One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: A Brief Synopsys

1738 words - 7 pages

In the 1960’s Ken Kesey, a student of the university of Oregon and Stanford University, became interested in alternative medicine and mental health after participating in a US Military psychedelic drug study. Kesey proceed to work for this same institution. For him it was important to take notes on the individuals in this ward, to draw them even! Kesey had an urge to get to know them, even to understand their story and this is precisely what lead him to his current perspective on society and the conformity which it expects of those who are a part of it. It is in this spirit which he wrote one flew over the Cuckoo’s nest and made a brilliant example of counter culture which to this day ...view middle of the document...

Much of these unfortunate historical truths lead to a strong dialogue between critics and intellectuals alike about conformity and rebellious behavior, how society dictates what normality is, and in general the state of the mental institutional system.
The story is told from “chief” Bromden’s perspective, a half Indian 6’7” man who observes all the daily activities across the ward. The Chief considers himself a “chronic”, or someone that will remain in the ward for eternity (albeit a functional chronic as he can walk and think). The patients all speculate on what The Chief’s story is, whether he was simply mute or a victim of one too many experiences at the “Shock Shop”(ECT). But as the reader knows all too well, the chief is a perfectly conscious and coherent individual who has a unique perspective on the functioning of the hospital he is holed up in. The other category of patients are acute’s, they are according to the chief “curable”. The first Acute that is introduced (and proceeds to stir things up a bit in the wards) name is Randal Mcmurphy, who is an alleged rapist placed in the ward under the guise of psychopathy. These two characters share a unique bond as Mcmurphy introduces the patients to unique forms of resistance to what Bromden calls the “Combine”. The Combine is simply the name Bromden gives to the system (in his mind) which chews up and spits out people that aren’t considered normal to condition them for acceptance into society. Of course this is simply one of Bromden’s paranoid delusions, but it serves as a firm metaphor for the reality of how the environment he lives in works. The new acute’s rebellion starts off as just simply annoying the “black boys”, or the orderlies, and escalates further as he gets on the nerves of the “big nurse” Nurse Ratched. This rebellion reaches a tipping point when Mcmurphy decides to stage a sort of sit in in order to watch the sports game he refuses to miss. However this unintentionally places Mcmurphy in an odd position, the patients begin to look up to him.
This protest highlights a key part of this story, the contrast between the patients and the supervisor’s behavior. After all, a sane and reasonable request such as watching TV is met with a nearly psychopathic reaction in which ratchet loses control and sends Mcmurphy to the Shock Shop. After this incident the hostility between the Big Nurse and Mcmurphy escalated from a sit in, to rebellious acts such as sneaking hookers into the ward and doing drugs behind the nurses back. Following this bender, Billy Bibbit stands up to nurse Ratched and she threatens Billy, leading him to later committed suicide. Mcmurphy reacts to this tragedy by attempting to strangle the crazy nurse, who promptly has him lobotomized. Bromden understands his obligation to kill Mcmurphy following these events, knowing the rebellious Mcmurphy would never be happy in a submissive vegetative state. Kesey meant to create a contrast between the insanity of...

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