One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: A Book Experience

I do not usually tend to inundate the bucket of movies that I have seen. Instead I see/listen to the same favorite movie over and over again until it gets etched on my mind. That is the reason I have seen Shawshank Redemption, Dor, Bawarchi and few others 50-60 times, but am unaware of Inception, Good Will Hunting, and many others. But that is no problem. Infact better the movie higher is the chance I will skip watching it. This is because if I will ever read the book on which the movie is based, the plot will still be fresh and full of surprises. Similar was my experience this weekend on reading “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey.

The book deals with what happens at a mental institution, how the patients are treated, and what is the equation of the care-taker and the patient. Unlike the romanticized outlook of nurses and staffs of any care institution towards their wards, this book explores the gritty surface of this relation. Nothing is hunky-dory in such a place. The patients are given tranquillizer drugs, are asked about the shameful things they did in the past so as to release their burden, the patients are given a life with no fun and no laughter, and in extreme cases they can also be subjected to electric shocks and lobotomy. And in such an environment comes a ‘con-patient’, McMurphy. McMurphy regularly challenges The Big Nurse, a senior nurse of whom all the patients and also the doctor is petrified. He tries to knock down the castle of rules and order The Big Nurse had meticulously built. In a way he succeeds too, but all at a huge cost.

The book in a way is a masterpiece in psychology. Ken Kesey has written this book from the perspective of a patient at the institute. It may be relatively easy to write about a sane person than to understand and write about the psyche of a person who is lost in his own complex neural network. The book has an interesting storyline, but its stronghold is in its character building.

It also indirectly says a lot about the time it was written in and the perception of working women the society had at the time. The Big Nurse is considered no less than a villain. McMurphy and the others try to break her not just by shredding down the rules, but also objectifying her repeatedly. Her breasts are huge and the inmates try a number of times to embarrass her for her figure. This is something which we see even today, not by the insane, but by the sane ones too. Women professionals have been traditionally considered the evil ones. From finding such depiction in literature, to that in daily soaps, to that in movies, and finally in real life too. The last one is infact the one which has inspired all the other mediums to portray women professionals as robots, evil, and non-fun people.

But as they say, art which in this case is the story, is a reflection of its society. And hence overall, I really liked the book. It tells you a different story, of a place and people of which none of us would ever like to be a part of. You can buy the book on Amazon.

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