One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: McMurphy
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One Flew Over the Cuckoo\'s Nest: McMurphy
One Flew Over the Cuckoo\'s Nest, with its meaningful message of
individualism, was an extremely influential novel during the 1960\'s. In
addition, its author, Ken Kesey, played a significant role in the development of
the counterculture of the 60\'s; this included all people who did not conform to
society\'s standards, experimented in drugs, and just lived their lives in an
unconventional manner. Ken Kesey had many significant experiences that enabled
him to create One Flew Over the Cuckoo\'s Nest. As a result of his entrance into
the creative writing program at Stanford University in 1959 (Ken 1), Kesey moved
to Perry Lane in Menlo Park. It was there that he and other writers first
experimented with psychedelic drugs. After living at Perry Lane for a while,
Kesey\'s friend, Vik Lovell, informed him about experiments at a local V.A.
hospital in which volunteers were paid to take mind-altering drugs (Wolfe 321).
Kesey\'s experiences at the hospital were his first step towards writing Cuckoo\'s
Nest. Upon testing the effects of the then little-known drug, LSD, "…he was in
a realm of consciousness he had never dreamed of before and it was not a dream
or delirium but part of his awareness (322)." This awareness caused him to
believe that these psychedelic drugs could enable him to see things the way they
were truly meant to be seen.
After working as a test subject for the hospital, Kesey was able to get a
job working as a psychiatric aide. This was the next significant factor in
writing the book. "Sometimes he would go to work high on acid (LSD) (323)." By
doing so, he was able to understand the pain felt by the patients on the ward.
In addition, the job allowed him to examine everything that went on within the
confines of the hospital. From these things, Kesey obtained exceptional insight
for writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo\'s Nest. To make the novel seem as
realistic as possible, he loosely based the characters on the personalities of
people in the ward; also, his use of drugs while writing allowed him to make
scenes such as Chief Bromden\'s (The Chief is the narrator of the story. He is a
Native American who happens to be a paranoid schizophrenic.) dreams much more
vivid (Ken 2). As mentioned in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, "…certain
passages ¾ like Chief Broom [Chief Bromden] in his schizophrenic fogs ¾ [it] was
true vision, a little of what you could see if you opened the doors of
perception, friends (Wolfe 328).
Ken Kesey\'s altered mental state while he wrote Cuckoo\'s Nest is what truly
makes it unique. The novel\'s message of rebelling against authority was very
influential to the counterculture generation of the 1960\'s. Kesey and his
writing became a key factor in a decade filled with drugs and anti-establishment
One Flew Over the Cuckoo\'s Nest takes place in a mental hospital in which
the patients\' individuality is suppressed by the head nurse, Nurse Ratched.
When a sane con-man (Randle P. McMurphy) has himself committed to avoid a prison
sentence, the machine-like order that had previously existed on the ward is
immediately challenged. Initially, McMurphy is a very selfish man whose only
desire is to cause problems for authority figures, Nurse Ratched in particular,
and to make life for himself as easy as possible. Eventually, this all changes
as the battle between himself and Nurse Ratched becomes their battle for the
souls of the inmates. McMurphy\'s struggle to "free" the other inmates is a
difficult one, ultimately resulting in his own destruction; however, through his
death, the other patients are able to realize their own sense of self and they
escape the ward. Although McMurphy works to save all the inmates, the
schizophrenic, Chief Bromden, is the main target of his attentions. The Chief
is the largest, most powerful man on the ward, but is made to feel weak and
inferior by staying there. Upon realizing his own value at the end of the novel,
Chief Bromden participates in the mercy killing of McMurphy which allows for his
own complete liberation, as well as that of the other patients.
Entering the mental hospital a sane man, R.P. McMurphy only looks out
for himself; however, this all changes when he realizes the permanence of his
residency on the ward if he does not conform. This motivates him to begin
working to save the other inmates on the ward and transfer some of his high
spirit into them. His struggle to help them realize their individuality
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Counterculture of the 1960s, Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Randle McMurphy, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Merry Pranksters, Nurse Ratched
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