One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest discussion


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Opinion of the book

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message 1: by Denzel (new)

Denzel I think this book was awesome. That book had to be the best book i've ever read in my life no joke. I loved it when he first got their and wondered why nobody laughed, why was everybody scared of the big nurse.


message 2: by Bo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bo For me, it's one of those rare cases that the movie beats the book, hands down.


message 3: by Lori (last edited Oct 18, 2007 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest was a book i put off reading for a long time. I just wasnt interested in reading older, classic novels... but this summer I began reading through all the novels I kept walking past... This being one of them.

I am sure I read it at just the right phase in my life, I feel maybe if I had read it 10 yrs ago, I wouldnt have had like it as much as I did now....

It is interesting to see what takes place inside an insane asylm... how the poor patients are being treated. Classified into groups, forced into behaving as the head nurse deams nesseccary,drugged into a heavy fog day after day, no allowances made towards expressing ones personality.

I was also shocked to see how the patients that were deemed "dangerous" were treated, shock treatment and surgery being used to make them worse, rather than better.

Its one of those books that really gets you thinking, and sticks with you long after its finished.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

It was fascinating...but I also had some issues with sexism in the book.

Does anyone think there was a lot of undue emphasis of being "big" to be manly, and being "made small" by women, and "Oh, Chief, they're all trying to cut our balls off and deflate us and we can't have that." Or am I just overanalyzing, or do you think that sexism has a narrative purpose?


Max F. I agree Denzel, at the moment it is my favorite book as well. I love how it focuses on the harsh oppression of self from the face-less machine of society. How everyone becomes afraid to laugh and how they all feel small. It has to do with the chain reaction of the misconception that you have to wear a leather face around to appeal to other people. One person is deluded into this charade and everyone else follows. It is comparable to McMurphy's "pecking party" theory how all the chickens attack the chicken with the blood on it. If you don't play into a fake identity like everyone else the blood becomes visible and you are victimized by the mockery of others until you too forsake yourself.


Emily Iliani I think this is a good book that makes a good read but in my most humble opinion, it is no where near Kafka's Metamorphosis.


Molly Hayley wrote: "It was fascinating...but I also had some issues with sexism in the book.

Does anyone think there was a lot of undue emphasis of being "big" to be manly, and being "made small" by women, and "Oh, C..."


I think you also have to take into consideration the way society was when this was written. The sexism displayed in the narration could also be a product of the environment they're placed in. These are powerless men in a locked facility where their main authority figure is a strong female.


Robin Nurse Ratchid was one mean women. I saw the movie. Sad ending though. It sure isn't Metamorphosis.


Patrick I love the perspective of the narrator in this novel. The fact that you do not know what is real and what is imagined by Bromden. The first line of the novel sets an expectation, then Kesey undermines the accuracy of the narrator throughout the novel. Black boys in white suits to commit sex crimes in the hallway and clean it up before I can catch them--something like that.

The scene with Bromden on the European battlefield enveloped in smoke, then the smoke leads the reader to the hospital where Bromden is holding onto reality by a thread is absolutely beautiful writing.


message 10: by Zzee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zzee Big Chief Bromden who is "big" in the story is the story.McMurphy was the catalyst for Bromden to tear himself out of the fog.


Robin Yes, I remember Big Chief Bromden well.


message 12: by Zzee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zzee Patrick wrote: "I love the perspective of the narrator in this novel. The fact that you do not know what is real and what is imagined by Bromden. The first line of the novel sets an expectation, then Kesey under..." good observation !i agree its a mystery,I remember the heavy use of the machine and the safety in the fog


Phillip Casteel Wonderful book using the analogy of an asylum to reveal the great asylum we all live in. In a funny way we are all on the bus.


Joanne i read the book years ago, but I think of it sometimes when I'm scrubbing the toilet.


message 15: by A.J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

A.J. Knauss Phillip wrote: "Wonderful book using the analogy of an asylum to reveal the great asylum we all live in. In a funny way we are all on the bus."

Great succint summary!


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

I have never seen the movie but i loved the book. I just finished it for school and i can honestly say it is now one of my favorite books. I thought it was fresh, clever and thought provoking. not many books like that in 2012. highly recommend. as for sexism, it didn't bother me. me being a feminist, you would think it would, but it didn't. i was so absorbed by the characters and the plot that the sexism thing didn't seem like that big a deal. it was what it was. i thought it was an honest representation of the way a situation like that would play out in real life.


message 17: by Soy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Soy Lecithin Hayley wrote: "It was fascinating...but I also had some issues with sexism in the book.

Does anyone think there was a lot of undue emphasis of being "big" to be manly, and being "made small" by women, and "Oh, C..."


omg thats a question i have never thought.
while i was reading,i was trying to focus on the story and your question really wrought me up!And you are right.The sexism is really intense till the end.actually i dont think that the author had any purpose to do this.maybe he would like to show mcMurfy more man than the others.


message 18: by Renee (last edited Jul 18, 2014 06:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Renee Hayley wrote: "It was fascinating...but I also had some issues with sexism in the book.

Does anyone think there was a lot of undue emphasis of being "big" to be manly, and being "made small" by women, and "Oh, C..."


I can't call it "sexism" because the reference isn't to women in general, it's directed at Nurse Ratched.

And there are ball-cutters out there. Nurse Ratched isn't just a figment of Kesey's imagination, she's an archetype.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Renee wrote: I can't call it "sexism" because the reference isn't to women in general, it's directed at Nurse Ratched.

But basically all negative characters in the book are female. Nurse Ratched, the nurse with a birthmark, Chief Bromden's mother, Billy Bibbit's mother, Dale Harding's wife... And they're all depicted as dominant, repressive persons who deprive the men of their, er, manliness.

As for me, I find the novel superb, but Kesey's sexism IS annoying.


Renee I saw the book as a Christ allegory (no, I'm not a Christian).

And not all the women were negative archetypes or represenations, Mac brought in the Mary Magdalenes, remember the party?

I don't really recall Chief Brombden's mother. But that might be something I've blocked out, lol. I tend to block out crazy mother stuff. Reality's enough. ;-)


message 21: by Gibreel (last edited Aug 08, 2014 09:04PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gibreel Hayley wrote: "It was fascinating...but I also had some issues with sexism in the book.

Does anyone think there was a lot of undue emphasis of being "big" to be manly, and being "made small" by women, and "Oh, C..."


I would like to tell you that what is really meant by my suspicion is being said as the character says it. The first person is the best from a character their identity not only personalities have been formed and identified by the viewer and have been related to, I would like to have been the first to have read the books. The relative statements from the stories have made the asylum not only suggested reality but from a realistic view the story's reality is a giant leap from stage to screen.

Soy wrote: "omg thats a question i have never thought.
while i was reading,i was trying to focus on the story and your question really wrought me up!And you are right.The sexism is really intense till the end.actually i dont think that the author had any purpose to do this.maybe he would like to show mcMurfy more man than the others."


I would like to add emphasis to a thought I once had about Mcmurphy, it was not his character that had brought him to the asylum, it was society. There was not a thought in my mind when the issue came up as a sociopath his behavior was not meant fully for the authoritative figure, the submission came when instantly when the nurse had proven herself a woman. In an indignant and impervious outbreak Mcmurphy(Jack Nicholson) had play well enough to show that he was the character's pain and that what he had struggled with was the muse. The muse!

Dora wrote: "But basically all negative characters in the book are female. Nurse Ratched, the nurse with a birthmark, Chief Bromden's mother, Billy Bibbit's mother, Dale Harding's wife... And they're all depicted as dominant, repressive persons who deprive the men of their, er, manliness.

As for me, I find the novel superb, but Kesey's sexism IS annoying."


Um, is it sexist if a feminist wrote it? In defence of a defecation on what is seen by the woman and understood by a man. Is making someone's suppressed feeling of a better health an issue coming on too strong, I would like to see you go to the place where the issues of one's, "acceptance" is of utmost importance where would you put the line for the goodness of someone who you are responsible. The most difficult part of finding out what you want would be finding it, you could never claim the exploration of something until you have explored the world that it created.


message 22: by Monty J (last edited Aug 20, 2014 08:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying Renee wrote: "I can't call it "sexism" because the reference isn't to women in general, it's directed at Nurse Ratched.

And there are ball-cutters out there. Nurse Ratched isn't just a figment of Kesey's imagination, she's an archetype."


Well said.

Some people seem to think that having a female villain is sexist or misogynistic. The opposite is true. Women can be just as formidable as any male villain, and portraying them as soft and fluffy sexual stereotypes is insulting.

Nurse Ratched is one of the most powerful and memorable characters in American literature.

If Kesey portrayed what he knew, and the book was based on Kesey's personal experience working in a mental ward, how can that be sexist?

If Kesey were a woman, would Dora still call it sexist? Is her problem that it was a man who dared portray female villainy? The characters can be sexist without the author being tainted with sexism. If those guys had decent mothers they might not have been in a mental ward. The book is not a cross-section of the population, nor is it a treatise on sociology. It is a about a subclass of mentally disturbed individuals.

Dora, there weren't any positive male characters in Thelma and Louise. By your logic that film is sexist.


message 23: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 09, 2014 07:14AM) (new)

I've got no problem with female antagonists; I've got problems with the "repressed men vs. modern matriarchy" concept. Almost every male character who has a wife or a mother is sexually or psychologically repressed by her. Billy, Harding, chief Bromden's father... probably even Ruckly! And, as it is shown in one of the key dialogues of the book, "one truly effective weapon against the juggernaut of modern matriarchy" is sexual domination ("Why, if you mean do I think I could get a bone up over that old buzzard, no, I don’t believe I could." - "There you are. She’s won.")
I understand this book is not directed against women and it's all allegorical, but you've got to be careful with the metaphors you use, too.
Nurse Ratched is an incredibly powerful character, though.
(I'd like to point out it's one of my favourite books of all time and I'd be happy if there were no reason to criticize it).


message 24: by Monty J (last edited Aug 10, 2014 08:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying Dora wrote: "Almost every male character who has a wife or a mother is sexually or psychologically repressed by her. Billy, Harding, chief Bromden's father... probably even Ruckly!"

Again, this is a mental institution, not a cross section of society. If these men grew up in normal families with loving mothers they probably wouldn't be the way they are. It would be unrealistic, not to mention boring, to show them any other way. Witches beget angry misogynists, not Prince Charmings.

(This is not to say that all mental illness is caused by mothers, only that there are mental health and other social adjustment consequences to toxic parenting, and men's attitudes toward women are shaped primarily by their relationships with their mothers.)

Kesey made this mother linkage abundantly clear in Ratched's climactic bullying of Billy, who committed suicide rather than have to face his mother after Ratched threatened to tell on him.

The toxic mother linkage was also brought out in Cool Hand Luke, when Luke's dying mother, lying in the back of a pickup, visited him in prison. He broke out of prison to visit her grave, resulting in his death. Our mothers are important to us men, vital to what we become in life. They shape our world view, especially toward women. Show me a misogynist and I'll show you a man raised by a misandric man-hater.

Toxic mothering was also brought out in Jeannette Walls' The Gass Castle, when she showed her paternal grandmother molesting her younger brother and suggested that her father, Rex, was warped for life by that horrible woman.

"('Why, if you mean do I think I could get a bone up over that old buzzard, no, I don’t believe I could.' - 'There you are. She’s won.'")

I worked on highway construction one summer during college with an ex-convict crew boss. This is the way he talked. It's realistic dialogue, in character.

Don't expect men who have been tortured and warped by their mothers not to have trouble fitting in to society. Kesey accurately and courageously drove this point home in Cuckoo. But if we get sidetracked by the brutal way the message was delivered we miss the message.

Women in general have trouble comprehending the way these toxic mothers behave toward their children because their evil is invisible, carried out behind closed doors at home. It gets no press until it hits the six o'clock news with names like Susan Smith, Andrea Yates, Casey Anthony.

What Cuckoo does is shed light on a very important dark place in society. These people exist. They are a wound on society that must be opened and aired so it can be healed.

I had one of these mothers. I was tortured, neglected and abused as a child, but thank God the county took me away from her in time. It was a rotten place where they put me, but better than my biological alternative. If my book about it is one-tenth as good as Cuckoo, I will be satisfied.


Renee Monty J wrote: "Again, this is a mental institution, not a cross section of society. If these men grew up in normal families with loving mothers they probably wouldn't be the way they are. It would be unrealistic, not to mention boring, to show them any other way. Witches beget angry misogynists, not Prince Charmings. ..."

You nailed it, Monty. Again.

It was realistic, a segment of humanity, not the whole of it (and how would a writer ever present the whole of it?). Those women DO exist, leaving human wreckage in their wakes. They feed on it.

And yes, mothers have a huge impact on us, for good or for ill, and there are more of the latter out there than anyone wants to acknowledge.

And it's hard as hell to silence their voices.


message 26: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa People were (among other things) sexist back then, and racist, and able-ist, which are all depicted in the book. I'm not sure how to start a new discussion, but did any of you notice the poem right at first? :)


message 27: by Monty J (last edited Aug 09, 2014 09:57PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying Lisa wrote: "I'm not sure how to start a new discussion, but did any of you notice the poem right..."

I'll start it.

(The way you do it is you scroll to the very top-right and look about 7 o'clock from your picture. See the words "Post a new topic?" Click there.)


Karen Monty J wrote:
"This is not to say that all mental illness is caused by mothers, only that there are mental health and other social adjustment consequences to toxic parenting, and men's attitudes toward women are shaped primarily by their relationships with their mothers"

Thank you Monty!



message 29: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Monty J wrote: "Lisa wrote: "I'm not sure how to start a new discussion, but did any of you notice the poem right..."

I'll start it.

(The way you do it is you scroll to the very top-right and look about 7 o'cloc..."

***Thank you. :)


Gibreel I would like to think that what it is that is making Kesey crazy about the nurse is not only the supposed dominate, "sexist" figure of the nurse that had been played properly by Louise Fletcher but the idea of it being a stubborn egotistical "sisterlike" character creating this monster not having considered the fact that the truth is not the only thing that is charging the character but having grown from just the right amount of "politics." I have from my experience have found that not the most intelligent have succeeded to have figure out how to dominate and suppress but have found a logical most frequently practiced and found most leading in the area of having control over the mind. She having an independent life showing McMurphy that he is being shown that he has lost the practice of the work that he had plotted to live out.


Papaphilly One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was written in the early sixties. It was a time of the beginning of change from the uptight fifties to the wildness of the sixties. Murphy represent the antiauthoritarian mindset of the time. While the country has not entered the more liberal mind frame, the writers and artists certainly did and they were influencing the young. By this time two of the giant books of the time were on the market, The Catcher in the Rye and On the Road were creating a tidal wave of non-conformity for the young. It is this mind frame that is studied and societies reaction to it as well as institutional behavior.

The fifties were all about conformity and calmness, think of mother's little helper, but underneath all of this there was trouble brewing for society. This is the start of women's' lib, civil rights, do your own thing, the baby boomers coming into their own. A true clash of values. Murphy is that clash of values. The non-conformist compared to the stoic society of the times. If you were a non-conformist, you could be put into jail or an institution as were children of the well off.

I do not see the book as misogyny as compared to antiauthoritarian. I do not miss the use of Black orderlies or a female authority figure. I see this more as anyone can abuse power. I also note that the inmates focus their energies on Nurse Ratched because she is who is in their day-to-day lives and not the doctors, who really run the show. I wonder if this is a statement of true power.

I will say this is an excellent book.


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Books mentioned in this topic

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (other topics)
The Catcher in the Rye (other topics)
On the Road (other topics)