Friday, December 28, 2012

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

I saw the movie One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest over ten years ago so I thought I had a good buffer to read the book finally for Banned Books Week.

The story is told from the "Chief Broom's" point of view. For many years he's been a patient in the mental institution which is the setting for the story. He never talks, making people assume he has no brain capacity and making him privy to the true horror that surrounds him. The ward he lives in is ruled over by the terrible, power-hungry, and unjust Nurse Ratched. She has everyone stepping in line when the main character, McMurphy, gets sentenced to reform in a mental institution. In a choice between the institution or hard labor he thought he was choosing the easy way out.

Much of the story is a heroic, sometimes comical battle between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. McMurphy loves a good game and believes he can beat Big Nurse at her own game. But what made me love McMurphy was when his struggle stops being a game and starts being about the people around him that he comes to care for.

The hardest part for me was not picturing McMurphy as Jack Nicholson from the movie. It shouldn't be a big deal to just go ahead and imagine him as Jack Nicholson, but he is described as a linebacker-sized redhead. His size and hair color come up constantly in the story and it was a little jarring for me. That detail aside, I loved the whole story and would highly recommend it.

Why was this book banned? My guess is because it makes people who question authority look like cool heroes. And we can't have that folks! Or it could just be the way McMurphy talks about women...if you know what I mean.

Does anyone watch American Horror Story: Asylum? I read this right before the season began and it seems to borrow heavily from the book. Power trippin head nurse? Check. Same song being played repeatedly on the intercom to drive patients crazy? Check. Torture used to punish heal patients? Check. But I still like it.

This book fulfills my Classic requirement for the Eclectic Reader Challenge.


Megan Anderson said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I read the book during Banned Book Week like you! Which makes me realize that I'm SUPER behind posting about books. I would never ever have pictured Jack Nicholson in that role. I'll have to watch it now!

Captain Nick Sparrow said...

Can't wait to read your review! I just scrambled to get my book reviews caught up. I have one more to do before the New Year.