Ken Kesey: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1962)

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn,
Wire, briar, limber lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew East
One flew West
And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest

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When I started reading the book, I did not quite get into it right away because of the style of writing. The book that I had read before had full complex sentences, whereas this one seemed to have been written almost in slang or very simply. I would definitely not call it one of my favourite books, but I still enjoyed it in the end.

I read a bit of some online analysis of the book to get a second perspective and focused on the topic of feminine/masculine power. All the people in the hospital were men, and power was given to the women, specifically to the head nurse, who was depicted as an evil, power-hungry and strong woman. Although the book was strongly biased in a way which made the reader feel empathy towards the patients, I tried to also see another more objective perspective. In a way, the patients are de-humanized and looked at in terms of work, trouble, and routine for the head nurse. She also realises that giving them too much power will result in complications, and that there are always people who seek trouble. Still, the method to tame the troublesome patients of the time were questionable – the machines with electric power seemed to make zombies out of the living, but was that something that the doctors and nurses really thought was genuinely the only solution or just a method to get rid of the annoyance?

There was some mentioning of the fact that the head nurse had done this job for too long and had grown cold and indifferent and mean in the process. It was said that for that position, it would be good if there was change of people in order to still care about the cause and try and do one’s best. I feel that this is true for so many positions.. also teachers, for example, who get to greet new students every year, and are in an endless loop, unless they choose to take on new challenges, educate themselves more, and to try and be innovative. The protagonist had been in the hospital the longest, and noticed different tendencies in the head nurse’s behaviour and how she had changed over the years.

Although the book seemed a little slow to begin with, it really picked up in the end and got really intense. The protagonist’s descriptions, which often seemed a little unreliable to begin with describing all the blur that no one else seemed to notice and the actions at night, got more clear towards the end. I felt sorry for McMurphy when he was turned into a vegetable but with the book developing this way, the protagonist killing McMurphy to releive him was probably the best solution.

 

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