Author: Ken Kesey
Summary: 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 engaging in underage sex, 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 day-shift orderlies, and her assistant doctors. - Wiki
My Review: Since I had to read this for school, I could not pass up the opportunity to review the novel.
I think it's safe to say that many of you have seen the film and associate the title, with Jack Nicholson's outstanding, Oscar winning performance. What some of you probably don't realize, is the film is based off the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey (unless you studied Kesey's writing in school).
I would say the novel definitely gives you a more in-depth look into the insane asylum and the actual emotions behind the characters in the book.
The story is narrated from Chief Bromden's point of view. There are no chapters, only parts (1-4). The first half of the book, 145 pages, covers part I. There is an ominous tone and many, many descriptive metaphors used in the novel. At times, it's confusing because you aren't quite sure if Bromden is actually seeing the things that he describes so vividly. And many times he speaks of a "fog", symbolic for his mental state of mind, whether it is due to years of abuse or medication, it's about Bromden allowing himself to retreat within and slip from the realty that surrounds him. To be honest, Kesey's writing is difficult to get through in the first half because it is so dry and void of emotion, but from an analytical standpoint, there are many hidden gems embedded in that first half of the story. It's clear that Bromden lives in extreme fear, evident by the way he perceives the institute and how they treat their patients.
But in the second half of the novel, parts 2-4, the tone changes and the narration begins to liven as Bromden becomes deeply affected by a new resident patient, named McMurphy. McMurphy represents everything that these men in the ward are not; freedom, laughter, manlihood, etc...
As we see from the minute McMurphy arrives, it's about his will to change the system. To stop Nurse Ratched and her demeaning ways. The patients are belittled, stripped of their core, yet they do nothing to retaliate from this cruel behavior and endure the suffering, simply out of fear of punishment. But overtime, McMurphy prevails and in a pivotal moment, takes the men fishing, a scene in the novel that marks change for both the patients, and the ward itself. Something has been started, and will not stop. But in the end, McMurphy pays the ultimate cost for his refusal to submit as we reach the climatic and horrific ending. For Bromden, McMurphy simply represents the human spirit.
I know unless forced, many young people would not even bother to read this book and simply watch the movie, but the book does offer more insight to the horrors that were committed on these men. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with the author. I love the story, but dislike the writing at times. Still, I truly believe that every student should be asked to read this book. It's a powerful story about the human spirit and how it can easily be broken, and abused when placed in the wrong environment. It draws attention and begs us to sympathies with those who have mental disabilities, forcing us to take a look at our society and how we perceive people who are ill.