Vladimir Williams Dr. Steve McKenna Writing 102 December 6, 2012 Complex Character Development in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was influenced by his work in the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in the 1960’s. Kesey was very much influenced by the individuals he encountered in the hospital. The story was also very much affected by the time period in which it was written, when younger people in the United States were beginning to challenge the authority imposed on them. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a seemingly simple, humorous, and somewhat disturbing account of life in a ward for the mentally insane. On the surface, it is a story about the oppression endured by patients in the ward and a man, McMurphy, who seeks to change everything.
The novel also contains elements of contemporary tragedy: McMurphy emerges as a tragic hero due to his rebellious nature and ultimate demise. Despite his flaws, McMurphy has a redeeming influence on Chief Bromden and the other patients. Chief Bromden’s role as first-person narrator allows the reader a glimpse into the inner workings of the hospital in a way that a more traditional, sane narrator could never do. In the beginning of the novel, Bromden is undoubtedly depicted as insane, being prone to hallucinations and paranoid thoughts. His hallucinations are full of fantastic images of machinery, wires, and other devices that the nurse uses to control the patients on the ward.
An Organized Dictator In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, the reader dives into a story about life within the walls of confinement of a mental ward. According to the Kansas City Star, “You feel this book along your spine.” This novel is influenced by Kesey’s outrageous life experiences; the two most influential being his voluntarily participation in an experiment with psychoactive drugs, like LSD, cocaine, mescaline, AMT, among others, and his work at Menlo Park Veteran’s Hospital. These experiences inspired him to write this novel that was published in 1962. The novel takes place in a mental hospital in Oregon and tells the story of a head nurse named Miss Ratchet that tries to run her ward like an organized dictatorship where her authority is supreme. Miss Ratchet is the main antagonist in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, written by Ken Kesey in 1962, is a book about a energetic con man that turns a mental institution upside down with his rowdy tricks and random attacks with the head nurse. Throughout the book, this man shows the others in the institution how to stand up for them, to challenge traditional values to society and to be who they want to be. It is basically a book of good versus evil, the good being the con man McMurphy, and the bad being the head nurse, Nurse Ratched. McMurphy rejuvenates the hope of the patients, fights Nurse Ratched's control on the ward, and represents the feelings of the author on society at the time. Before McMurphy arrives, the ward is your basic average mental institution.
According to the American Psychiatric Association's (2000) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (text revision; DSM-IV-TR), this mixed type is characterized by feelings of immense importance and feelings of being watched or victimized. Teddy experiences both; believing he is on the verge of a grand discovery and simultaneously is being conspired against by the doctors at the asylum. For those with Delusional Disorder, full periods of remission may be followed by subsequent relapses, as is Teddy’s case. Perhaps in response to his experiences in war and the death of his wife and children, Teddy creates an entirely different identity, complete with a new name, profession, past and present. To prevent the truth of his situation from shattering his newly constructed sense of self, Teddy believes any information provided by his doctors is merely part of the conspiracy to keep him in the
Throughout the novel “One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest”, the Combine is Chief Bromden’s interpretation of the institution and the society surrounding the ward. Author Ken Kesey portrays Chief as another ‘cog in the machine’ as Nurse Ratched purposes to oppress and tyrannise the patients throughout the ward to maintain a conforming society. The novel is portrayed through the at times unreliable and unjustified eyes of Chief Bromden. Kesey’s ideologies of the manipulating and mechanistic ways of the Combine are directly linked with Chief Bromden and his viewpoint. Chief Bromden’s perceives the Combine as an all-powerful, spying and secretive commune that watches and controls everything around the ward and identifies the Big Nurse as the head of the Combine.
The story, narrated by the gigantic but docile half-Native American inmate "Chief" Bromden, focuses on the antics of the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy, who faked insanity to serve out his prison sentence, for statutory rape, in the hospital. The head administrative nurse, Mildred Ratched, rules the ward with a mailed fist and with little medical oversight. She is assisted by her three black day-shift orderlies, and her assistant doctors. McMurphy constantly antagonizes Nurse Ratched and upsets the routines, leading to constant power struggles between the inmate and the nurse. He runs a card table, captains the ward's basketball team, comments on Nurse Ratched's figure, incites the other patients on the ward to conduct a vote on watching the World Series on television, and organizes a supervised deep sea fishing trip.
McMurphy is both a Byronic and messianic hero and reminds the patients of the ward how to stand up to the rules of society and to think for themselves. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is centered upon the role of the individual in society and the way it attempts to install order. Sometimes the means in which society imposes order compromises the individual’s freedom. The asylum houses patients who have problems functioning within the social norms of society. Randle McMurphy is a convict, accused of statutory rape charges, who feigns mental illness in order to be relieved of his work detail.
The paranoia and hallucinogenic views that Bromden expresses in the novel could be related to the author and character of McMurphy’s utilization of mischievous and sometimes humorous antics to undercut authority. There are other things besides disdain for society of the time that were a part of Kesey’s life and had significant effect on the writing and tone of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. While Kesey was enrolled at Stanford, he was a test subject for a number of drugs and also later worked as an aide at the hospital in Menlo Park (World). Ken Kesey is known as a Beat Writer. The Beat Generation is a post-World War 2 group of America writers that came to the height of popularity during the fifties in addition to the cultural movement that the group inspired and wrote about (Q&A).
Initially, it’s just for fun, but his sense of injustice at the treatment of the patients leads him into a real battle for their good. He animates the dull monotony with games, pranks, and excursions, but encounters stiff opposition from Nurse Ratched, whose system provides her with pills and electroshock to maintain control. What he finds out only later is that Ratched has the power to keep him there indefinitely. McMurphy gradually forms deep friendships in the ward with a group of men which includes Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif), a suicidal, stuttering teenager whom Ratched has humiliated and dominated, and "Chief" Bromden (Will Sampson), a huge Native American. Believed by the patients to be deaf and unable to speak, Chief is mostly ignored but also respected for his enormous size.