One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Alternate Cover Edition ISBN: 0141187883 (ISBN13: 9780141187884)Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electric shock therapy. But her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving tr...

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Title:One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Author:Ken Kesey
Rating:
Edition Language:English

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Reviews

  • Annet

    I just watched an interview with Stephen Fry and he mentioned this book. Read it a long long time ago. Read it for highschool already I think. Remember being shocked and amazed. Scary, funny, dark and wonderful at the same time. Un-be-lievable. And I just realized this is one of the best and impressive books I ever read. Definitely a top tenner ever.

  • Samara Steele

    Last night, at about 2 am, I finished 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey.

    I lay awake for a long time afterward, watching the bars of light on the ceiling, holding my eyes open until the pupils dilated enough to shrink the light, then I'd blink and have to start all over.

    Finally I sat up and turned on the lights.

    The book had done something to me. Like it'd punched me in the face and said, "Do something, you idiot!"

    So I gathered up a bunch of sentimental shit from around my apartment

    Last night, at about 2 am, I finished 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey.

    I lay awake for a long time afterward, watching the bars of light on the ceiling, holding my eyes open until the pupils dilated enough to shrink the light, then I'd blink and have to start all over.

    Finally I sat up and turned on the lights.

    The book had done something to me. Like it'd punched me in the face and said, "Do something, you idiot!"

    So I gathered up a bunch of sentimental shit from around my apartment, stuffed it into a backpack, hiked across town, and threw it off the Morrison Bridge.

    The backpack made a loud 'thunk' when it hit the water. Like a body falling from a building. I watched it float downstream: a tiny dot weaving through the rippling reflections of the city lights, until it finally sank below the surface.

    I tell you this story because, in a way, throwing that bag of stuff off the bridge is the best analysis I can make of Kesey's book.

    So much has been said before, what else can I say?

    Chuck Palahniuk summed it up nicely in the forward for the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. He explains that "'Cuckoo's Nest' tells the same story as the most popular novels of the last century," it focuses on the modern paradox of trying to be human in the well-oiled machine of a capitalist democracy, where you must be either a savior or a slave. Palahniuk points out that 'Cuckoo's Nest' shows us a third option: "You can create and live in a new system...not rebelling against or carving into your culture, but creating a vision of your own and working to make that option real."

    Is there anything else left to say?

    Reading this book is like being inside Fight Club. You take punch after punch, but keep crawling back for more because it's making you feel things you didn't know you could feel--and as long as you stay conscious, and don't give up or let your eyes glaze over, this book will creep into the very edges of your consciousness and give you new words for the questions you always wanted to ask, show you how to draw a map of your own, and give you a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, it is possible to rise above the machine of society and become human again.

  • BAM The Bibliomaniac

    I first read this book in 2007 after I became a daytime outpatient at Our Lady of Peace, my city's mental health facility. I had a nervous breakdown after losing my teaching job. I went 5 days a week; I ate lunch there. I was so medicated they transported me. Somehow this book and movie, and especially the character of McMurphy, was how my dad related to me during this trying time. Mental health is a trigger issue with me. It's not understood today. It certainly wasn't understood in the '60s. Le

    I first read this book in 2007 after I became a daytime outpatient at Our Lady of Peace, my city's mental health facility. I had a nervous breakdown after losing my teaching job. I went 5 days a week; I ate lunch there. I was so medicated they transported me. Somehow this book and movie, and especially the character of McMurphy, was how my dad related to me during this trying time. Mental health is a trigger issue with me. It's not understood today. It certainly wasn't understood in the '60s. Let's just keep them caged, sedated, and manipulated. Make them feel guilty about their problems. Take away comfort and leisure. No friends, no family, no fun, no fresh air. Yeah, that sounds healthy

    Addendum 2/13/18: just bought this on audible. 50th anniversary edition read by John C. Reilly

    Got me thinking of my dad asking his McMurphy how Ms. Ratchett was today. That was probably the roughest patch of my life, but I would never have changed a thing. I learned so much about myself, and became so much stronger in spirit. However, I realize that if I had lived in an earlier time period my outcome could have been much gloomier and permanent. I’ve been reading various other mental health books lately, and sadly some things never change as advanced medicine has become. We just can’t seem to grasp the BRAIN.

    AUDIO REREAD # 19

    How many of us "have been told dragons do not exist, then been dragged to their lairs?"

    How many of us "forget sometimes what laughter can do?"

    I think out of all the characters out of all the books, Billy the most breaks my heart. Tag teamed by his mother and Nurse Ratchett, he never had a chance in life. All he wants in life is love, and he proves himself to be such a gentleman.

    As I drove home from work this morning listening to this book, I glanced at my speedometer; I was driving 40 mph on the interstate. It was during the gas station scene when the gang learns being insane can still mean being powerful. That’s when I finally realized how much hope McMurphy instilled in these terrified, suppressed lives, which makes the last couple of hours of the story all the more tragic. McMurphy gave these men another glance at happiness, reminded them how to be assertive, inspired a little self-worth again. He basically he showed them they were men, they were deserving of humane treatment. They were not anyone’s “ Boys” even at Billy’s age, the youngest at 31. They didn’t didn’t deserve the underhanded, demeaning manipulations and insinuations of a sadist. But these these new emotions did not germinate and bloom, only malice and grief took root.

    Very few books hold my heart through years as this one does. I appreciate Kelsey’s honesty on the pages.

  • F

    loved this.

    One of my favourites.

  • Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

    My friend

    was recently updating his books with reviews on here and this book popped up in my feed. It's my husband's favorite movie/book of all time and I realized that I had never picked the book up. I've watched bits and pieces of the movie in the three thousand times that my husband has watched it, but I had never experienced it first hand.

    I'm gutted.

    Why have I not just sat down and watched the film that was made from this book? I'm completely off my rocker.

    Randle Patrick McMurphy. That g

    My friend

    was recently updating his books with reviews on here and this book popped up in my feed. It's my husband's favorite movie/book of all time and I realized that I had never picked the book up. I've watched bits and pieces of the movie in the three thousand times that my husband has watched it, but I had never experienced it first hand.

    I'm gutted.

    Why have I not just sat down and watched the film that was made from this book? I'm completely off my rocker.

    Randle Patrick McMurphy. That guy who plays crazy to get out of a work detail. Goes into the mental hospital and completely owns it.

    He gets the "inmates" to smoking, drinking, having women and fishing. He makes them back into the men that they were.

    The evil in this book. Nurse Ratched. I usually have a fond spot for the villains but this woman scares me. She has got to be one of the top baddies of all time. I still have goosebumps from her.

    I've always been hit or miss on books that are called classics and that's probably why I have not tried some that now I'm beginning to reconsider. Because if they are like this one I'm definitely missing out. Thanks Ed for pointing out this most wonderful book to me.

  • Evgeny

    This classic book gave birth to a movie which won a truckload of Academy Awards. This means the majority of readers are familiar with one or the other and I thought a very brief review would be enough; something along the lines, "The book is very good". Seeing that some people miss the point of the story I had to ramble a little more than this short sentence, sorry.

    A ward of a mental hospital in Oregon was ruled by an iron hand of it

    This classic book gave birth to a movie which won a truckload of Academy Awards. This means the majority of readers are familiar with one or the other and I thought a very brief review would be enough; something along the lines, "The book is very good". Seeing that some people miss the point of the story I had to ramble a little more than this short sentence, sorry.

    A ward of a mental hospital in Oregon was ruled by an iron hand of its head nurse Ratched. She even had power over the doctor of the ward. The patients were completely under her thumb until a rebellious guy called McMurphy was committed for the treatment. He decided to challenge the nurse's rule for completely selfish and not-so-selfish reasons.

    I mentioned the movie. This is one of the rare and very precious occasions when the movie was as good as the book. In case you have not seen it, but like the book: drop everything and do it now. Those Oscars I mentioned in the beginning: they are well-deserved. I also believe Jack Nicholson was born to play McMurphy. No actor in the world - dead or alive - could do a better job.

    I really did not want to use the movie stills in my review as countless other people did it in theirs, but I also thought it is impossible to talk about the book without mentioning the movie. By the way I saw it before reading the book. Later when I read it I realized I cannot put it down even though I knew what would happen next at any moment. This should tell something about how good the book is.

    Another points for the book: I really hate stories told in present tense. This time it took me about one quarter of the tale to realize this one was in present tense as well; I simply had not noticed that before being busy literally living in Nurse Ratched's ward. When my mother got her hands on this one she was sure she would not like it, being a doctor and as such familiar with goings-on in psychiatry hospitals. Several pages later I realized I had to wait for her to finish it to resume my own reading - her having an advantage of seniority and all.

    Unlike the movie the book is told from Chief Bromden POV - this by the way made a nice surprise in the middle of the movie. He is without a doubt mentally disturbed in the beginning and as such it is possible to see him as an unreliable narrator; this would open a can of worms and a whole new level of speculation: what if

    everything he told really happened? Aside from his obvious delusions that is. I will not go there.

    We now come to the main reason I decided to write a longish review: the Nurse Ratched.

    I heard two types of argument.

    1. She is a strong woman doing what she thinks is best and as such cannot be a villain thus McMurphy is the one.

    2. If the Nurse is a villain how comes there is no other strong woman on a good side?

    My answer for the first argument would be yes, she is undoubtedly a strong woman. Being a strong woman does not make one a good person by default. The fact that she believes that everything she does is for the greater good makes her even scarier - and she is scary, no doubt about it.

    For the second argument I can only say that there is no place for a good strong woman in the story. We are talking about a male ward, so she cannot be one of the patients. She also cannot be one of the nurses as the head nurse surely would not let a strong woman into her domain: she really does not want a competition. So to have another strong woman only as a tribute to political correctness would be pointless.

    I will stop here. TLDR (too long; did not read) version of the review: book - great, read it; movie - great, see it.

  • Lyn

    Profane, hilarious, disturbing, heartbreaking, shocking – powerful.

    Ken Kesey’s genre defining 1962 novel that was made into a Broadway play and then made into an Academy Award winning film starring Jack Nicholson will inspire strong emotions. I can see people loving it or hating it.

    I loved it.

    First of all, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart: a book that is banned from libraries has a place on my bookshelf.

    So all you amateur censurers out there – you are my enemy. I don’t like you. I de

    Profane, hilarious, disturbing, heartbreaking, shocking – powerful.

    Ken Kesey’s genre defining 1962 novel that was made into a Broadway play and then made into an Academy Award winning film starring Jack Nicholson will inspire strong emotions. I can see people loving it or hating it.

    I loved it.

    First of all, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart: a book that is banned from libraries has a place on my bookshelf.

    So all you amateur censurers out there – you are my enemy. I don’t like you. I defy you. A book that you don’t like is a book that I do and I want to rub it in your face.

    This from Wikipedia:

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of America's most highly challenged and banned novels.

    • 1974: Five residents of Strongsville, Ohio sued the local Board of Education to remove the novel from classrooms. They deemed the book "pornographic" and said that it "glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles, and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination".

    • 1975: The book was removed from public schools in Randolph, New York and Alton, Oklahoma.

    • 1977: Removed from the required reading list in Westport, Maine.

    • 1978: Banned from the St. Anthony, Idaho Freemont High School and the teacher who assigned the novel was fired.

    • 1982: Challenged at Merrimack, New Hampshire High School.

    • 1986: Challenged at Aberdeen Washington High school in Honors English classes.

    2000: Challenged at Placentia Unified School District (Yorba Linda, California). Parents say that the teachers could "choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again".

    The teacher who assigned this as reading was FIRED??? The year 2000? The year 2000??? We are in the 21st century and someone is calling this garbage??

    Ok.

    First of all, McMurphy is alive.

    “Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

    The dramatic tension between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched was literary diamonds – rare treasure. Kesey created a novel wherein was a clash between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Clash! That’s what it was and a reader could see it coming from a mile down the tracks, like a freight train whistling and steaming. Here it comes.

    McMurphy was the novel’s tragic hero – a red headed Irish American troublemaker who everyone loves deep down. The Big Nurse – Mildred Ratched, is the Man. She is the embodiment of the institution, the rules, the law, the Order. Kesey has drawn an epic clash between chaos and order and did so within the halls and bleached clean walls of an insane asylum.

    Though I could not help picturing Jack Nicholson as McMurphy while reading this, Kesey’s McMurphy is really described more like Charles Dickens’ Fagan, a red headed trickster, and perhaps in mythic terms he is Coyote, or Loki, he is THE TRICKSTER GOD, he is that opposing force that makes the orderly way of the universe stronger.

    “Rules? PISS ON YOUR FUCKING RULES!”

    In another way, McMurphy is the quintessential American, and he can be seen as a metaphor for the spirit of America. He is the entrepreneur, the self-starter, the untamed rebel who makes his own rules. He is the great equalizer, the leader who kicks down the boundaries, who champions the little guy, who colors outside the lines and who picks the small boys and the fat kids on his team and then wins anyway and wins big.

    “All I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.”

    Kesey’s narrator is also an unlikely selection: Chief Bromden, nicknamed Chief Broom because he is made to sweep the halls. A giant of a man, the rational, modern world has emasculated him, made him small and without a voice or strength. Chief is clearly schizophrenic but also lucid, he and the other patients are humans, deserving of respect and sympathy; one of the central points made by Kesey, who is as humanist as Kurt Vonnegut and as fun as a barrel full of monkeys. Chief’s dramatic and dynamic evolution is the barometer of this great work.

    The Chronics and acutes. When McMurphy arrives at the institute, the residents are informally divided between the chronics – those whose condition has demanded their lifelong commitment; and the acutes, those whose insanity may be temporary and remedied. Interestingly, many are there voluntarily. McMurphy’s friendship with Chief (an erstwhile chronic) and his championing of the acutes status is a central theme of the book.

    “What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin'? Well you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole out walkin' around on the streets and that's it. ”

    Like Upton Sinclair’s muckraking journalistic exposures in The Jungle, Kesey’s novel can also be seen as a bright light shined on the mental health facilities in the 60s.

    “He Who Marches Out Of Step Hears Another Drum”

    A book that should be read.

  • Raeleen Lemay

    THANK GOODNESS I GAVE THIS ANOTHER TRY. Honestly though, watching the movie is what motivated me to pick this book up, and the fact that we picked it for my book club helped as well. I love both the book and the movie, both for completely different reasons. In the movie, Jack Nicholson's R.P. McMurphy is the main focus, whereas in the book Chief Bromden (the narrator) plays a much bigger role, which is almost entirely neglected in the movie. Reading the book from Chief's perspective a

    THANK GOODNESS I GAVE THIS ANOTHER TRY. Honestly though, watching the movie is what motivated me to pick this book up, and the fact that we picked it for my book club helped as well. I love both the book and the movie, both for completely different reasons. In the movie, Jack Nicholson's R.P. McMurphy is the main focus, whereas in the book Chief Bromden (the narrator) plays a much bigger role, which is almost entirely neglected in the movie. Reading the book from Chief's perspective added a whole new layer to the story, what with his backstory and hallucinations. Plot-wise, the book and movie are almost identical, but the feel is so much different between the two, which I thought was brilliantly done on the movie-making end. All in all, I really enjoyed this, and I highly recommend picking it up! Also, the Penguin Classics edition I got has line drawings done by Ken Kesey himself, and those added a bit more atmosphere to the book as well.

    I've decided to give this book another chance! I watched the movie for the first time not too long ago and I LOVED IT. SO MUCH. therefore I figured it was worth giving the book another try. Excited to pick this up soon!

    I'm not entirely sure why this isn't clicking for me, but I just can't make myself read it anymore. I don't hate it by any means, but I'm not enjoying it enough to bother to continue.

  • Anne

    I needed some time to get used to the writing style, but letting the Chief (an outside figure, who, due to his "deafness", doesn't intervene with the main storyline too much) is certainly a stroke of genius, and after a while, I got used to his way of telling the story.

    All the characters found a place in my heart, and they are what make the book so remarkable and memorable.

    I thought they were some unnecessary scenes, but they were really minor, so they didn't put a huge dent into my enjoyment.

    T

    I needed some time to get used to the writing style, but letting the Chief (an outside figure, who, due to his "deafness", doesn't intervene with the main storyline too much) is certainly a stroke of genius, and after a while, I got used to his way of telling the story.

    All the characters found a place in my heart, and they are what make the book so remarkable and memorable.

    I thought they were some unnecessary scenes, but they were really minor, so they didn't put a huge dent into my enjoyment.

    The end certainly came unexpected and surprising to me, but I thought it was fitting and rounded the whole thing up.

    Despite it not being one of those books that absolutely blew me away, I know that it will stay in my mind for a very, very long time - maybe even forever.

  • Milo

    I have a love/hate relationship with this book. The writing and imagery are superb and I always love a "down with tyrannical overloads, generic living, and medicalization" moral, but its other lesson leaves me cringing. In the basic knowledge I have of Ken Kesey, the book ultimately seems very misogynistic and anti-feminist. I'm all for a gender balance, but this book botches up the entire process in a method that purposely lacks tongue-in-cheek flair.

    Basically, the plot seems to involve men me

    I have a love/hate relationship with this book. The writing and imagery are superb and I always love a "down with tyrannical overloads, generic living, and medicalization" moral, but its other lesson leaves me cringing. In the basic knowledge I have of Ken Kesey, the book ultimately seems very misogynistic and anti-feminist. I'm all for a gender balance, but this book botches up the entire process in a method that purposely lacks tongue-in-cheek flair.

    Basically, the plot seems to involve men mentally castrated by a domineering woman who could just as easily be labeled "Bitch" as she could "Big Nurse." Enter main character--who, in my tattered, yellow-paged, 70's copy, directly labels him as "the hero of [the book]" on the back cover--a man that pretty much shakes the men up to the supposed feminization of American culture and how it's destroying their identities as males. (Read here: a huge characterization of the male ego is to dominate the female with opposites all around.)

    How is this man so easily labeled a hero? Have we forgotten he has been charged and convicted, among other things, with rape of a female minor? And the main reason he's in the asylum is to skimp out on his prison sentence? How is that "masculine," if I am to continue on with the stereotypes the book itself perpetuates--and yet backpedals when necessary? Why do we consider him the "main character" when the story is being told in the first person by a Native American? Can you not be a man--a hero--unless you're white? Or perhaps it was because he was so docile?

    In the end, the supposed hero of the book teaches men that, to cast off impending feminization, one must be violent towards women; muscle them out of the way, destroy them if they're relentless. If you are unable or fearful of doing so, you're better off killing yourself than being only half of a man. Oh, but wait, there's a special lesson for the ladies themselves, too; To steer clear of the eventual rape, assault, murder, or torture--and yes, it will happen--simply sexualize yourself. That's the only way to be safe and--isn't it convenient--securely a woman. So much for individualization and going against cultural norms, gentlemen. You're a dime a dozen.

    Before we glorify such a book, we have to sit down and figure out what exactly masculinity is outside of a cultural setting before we can complain that culture itself is taking it away. Are we to allow a cowardly, violent, "looking-out-for-Number-One" individual give us this definition, fair and balanced?

    It's one thing for him to say it, it's another for us to listen.

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