One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest Essay

Submitted By hgyhbdbgxf
Words: 1875
Pages: 8

Stories of fiction have captivated readers for centuries offering an escape from the realities of everyday life while maintaining relevancy in the material presented. A work of fiction can be based on actual events yet provide readers with twists and turns inspiring new perspective and points of view. Many talented fiction authors have been able to take the events of a particular place and time and transform them into a storyline that is rich with detail, imagery and allusion. These, and many other, literary devices allow the reader to go beyond the written words to gain new insight and meaning. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey, is a fictional work that has stood the test of time because of its elaborate detail, unique characters and shocking allusions. Kesey’s novel is set within in a mental institution somewhere in the time of the 1950s and 1960s; a period of political unrest and social change. The characters each have their own storyline and reasons for being in the hospital. Interestingly, none of them are required to be there until the latest admission is introduced. R. P. McMurphy, the most transformational and symbolic character of the novel, is the only patient that is remanded to the ward by order of the courts. The forty men that are being treated on the ward are supervised by the beautiful, yet stern, Nurse Ratched and her trio of “black boys.” The narrator, Chief Bromden, a schizophrenic patient, guides the reader through tales of a whitewashed hospital that, under the cover of night, slides into a dark dungeon of machines and fog. Kesey is very descriptive when introducing the characters to the reader. These descriptions allow the reader to visualize their appearance but also offer insight into the social and emotional mindset they possess. The appearance of Nurse Ratched strongly contradicts the role played by her character. She is a beautiful woman that rules with an iron handed masculinity. In times of rage, Chief Bromden vividly describes her stating, “So she really lets herself go and her painted smile twists, stretches to an open snarl, and she blows up bigger and bigger, big as a tractor, so big I can smell the machinery inside the way you smell a motor pulling too big a load” (Kesey 5). The characters and staff are intimidated by her and fear her inhumane practices of electroshock therapy and frontal lobotomy for dealing with rebellion. Chief Bromden is described as a tall man yet, he sees himself as small, almost shrinking by the day. Throughout the novel he reflects on his childhood and remembers, “I was a whole lot bigger in those days” (Kesey 36). Bromden often reflects on other characters in terms of size but the reader soon becomes aware that he is not referring to their stature but rather their masculinity, courage and self-esteem. In addition to the elaborate physical descriptions provided by Kesey, language becomes an important part of learning about the characters and their roles in the story. Billy Bibbit is a patient on the ward who lives in fear of disappointing his mother. He speaks with a stutter which has haunted him throughout his life and contributed to his extremely low self-esteem. Billy says, “You think I wuh-wuh-wuh-want to stay in here? You think I wouldn't like a con-con-vertible and a guh-guh-girl friend? But did you ever have people l-l-laughing at you? No, because you're so b-big and so tough! Well, I'm not big and tough” (Kesey 184). His stutter, present throughout the story, seems to improve as his confidence builds in the later chapters. Chief Bromden uses unique language to describe the ward and the activities that take place throughout the hospital. Most importantly, he refers to the hospital as a factory being run for the good of the “Combine.” He says, “This is what I know. The ward is a factory for the Combine. It's for fixing up mistakes made in the neighborhoods and in the schools and in the churches, the hospital is.