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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Author: Ken Kesey
Reviewer: Grade 12

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is about a group of mentally ill men in an asylum. It is told from the point of view of Chief Bromden, a.k.a. Chief Broom. He is a 7 foot tall half Indian who has pretended to be dumb and deaf for so long that everyone thinks he is. The asylum is run by the tyrannical Big Nurse and her “black boys”, her assistants. The book starts when R. P. McMurphy comes to the hospital after being deemed a psychopath by the courts. McMurphy is unlike any other patient that the hospital has ever seen. Right away he starts challenging the authority of Big Nurse, something that no one has ever dreamed of doing. The other acutes (short-term patients) are opposed and fearful at first of this plan, but soon are convinced by McMurphy and begin to wreck havoc on the asylum. They go on fishing trips with McMurphy’s prostitute girlfriends, wander around the hospital at night, and even sneak girls and booze into the asylum with a little help from the night guard. McMurphy and Bromden form a bond once he learns that Bromden is not actually deaf or dumb, and together fight the awesome power of The Combine and Big Nurse. In the end, it paid off, but not without a sacrifice. McMurphy was given a lobotomy, after Big Nurse decided that 7 consecutive treatments of shock therapy wasn’t effective. Even though she triumphed over McMurphy, it was too late to undo the damage. A few weeks after McMurphy’s lobotomy, almost all of the acutes checked out, and Chief Bromden managed to escape to Canada, leaving Big Nurse with a tarnished reputation and a destroyed empire.

One Flew over the Cuckoo Nest, by Ken Kesey, is an unforgettable masterpiece. Its deep and provocative plot raises questions about today’s society that would otherwise stay buried. Kesey makes you believe that it is an actual mentally ill man narrating the book, not an author’s interpretation of one. The thing that I most liked about this book was how real it was. Having spent most of my life with my nose submerged in science fiction, it was like a breath of fresh air. One Flew over the Cuckoo Nest is an essential part of any bookshelf and I strongly recommend it to anyone.