Thursday, December 31, 2015
Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Author: Ken Kesey
Synopsis (via Goodreads): In this classic of the 1960s, Ken Kesey's hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, back by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story's shocking climax.
Review: *backstory time* My awesomesauce AP Literature teacher, Ms. R, challenged my class at the beginning of the school year to read 60 classical pre-graduation books - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was on that list. As I picked it up, I knew it was about a mental hospital... In fact, that's all I knew. One of my classmates noticed that I had chosen to read it and she told me, "That is such a good book." My brother was flipping through tv channels the other night; the movie adaption of said novel was on and he insisted on watching it, but I made him change the channel because I had yet to finish reading the book.
I finished reading the book last night. I turned the last page, flipped back to the previous page, stared at the last sentence for a while, and finally closed the book. To say I was confused was an understatement. I needed to talk to somebody about the story ASAP. Naturally, the first person I started to question was my mom. Although she hadn't read it, she mentioned that her father had. So, I headed to my room, book in hand, and called my grandfather.
"What part are confused about?" he asked. My response: "Uh, the whole thing?"
He gasped. "My dear, you must've missed something." My grandfather was right, and after our 40 minute conversation we figured out what exactly I had missed: the history behind mental institutions. You see, in the 1960's mental institutions were filled with those who were declared "unfit" for society. Some patients admitted themselves to avoid their day-to-day responsibilities. Suddenly, the whole story clicked.
McMurphy wasn't insane or sick, he just didn't want to act like an adult. In fact, a majority of the men that he met in Big Nurse's ward weren't sick either. McMurphy noticed this upon his arrival, and took it upon himself to teach the fellow patients how to live life to the fullest. Activities such as gambling, watching the World Series despite the tv schedule, and the fishing trip helped each patient open up bit by bit. His rebellion has a price, but McMurphy is willing to pay as long at the other patients learn their true potential. McMurphy's teachings are told through the eyes of Chief, an Indian who the hospital staff believe is dumb and deaf. Out of all the characters, he grows the most. His childhood flashbacks are proof of that, and, in the end, help him realize how much he's changed for the better.
I understand why this book made Ms. R's Must Read list, and I love how it sparked a conversation between my grandfather and I. A recommendation to all.