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Bry's Bountiful Book Blog

Because I need a place where I can pretend that people are reading what I'm writing...
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey

SO much better than the movie.

This is a classic anti-authoritarian novel, and surely must have been groundbreaking in its time for the fact that it took on authoritarianism which uses subtle and coercive means as its main method of control. Societal shaming is still a huge issue in North American culture, so this book is as relevant as when it was first written, but many practices have changed with regard to the institutionalization of the mentally ill.

Unfortunately, the stigma around mental illness itself doesn't seem to have changed much since the sixties.

What's interesting to me is that from my memories of the movie and also from various synopsies I've read of the plot of the book, I was led to believe that McMurphy attacks Nurse Ratched in a fit of rage over how she shamed and essentially caused the death of Billy Bibbit. Having read the book, though, this is no longer my impression of this act. It really seems to me as if McMurphy was shouldering the burden of attacking Nurse Ratched because none of the other men on the ward had the will to do what they truly wished they could do. It was McMurphy's ultimate sacrifice; he knew he would be lobotomized for his conduct, but he also knew that no one else would be able to shatter the aura of power and control possessed by the Big Nurse. He gave up his mind willingly, knowing the consequences of his actions, in order to break the men on the ward out from under the thumb of a tyrant.

Also, I loved the narration by Chief Bromden. His character is an hundred times more interesting in the book than in the movie adaptation.