“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey


The novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is a story in the mental hospital showing the events that resulted in the narrator’s escape out of the institution. A huge Red Indian, Chief Bromden, is an inmate who served for a long time in the mental hospital and hence narrated the story through his experience. His insanity is as a result of the system The Combine’ which controls the behavior of the inmates. He was able to act as a deaf and dumb person so as to fight against prejudices which exist in the system. He recounted the oppression against him and other men in the ward. He was able to show clearly the conflict which arises between his inmate McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. The story mainly started on the arrival of the McMurphy in to the ward. McMurphy is a rebellious man who acted crazy so as to get out of the prison farm and transferred to the mental hospital where he meets Chief Bromden.

How the Chief’s image of the “combine” serve to explain and describe the way men are controlled on the ward.

The nature of the current way of living shows that the people suffer from nervous ailments which shows themselves in minor forms while others in mild depression, paranoia or in psychopathic and psychotic ways. According to the modern literature, there are some instances where characters show some forms of mental ailments which shows that a feeling of oppression and paranoia are most common minor affections. The causes of these ailments are not the fault of the victim but mostly the society around them or the events which took place in their lives. Ken Kelsey’s in his novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest tries to show some nervous ailments of some characters and the different ways in which the characters deal with them. He also portrays unfair treatment of men in mental hospital for their different ailments.

Ken also tries to show how the head nurse, Nurse Ratched, treated these men unfairly claiming that it was even good for them not to have their signs of individuality so as to fit to their society well. He sympathized that the society’s oppression was the cause of their problems instead of trying to solve them. Ken expressed how men in the mental hospital were treated badly by the staff, dehumanized and just kept in the ward, away from their society, but not really to treat them. He gathered this information in that institution while working there. He was not happy by the way the arrangement tries to deny them their freedom. They could not speak at their own will or go anywhere and even their thinking was restricted.

Normally the men in the mental hospital’s ward were assigned their duties. On the arrival of the Randall McMurphy, he tried to disrupt the regime. He mobilized the men to realize that they can even think for themselves and this led to the complete destruction in the way the system was operating. However, this was not the truth because he himself declared that he was not deaf and dumb originally but was forced to adopt that act by the people who treated him as deaf and dumb. This clearly shows that the way the individual depend mostly on how the society around him treated him. This is well illustrated by Chief Bromden’s father who indicated that one should be careful so that they don’t end up being forced to take part in what other people wants them to do (Scott 89).

For the case of Chief Bromden, he pretended to be a person who can’t talk or hear, as it was the obligation reassigned. This act was fruitful to him for imitating what he is not really who he is. Due to his communication problem, he feels totally alienated. The sign of his silent situation portrays that he is not at his own home but rather a stranger. There were other males within the ward with issues brought about by the likes of Billy Bibbitt. This is because the stuttering issue he has is due to having been oppressed by his mother. Harding’s sexual resentment is also brought about by the beauty of his wife. The conditions of the ward were not helpful to these two men. Nurse Ratched who has been caring for the ward still escalate the issues of womanly tyranny which some of the men are already diagnosed with. This is clearly shown when Billy, who was threatens by the nurse that she will tell her mother of his behavior, eventually committed suicide. The first three suicides show that the men were dehumanized. McMurphy tried to oppose the system but the men were unwilling to vote since they feared the system.

He also tried to lift the control panel which no other man can try to do so. McMurphy also guessed that nurse Ratched may transfer him and he hesitate in his struggling for own individuality and originality. Cheswick has lost hope in life and decided to kill himself. He increased losing hope when he tried to escape but overslept after the party. Being on the ward for long time also makes him dehumanized where he was later lobotomized and finally killed by Chief since Chief was also oppressed in the different way to that of the McMurphy. Other men were pressed to be submissive while McMurphy become rebellious bringing reforms to the ward even by sacrificing himself. The awareness to Chief made him escaped through the window. McMurphy prejudiced all men to see light of releasing themselves. He portrayed a sense of being in a position of not experiencing any change hence running away is their only hope. This shows that their nervous ailments were caused by the society and recovery should come from within them (Scott 89).

How McMurphy resist the way men are controlled in the combine

Immediately McMurphy arrives into the mental hospital the people around him notice a lot of difference between him and the other patients. McMurphy who has proven to the staff in prison beyond doubt that he needs mental help.These results in him transferred to the mental hospital that he finds more comfortable when compared to prison. On arrival at the mental hospital McMurphy is seen to be different from other patients in very many ways, despite the notable difference the nurse Ratched sees him to be the same as the other patients. This in some way makes him to act differently from them and act in a way opposing Ratched policies that has left patients scare of her. McMurphy who has been characterized someone who is big, confident, sociable, and ignores the aides. He is also noted to be honest and laughs a lot. These are the character traits that none of patients has ever had.

The first thing that McMurphy does to challenge the nurse’s authority in the mental hospital is when he threatens her that he is going to drop his towel. Ratched quickly tries to handle the situation by screaming to the boys to get him new clothes. She actually does not realize that McMurphy has shorts. McMurphy in actual sense is playing around with her mind.

McMurphy becomes the first patients to show Ratched’s weakness. This happens during a group meeting when DR. Spivey casually mentions that he had a talk with McMurphy, and continues to go into details about what they had talked. The idea was supported by everyone with the exception of Ratched. This is actually what makes her shake since the inmates had ratified the plan and also because of the fact that the doctor felt that this was a great idea.

McMurphy motivates his fellow inmates but they are too scared of what Ratched could make them go through. This results in him getting angry at them because they are so scared of Ratched. He is letter approached by Billy Bibbit who informs him that no matter what he does will help him in any way in the long run. But McMurphy brags that he already has an arrangement to break out.

McMurphy assisted all the sick by steadily growing quite more rebellious against Ratched. It’s identified in one other meeting where Billy brought out his slutter and the way he wanted to talk to a lady whom his mother hated. During this same discussion McMurphy brings up the issue about World Series again, prompting Ratched to allowing the inmates to vote. The sensitive patients’ casts for the change but Ratched made it known that they are not eligible. McMurphy demonstrated by not accepting to do any kind of job and positioned himself before the television for a very long time despite the fact that the World Series was continuing. Later on the other patients join him. This shows how he has a big influence of them. He continues to behave this way but Ratched does not respond in any way (Kesey 146).

McMurphy has in a way enabled the men in the hospital of how they are being mistreated in since they begin to see how they are being mistreated. McMurphy is able to help his fellow inmate Harding after he finds out how rude his wife Vera is abuses him and how he leaves him while Harding just stands there. Though McMurphy does not answer in a straight forward way, the message is driven home.

Ratched made McMurphy look bad by pointing the patient’s final accounting books that reveals that he has generated huge profits compared to the rest of patients. She further makes matters worse by authorizations of the harassment of George Sorenson. But McMurphy steps in on time and defends him. This shows how he is ready to help his fellow men during their most trying times. McMurphy is seen as a legend by other patients after he had refused to apologize to Ratched. Ratched latter brought him back to the ward after he realizes that the resistance and absence had in a way led to him becoming an inspirational “legend”.


Harding then feeling that he owed McMurphy decides to plan for his escape. This clearly shows how men have become very independent and confident. Though the plan did not work out because McMurphy over sleeps. Another instance that shows how he empowers men is after Ratched had falsely accused for causing Billy’s death he responds by trying to strangle her. After she became well she could not talk. This is actually the pick of events as it is the time when the patients check out of the hospital.

Works cited

Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. New York: Penguin Classics, 2002.

Scott, James. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Reproducible Teaching Unit. Clayton: Prestwick House, 2007.