One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Book - 2003
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The unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2003
ISBN: 9780141181226
Branch Call Number: FIC KESEY 2003
Characteristics: xxii, 281 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Hard partying, violent drunk McMurphy fights to maintain some semblance of autonomy in a mental institution with an overbearing, manipulative head nurse in charge.

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Aug 15, 2020

Randle Patrick McMurphy had a plan. After being sentenced to a work farm, he grew tired of the hard labor, so he pretended to be crazy in order to be transferred to the state mental hospital.

But he did not know what he was getting into. He found himself in a ward run by Nurse Ratched, a former army nurse, who exerted absolute control over her domain. She favored order and discipline over everything else - including helping the patients under her care. McMurphy's rebellious ways and his questioning of authority conflicted with Nurse Ratched's routine and the two butted heads often. Ratched mostly used a passive-aggressive strategy to manipulate her patients, but she would stop at nothing - up to and including shock therapy and lobotomy.

McMurphy's antics inspired the other men to stand up for themselves and to think for themselves. To a man, they have been repressed and emasculated since their arrival.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" by Ken Kesey is told by "Chief" Bromden - a gentle Native American who has been in the ward for years. Everyone mistakenly believes the Chief is a deaf mute, so he observes everything and reports it to the reader with a mostly dispassionate eye.

But this is far from a dispassionate novel.

Kesey fills the ward with colorful characters, who are intimidated by Ratched, but inspired by McMurphy's free spirit to assert their own rights. They begin to demand human respect.

McMurphy is no angel. He offers no apologies for his past crimes; and he is a misogynist and he exploits those around him. But he offers hope for the emasculated victims of Nurse Ratchet. He inspires them to regain their lost dignity. And he does so at great personal risk to himself.

And Nurse Ratched is one of the great villains in the history of literature (and in cinema; she was portrayed brilliantly by Louise Fletcher in Milos Forman's excellent 1975 adaption).

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" is the story of order versus chaos; of independence versus control; of the rights of individuals versus the demands of the establishment. It is about power and abuse of power.

Kesey makes us feel the pain of those who have lost their dignity and their hope. And he inspires us to regain it.

Apr 05, 2020

We've all seen the movie, but have you read the book? Written by counterculture icon Ken Kesey (SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION, KESEY'S JAIL JOURNAL), this is a diabolical romp into the environment of a mental health ward. Rebellious, funny and moving, the subtleties lost in the film come screaming at you when reading the text.

Oct 20, 2019

Amazing! We read this is LA and it was very enjoyable. There is so much depth and many symbols. I believe anyone can relate to someone in the book (not because of their actions but because of their innermost desires, insecurities, etc). This book is very misogynistic, but I believe that it has redeeming qualities. Truly affected me emotionally. There are various quotes that I wrote down because they were worth remembering for me. Some of the quotes are just thoughts or observations and therefore I feel like the movie may be lacking. Need to get myself a copy of this book!

Oct 02, 2019

Having seen the movie first (albeit years ago) it was hard to separate RP McMurphy from Jack Nicholson's portrayal of him in the film (which was entertaining). Examines the struggle to find a place in the straight world of society for all the rebels, misfits, outcasts and insane out there. Does conformity help you, or does it control you?

Mar 22, 2018

Interesting read. A bit dated but a very in depth look at life in a mental institution in the 60's. A classic.

Aug 21, 2017

very telling and frightening allegorical tale of institutional control of people

ArapahoeTina Jul 31, 2017

If you've only seen the movie, you're missing out. McMurphy is a quintessential charismatic protagonist - flawed, but wholly likable. Kesey's rendering of the this character through the eyes of a fellow patient adds a level of depth not possible in a visual format. The narrator's backstory is heartbreaking as well and has literary merit worthy of its own exploration.

Apr 17, 2017

The reputation of this book made me expect it would be a more interesting read. I was determined to slog through it, but did not find many times when I was glad I was reading it. The subject matter is heavy and we are introduced into the mind of one of the inmates of the asylum to see how the ward and the staff look to him. It is dark and depressing and its tone reminded me of Catch-22.

Not sure I even want to try and watch the movie, but Jack Nicholson as McMurphy intrigues me. Perhaps watching the story on film will giving me a new appreciation of the book?

Mar 21, 2017

This book is set in a psychiatric ward of a mental hospital, and told through the perspective of a half Indigenous man who has been a patient at the ward for a very long time. He does not trust his surroundings, and he feels as though the “Big Nurse” it out to get him. After a new patient by the name of McMurphy joins the ward, chaos ensues as he questions the status quo and brings a humanizing light to the patients. The book is raw, clever, and touching as it looks at different structures in society and the treatment of the mentally ill. I would rate this book 4.5/5 stars and recommend it to those interested in seeing new perspectives. @The_Reviewer of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library
Ken Kesey's most famous novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is an, at times, surrealist novel that follows a male psychiatric ward in the 1950's turned upside down by the arrival of patient Randle Patrick McMurphy, a manly man who battles with Nurse Ratched, the totalitarian female nurse. Full of symbolism, Kesey's novel is often tough to read at times and would appear as misogynistic in these times: Nurse Ratched is nothing but a corrupt woman in power who wants to "emasculate" the men of their dignity and is ultimately attacked by McMurphy. However, the book is still in the canon and should be read if only for that reason. The male patients, such as Chief Bromden and Billy Bibbit are interesting and sympathetic characters that you feel for. McMurphy? Not so much.
- @reallylikesmusicals of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 02, 2016

Once the plot picks up there is a decent story. All the characters are entertaining. The supporting characters are well-crafted. It was good. Maybe a little better than good. But for me, it wasn't the makings of a classic

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Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

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Violence: This title contains Violence.

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Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.


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Apr 05, 2020

Kesey's a bold, lion-hearted writer who doesn't shy away from the difficult issues of institutionalized prejudice, abuse and racism, rampant - for the times - in America's mental health wards.

Halfbloodprincess Jun 16, 2013

To Vik Lovell, who told me dragons did not exist, then led me to their lairs.


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Apr 05, 2020

Immortalized by Tom Wolfe in his novel THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST, Ken Kesey navigates the twisted halls of mental health in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. Filled with humor and poignant insight into the human condition, NEST delivers an indictment of the mental health system while raising those it's meant to serve to the height of heroes. Kesey's a bold, lion-hearted writer who doesn't shy away from the difficult issues of institutionalized prejudice, abuse and racism, rampant - for the times - in America's mental health wards.

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