One flew over the cuckoo’s nest (3)


Otázka: One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest

Jazyk: Angličtina

Přidal(a): NONAME


Ken Kesey

  • He was born on September 17, 1935, in Colorado. He grew up in Springfield, Oregon, and later attended the University of Oregon. He gained fame for his involvement with the Merry Pranksters, a group of individuals who traveled across the United States in a colorful bus known as „Further.“ The journey was documented by Tom Wolfe in the book „The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.“ The group was known for their experimentation with psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD.
  • Literary Career: Kesey’s most famous work is „One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest“. His other notable works include „Sometimes a Great Notion“ (1964) and „Demon Box“ (1986).
  • Legal Troubles: In 1965, Kesey was arrested for possession of marijuana.
  • He spent his later years on his farm in Oregon, participating in various creative and artistic activities. He passed away on November 10, 2001, due to complications from liver surgery.


About the book

  • The book was written in 1962.
  • Language: English
  • Genre: protest novel
  • Setting: Mental hospital in Oregon during the 1950s
  • Point of View: Chief Bromden – first-person
  • The book became famous for exploring ideas about going against the norm and the problems with institutions. It won awards and was later turned into a successful play and movie.
  • The name of the book comes from a nursery rhyme



  • Randle P. McMurphy: McMurphy is the central character and the protagonist of the story. He’s a charismatic and rebellious man who pretends to be mentally ill to avoid serving time in prison. McMurphy challenges the oppressive authority of Nurse Ratched and becomes a symbol of resistance and individualism in the mental institution.
  • Nurse Ratched (Big Nurse): Nurse Ratched is the cold head nurse of the mental institution. She represents the oppressive and controlling force within the system. She maintains her power by the strategic use of shame and guilt. Her methods are a major source of conflict in the novel.
  • Chief Bromden: Chief Bromden is a half-Native American patient who pretends to be deaf and muted, but later reveals to McMurphy, that he in fact isn’t. He provides the narrative perspective for the story. Throughout the novel, Chief Bromden undergoes a transformation from a seemingly paranoid and withdrawn figure to an active participant in the resistance against the institution. He is the patient, who’s been on the ward the longest
  • Billy Bibbit: Billy is a young, kind and stuttering(koktá) patient who lacks self-confidence. He becomes friends with McMurphy and plays a significant role in the unfolding events of the story.
  • Harding, Martini, Cheswick, Scanlon, and others: These are other patients in the mental institution, each with their own unique quirks and struggles.


The plot:

  • The story is set in a mental hospital and is told by a patient named Chief Bromden. The patients live under the control of nurse Ratched and her staff. The main character, McMurphy, comes to the hospital pretending to be crazy to avoid going to prison. He challenges the authority of the big nurse and makes the patients grow more confident and tells them they don’t have to obey her in everything. He is constantly disobeying her rules and brings chaos to the organized ward. He backs down when he learns that the big nurse decides for how long he stays in the mental hospital. Though when one of the patients commits suicide, he dedicates himself to taking control from nurse Ratched.
  • After a boating trip that he organizes, the men who went are forced to be disinfected. That leads to a fight between McMurphy and one of the helpers. Chief Bromden joins the fight to help McMurphy and both are sent to get electroshock therapy. After returning to the ward, McMurphy throws a party, where they get drunk. Billy Bibbit sleeps with a prostitute during this party. He also plans to escape, bat they fall asleep, and he doesn’t get the chance to leave.
  • In the morning, Nurse Ratched finds out about the party. She makes Billy fell so bad about his actions that he unalives himself in the doctor’s office. After that McMurphy attacks the nurse, who then sends him to get a lobotomy.
  • When he returns, he’s not like his old self anymore. Unable to watch his friend go on living like this, chief Bromden smothers him with a pillow and runs away, just like McMurphy planned.


Themes and motifs:

  • Sanity v. Insanity – it is discussed in the book what it means to be sane or insane, and, perhaps most importantly, who gets to define what qualifies as sane and insane
  • Social Pressure and Shame – Randle McMurphy is shocked to learn that there are more men on the psych ward who are voluntarily committed than those, like him, who have been committed by the state. The novel makes it clear that many of these men are holding themselves back from living freely because they are terrified of how they will be received by the general population for their behaviors.
  • Invisibility – Many important elements in the novel are either hidden from view or invisible. For example, Bromden tries to be as invisible as possible. He has achieved this invisibility by pretending not to understand what is going on around him, so people notice him less and less.
  • Real Versus Imagined Size – Chief Bromden describes the people by their self-confidence or power. For example, he considers himself small, even though he is very high and strong and then says Nurse Ratched is “as big as a tractor,” because she is powerful and unstoppable.



  • Fog – The fog appears when chief Bromden hallucinates. It appears less frequently when McMurphy comes to the psych ward.
  • Laughter – After McMurphy arrives, Chief Bromden notices that his laughter is the first genuine laughter he has heard in years. The longer McMurphy is on the ward, the more the men begin to laugh. Laughter becomes a symbol and an active representation of the men’s freedom, even though they are basically imprisoned.
  • Gambling – McMurphy uses gambling throughout the book as a way to feel comfort. gambling is symbolic of the ongoing game between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched.


Historical context:

  • Kesey wrote the book based on his experiences working in mental hospital and participating in government-sponsored experiments with psychoactive drugs such as LSD in the early 1960s.
  • These experiences influenced the novel’s themes of rebellion against authority and the struggle for personal freedom.
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