Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The theme of this story “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” according to Daniel Woods is “Power is the predominant theme of Ken Kesey's 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest': who holds power, who doesn't, who wants it, who loses it, how it is used to intimidate and manipulate and for what purposes, and, most especially, how it is disrupted and subverted, challenged, denied and assumed” ( No, it is not McMurphy who flew over the Cuckoo’s nest, or Harding, or Taber. It wasn’t Martini or Cheswick, or Bibbit, Chief Bromden or Bancini. The journey of crazies that flew over the Cuckoo’s nest was in the asylum, but they were not patients. The mad people in this scenario were paid to be mad. Nurse Ratched, Dr. John Spivey and other staff, like Washington, were salaried each day to come into the asylum and impose dreadful doses of mental (and sometimes physical) hurt on the so-called "nuts" whose lives consisted of white hallways and white floors. McMurphy lost his life because he saw the reality in the asylum, the Cuckoo’s nest. He lost his life because he had not yet been in long enough to grow resistant to the brutal treatment that he received. He lost his life because he figured out who the real nuts were and, unlike the other inmates, McMurphy still knew enough of fairness to comprehend and want to remove the dreadful unfairness being done to the powerless patients inside the asylum.

Randall McMurphy is ushered through the hospital doors by two attendants dressed in white. Among the white walls and floors, McMurphy, wearing scuffed blue jeans, a black leather jacket and a black tight cap, represents a figurative interference of the exterior world entering this sterilized, bitter hospital. Upon entering the ward that is too become his final resting place, he jokes with the current patients, wears a deceitful smile and a deck of cards is rolled up in his sleeve. Immediately he questions the rule of the institution to require all the patients to take medicinal pills, regardless of their sickness or disease. In just these opening scenes of the movie, director Milos Forman has foreshadowed Randall McMurphy’s future: McMurphy enters the asylum wearing black, the color of death, and right away he shows disobedience against authority by questioni...

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...o. Nurse Ratched can be easily recognized as a bad character and McMurphy as the gallant rogue that challenges her authority. The movie was so successful that “In February 1976, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest was rewarded by the academy with nine Oscar nominations”. (Entertainment Weekly).

When McMurphy returns from getting his second dose of electroshock therapy and a lobotomy, as punishment for his attempt to strangle Nurse Ratched to death, he is barely human. Two doctors tuck him into bed because he is too weak to do it himself. The arrangement has beaten Randall McMurphy at the game of life. He lies like a vegetable in bed, unaware to the outside world. He is not able to rebel against the doctors. He cannot lead the patients in a rebellion. Chief Bromden sees that McMurphy’s future has been stolen, along with his manhood, and suffocates him to death with a pillow. McMurphy lies dead in bed. In dying this way, his recollection is sealed among his fellow patients. He can die as a sort of martyr for the men in the little microcosm of a world inside the hospital walls. In one sense, McMurphy was crazy. It was optimistic and crazy to think that he could change such a system.
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