One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest Critical Analysis

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In the novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey, a ward of a mental hospital and its inhabitants create an attractive metaphor for the controlling nature of American culture. Throughout the novel, the story of Randal McMurphy, conveyed through symbolism, a new patient in the ward as he battles against the head of the ward- Nurse Ratched. As the fight between these two powerful forces ensues, it becomes more than just a classic case of rebelling against authority. Kesey’s story invites the reader to consider just how vague, or previously vague, the line is that separates and treatment from tyrannical control. Symbolizing a valiant struggle between free will and conformity, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a powerful, electrifying, and important piece of American literature. The story, set in the late 1950’s, in an Oregon mental hospital reveals some truth about mental hospitals during the time frame (Shmoop). The hospital uses older fashioned techniques; however, they were quite modern at the time. The lack of modern medication and treatment options are painfully apparent. This becomes particularly evident when McMurphy has a Frontal Lobotomy operation(a severing of the frontal lobe from the rest of the brain), which is almost unheard of due to advances in treatments. This event transpires due to McMurphy’s actions as he battles with Nurse Ratched throughout his duration in the ward. Randle McMurphy’s character is very interesting. He is a gambling con artist who has spent time in the military, as well as numerous “work farms.” McMurphy’s strong charisma allows him to, quickly, become the leader of just about all patients, causing them to experience significant changes. His irrational and impulsive antics bring many changes to ward rules. McMurphy even helps the men overcome their fear of Nurse Ratched through his bold actions against her. As
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