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

Damned if you do and Damned if you don't
Beau Cronland Beau Apr 28, 2015 07:27PM
This book has resonated with me for a long time and has definitely made it onto my top 10 books list. I never got bored reading this book and I was always looking forward to what was going to happen next. I kept questioning myself, who was going to win McMurphy or Nurse Ratched? This book takes place through the eyes of chief, a tall Native American man who does not ever talk. Everyone just assumes that he is deaf and dumb, even the nurse assistants think he is deaf. No one cares what they say around him because they assume that he cannot hear them. The story shows the inner workings of an Oregon Psychiatric hospital, and has a huge war going on between the stern and clever Nurse Ratched, and a new patient named McMurphy. Through the whole story, one of the characters is trying to break the other and in the end it is Nurse Ratched who gets the better of McMurphy, but not without loss on her part. She loses her control and respect, the main aspect of her rule in the hospital was that she had full control over the inmates, by the end of the book Nurse Ratched is in a little bit more of a body revealing outfit and is gawked at like a piece of meat. Recently I had my own little experience with a psychiatric hospital, it is interesting to go reference this book to the real thing (I promise I’m not crazy). Even though the psych hospital I went to was nowhere near extreme as the one in Cuckoo’s nest, the people inside were about the same. There was a real life Billy Bibbit there, even though she was a female, she was exactly how I would picture Billy. I loved McMurphy as a character; Jack Nicolson also did a great job portraying him. He was a tough guy with a lot of pride, but everything he did in the hospital was an attempt at helping the other patients. He wanted to show them that they were not as messed up as this crazy hospital is having them believe. Then there is the iconic line “You’re damned if you do and your damned if you don’t” which I feel as though if a lot of people read this book, that line would resonate within them deeply. A question I never understood about the book is why did Ken Kesey make chief remain silent during his years in the ward? I enjoyed the character very much so, but why so much silence? To anyone who has read this book, would you say that both McMurphy and Ratched lost the war that they had between themselves, or did they both win in some way? I honestly feel as though McMurphy may have one the war at the cost of his life, because at least he died with the smallest amount of dignity the book could give him, Ratched had to live out the rest of her time working in the hospital with the loss of all of her power.

deleted member (last edited May 09, 2015 06:00AM ) May 09, 2015 05:59AM   0 votes
This is an old thread, but I guess I always took the book as a metaphor for society at large, for we all live in a circumscribed and limited world, in one way or another constrained by the needs of others, the strengths and weaknesses of others in opposition to our own needs. Any group can be ordered by the relative and ever-changing measurement of who is more sane than his or her neighbor. I sort of saw the Chief as the majority of us, who go along not asserting themselves in the world, maybe as a choice, a protective choice, maybe, off and on, they enjoy watching the circus, or the magician sawing the woman in two, maybe they feel loves and hatreds we cannot imagine, because they give nothing away. Then one day, they're gone. We live with and among each other, at our best; we live off each other in our daily small survivals; some of us, simply, are cannibals.

Monty J (last edited Apr 28, 2015 08:34PM ) Apr 28, 2015 08:32PM   0 votes
Beau wrote: " why did Ken Kesey make chief remain silent during his years in the ward? I enjoyed the character very much so, but why so much silence?"

Chief's silence enabled Kesey to develop the tension between McMurphy and Ratched without too much interference from the narrator; it enabled the Chief to be privy to information he wouldn't have otherwise; and it made Chief metaphorically represent the plight of Native Americans, whose rights have been largely ignored.

We hear plenty from Chief through his internal monologue as he expresses his feelings internally, sharing key information about his path to healing mentally, from fear and paranoid hallucinations to courage and self-confidence.

The only other way to logically achieve this level of character development would have been through lengthy dialogue, perhaps with a psychiatrist. This would have been a digression from the main plot conflict of McMurphy vs Ratched.

Chief's improved mental state was signified by his revelation to McMurphy that his silence was a hoax. He had gained enough self-confidence to reveal himself to someone he could trust. The ability to trust signifies a healthy mind.

Chief's silence also served as effective counterpoint to McMurphy's extroversion while adding realism to the mental ward setting.

Basically, this book is a brilliant literary achievement.

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