and abuse of power. This novel takes place during a time when electroshock therapy was still heavily used and lobotomies were still permissible. It makes reading it more than a little shocking, but also extremely important. At the time, it revealed wrongs in society that have thankfully been (for the most part) fixed. And reading it now, it shows how far society has come in its understanding of mental health.

The novel was adapted into an award winning film in 1975 starring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy. Chief Bromden plays an extremely minor role in the film, which makes his perspective in the novel that much more enticing. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is Kesey’s most popular work, but he has published various works including novels, collections of essays, and plays.

Happy reading,

Top 5 Wednesday: Wishlist Additions

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Since I’ve missed a couple weeks (try like two months worth of posts), I figured I would take it back to last weeks topic of books I’ve recently added to my wish list. Let’s get started!

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1. Watership Down
by Richard Adams
One of my friends recently read this and said it was absolutely great. He recommended it to me, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on it. It’s about a group of bunnies who are trying to establish a new home after their original home is destroyed. Essentially, it’s an adventure, fantasy tale involving bunnies as the main characters.

Flowers For Algernon
2. Flowers for Algernon
by Daniel Keyes
This story is told from the perspective of a man who has undergone laboratory experiments. He is writing about the mouse, Algernon, who went through testing before him. It challenges beliefs about mental health and the ethics and morals behind treatment of the mentally disabled.

3. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
I found this book while scrolling through Goodreads and knew I had to read it. It’s a collection of short stories that works to unveil how humans really act when the curtain is closed. It focuses on raw emotion and experience and travels through all genres.

4. Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino
My roommate read this last year for a class, and I had read about it in another book. The woman who wrote this book actually went to my university, and it’s all about her experience with picking the wrong man when asked who had raped her. It’s an amazing story involving science as well as emotion.

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5. 10% Happier 
by Dan Harris
This book came about when Harris had a panic attack on life TV. He figured he needed to do something to change his life, so he started researching meditation. My other roommate read this last year as well and she said it was a great read.

What books are you looking forward to reading in the fall, let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading,

Top 10 Tuesday: Inspirations

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Top 10 Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in 2010. It combines what I love most in this world into one—lists, books, and blogging. It couldn’t be any better suited for me! This week is all about what books have inspired you to do or learn more about, like climbing a mountain, trying a new recipe, or researching World War I. Let’s get started!

1. Leaving my comfort zone
“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed is all about her journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and while I know I probably don’t have the heart for that, it really inspired me to push my boundaries and try new things. She decided to hike this 1,100 mile trail on a whim, and it totally worked out for her. Despite the aches and pains, she learned much about herself and met amazing people along the journey.

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2. Baking
I’ve always loved baking, but after reading “Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe” by Jenny Colgan, I was newly inspired to pursue my passion.

3. Learning more about prisoners of war
“Unbroken” by Laura Hilenbrand talks about prisoners of war during World War II and the struggle they go through at POW camps. It’s truly horrifying what these people go through, and it made me want to read more about it and fully understand the situation these prisoners of war are put through.

4. Reading different things
For so long I read the same things: YA books, mystery novels, thrillers. After finally picking up something different, I realized that there is so much to be offered in literature. There are biographies and self-help books and graphic novels. The world is your oyster when you enjoy reading and open up your options.

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5. Not judge an author by one book
This is a stretch since I actually read three of his books, but by the time I got to “Looking for Alaska” I swore it was John Green’s last chance. And guess what, I finally liked one of his books! It took awhile, but this just reaffirmed my belief that authors should be given more than one chance when it comes to finding a book you like.

6. Reflect on my beliefs
I read “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” in my YA lit class last semester, and I had never really read a book through a feminist lens until it. It inspired me to look deeper at it as a feminist and also read other books with that same lens applied.

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7. Research mental health
I’ve read Sylvia Plath and Susanna Kaysen (Girl, Interrupted) and I’m currently reading Ken Kesey, and reading all these authors really makes me want to learn more about mental health and it’s perception now and in the past.

That’s all I’ve got for you this week! Let me know what you’ve been inspired to do just from one book in the comments below.

Happy reading,


Treasure Tuesday

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1. It’s been awhile friends! It’s been a wild summer, but I hope to get into the swing of things again!

2. I am currently reading “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey.

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4. Find out if you can pass this basic lit test from Buzzfeed. I only got 7 out of 12 right, what’s your score?

5. The art of reading more

6. So far this summer I have gone hiking, baked sweet treats, gone fruit picking, and read plenty of books. What do you want to accomplish before summer is over? Leave a comment down below.

Happy reading,