Monday, February 8, 2010

(Book #5) Ken Kesey - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Last Thursday a friend emailed to tell me that he had just seen this great older movie and he suggested that I see it as soon as possible. Perhaps it was merely coincidence or maybe there was just something in the ether connecting our thoughts, but when I got that email the very novel that movie was based on was packed in with my camping gear to start reading over the weekend. A strange twist that certainly solidified that 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' was exactly what I was supposed to be reading this week. Now, before I actually start in on the actual content of the book, I just want to touch on how I have noticed certain themes acting as a string between the books that I am choosing (or are choosing me as the case may be). A particular topic or theme from one book is sometimes mentioned in the next book, which has some other idea that is touched on in a third book and so on. In school, I often found that in reading several different texts in tandem or in parallel would often draw similar notions and complement each other even though they were of completely different classes. I am finding the same thing happening now, and I am left to wonder if these sweeping thoughts are being applied to all of these different writings coincidentally? Am I touching some deep seeded string of content that is universally being addressed in any writing? Or maybe I am merely that string applying my own personal spin on of these readings. I'm thinking that it could be all of them to a degree, but beyond all that it was certainly strange to have someone suggest the very story I was about to read.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, written by Ken Kesey in the 1960's, is a fictional peek inside a ward at a mental institution. It's a story about what happens when a chaotic force, a wild new patient named McMurphy, challenges the order, discipline and unbalance of power that the domineering Head Nurse Ratched holds over the institution. Most people know that this story was a movie starring Jack Nicholson and had a colorful cast of supporting characters as the other patients on the ward, and as a whole the stories were pretty similar. What I was not aware of was that the book was written entirely from the perspective of "The Chief", the enormous Native American character silently in the background of most of the story. This was actually a great way to remove myself from what I remembered of the movie and get a completely different perspective on the actions.

It was also great to get a more in depth reading of the power struggles that happened between the characters, as they were fleshed out a bit more. The interpretation of those struggles by the Chief reflected the view of the reader. Someone that is outside, but empathetic towards the actions that are happening. As the reader, we envision the actions that are happening and can't help but wonder how our own personal reactions to these very extreme and dichotomous individuals would be.

The book overall was really well written and was surprisingly easy to follow even when the pages digressed into hallucinatory visions or casually slipped into back story. While it was good that the story was coherent in that it followed through on the inner workings of one character, I almost wonder how different it would have been if it jumped around between the different patients and the different mental perspectives. I suppose trying to get into the mindset of one particular kind of psychosis would be difficult enough let alone several different ones. It also grounded the story in a way and gave the reader a relatively fixed perspective whose interaction with the other characters progressed as the story went on. The change in one character reflected a change in all of the characters, and I am forced to wonder if perhaps the reader is meant to change as well.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know you were a blogger. I'll follow you now.

    I've not read this one, although I've always wanted to. Have to put it on my, when my kids are older and have time list. :)