One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest


The non-fiction book, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, written by Ken Kesey, begins the story in a mental hospital. The characters prove to themselves that honor is found by doing what is morally right. The hero of the story, McMurphy, risks it all to save the lives of his companions and rids the hospital of the evil. The story is a classic one of good triumphing over evil and contains little romance. This is a story of Freedom that is shown internally and externally by the guidance and leadership of the main character. A significant change is seen clearly in the main characters and other characters over the course of the story. Dramatic changes are seen with more evidence in the main characters. Challenges against the tyrannical antagonist, Nurse Ratched are often led by McMurphy, but not always. Even though McMurphy is with the patients he is truly an external force that guides them to their freedom. In Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest psychological freedom results in the combination of identity changes caused by an external force, rebellion over authority, and freedom over society.


Major identical changes of characters are due to reasons of an external force that cause a positive change in their personality. Ian Currie, in her review of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest states “Cheswick becomes more argumentative; voluntary inmates like Harding and the innocent Billy Bibbit begun to think about leaving, and Bromden defeats his fear of the system by choosing to speak again, and eventually escapes from the hospital” (Currie, par 6). Bromden views McMurphy’s examples of self-confidence as reasons to change and break free from the hospital. Bromden pretends to be a deaf, dumb, and mute which allows him to hear and see other things most patients don’t see. He has more freedom to walk around the hospital than the other patients. Peter Macky suggests that Bromden regains his strength and saneness with the help of McMurphy. The rescue of Bromden is successful because of the good way McMurphy treats him (Macky 471). Bromden views McMurphy almost Christ like or a savior or the hospital that has come to save and break free all of the patients. McMurphy tries repeatedly to show Bromden a better way of living life. At first, Bromden shows interests in McMurphy’s attempts to influence him to communicate or perform action, but does not fully engage himself. McMurphy finally influences Bromden to speak a small amount of words and gradually Bromden and McMurphy have deeper conversations that are always held in complete secret ness. Bromden finally has a revelation of inner identical change and he relinquishes he thirst for life. Mr. Harding feels embarrassed by his wife’s adultery and this can prove to be very mind depleting of him. His wife will call him to ridicule and disrespect him. Mr. Harding sees McMurphy negatively at first, but changes his view and sees McMurphy in a new light. The guidance provided by McMurphy allows Mr. Harding to regain his inner self sanity. After acting up in the hospital, McMurphy is lobotomized for actions against the authority of the hospital, but only a slight unnoticeable change shows that he is only worn down from it. The final straw of McMurphy choking Nurse Ratched causes his punishment of being lobotomized completely and he assuring never close to being the same.


The leader of the rebellion over authority externally helps the patients internally through dramatic actions against the authority and encourages other to rebel. Ian Currie quotes Ken Kesey with “Into this world marches Randle P. McMurphy. A confessed con-man and brawler, he is determined to manipulate the system rather than allow it to manipulate him” (Currie, par 6). McMurphy struggles against the tyranny of Nurse Ratched in many ways. Malin declares “Nurse Ratched is an authoritarian, middle-aged woman who tires to impose her will upon her lunatics. She exerts power not to help other but to help herself” (254). McMurphy’s victories are symbols that Nurse Ratched’s power is spiraling downward. “McMurphy rejects the head nurse’s persistent probing, her insistence that the patient’s private self is her own property, and the assumption that the patients are beyond help.