One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
By Ken Kesey
First Published: 1962
Review © 2009 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Modern Fiction, Classic, Literature
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is a superb novel that was made into an Oscar winning movie with Jack Nicholson in the lead role. The movie was terrific but the novel is even better. If you haven’t seen the movie, read the novel first to really get the maximum emotional impact.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest looks at the battle of individuality versus society in an extreme setting, a mental institution of the early 1960’s. The book follows the events that occur in one ward, from the viewpoint of one of the inmates. The ward is totally under the control of a domineering nurse who strikes fear into, not only the inmates, but even the doctors. This nurse is one of the great villains of literature. When a new inmate enters the ward, named McMurphy, the orderliness of the ward is threatened. McMurphy finds that most of the “insane” inmates are not all that insane and with a little encouragement they can regain some self esteem. He is naturally charismatic and is not afraid of challenging authority so he quickly becomes the leader of the inmates. A battle of wills between McMurphy and the nurse is inevitable.
The characters in this novel are terrific. The inmates have all kinds of psychological issues which make for some hilarious situations. The mixture of comedy, psychological battles, and inspiring defiance make for a great read. There are some extremely emotional ups and downs in this novel with an ending that is one of the most powerful in literature.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a novel that should not be missed. I give this novel my highest recommendation for anyone aged teen and up.