Dan's Reviews > One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Text and Criticism

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
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Mar 06, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: novels
Read from April 01 to 19, 1985 — I own a copy

The novel is set in a mental asylum. Narrated by “Chief” Bromden, it follows the battle between one of the patients, Randall P. McMurphy, and the emasculating “Big Nurse” for the hearts and the minds of the other male patients who have been institutionalized for so long that they have forgotten how to be men. It is a classic “Us vs. Them” story, in which “Us” is represented by McMurphy, the mentally disturbed narrator and the other patients. As we learn about the forms of control employed by Big Nurse and the staff, we begin to suspect that it is these forces of institutional control and not the patients that are “insane.”

As described in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test, Kesey got the idea for the novel while experimenting with peyote. The positive effect of hallucinogenic drugs on his writing is particularly evident in those passages in which Chief Bromden describes his schizophrenic “fog” states. Moreover, in describing events set in the ward, Kesey writes from experience; the asylum in which the story is set is based on an institution in Salem, Oregon at which Kesey once worked.

In addition to the text of the novel, this edition includes reviews, criticisms and commentaries.
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02/19/2017 marked as: read

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