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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • March 15, 2006

     

    [32] One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey

    One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is more than a social commentary: it is an allegory-like hyperbole of the psychopathic obsession of the 1960s. The decade marked a drastic proliferation of books that looked at psychiatry and mental illness but garnered little diagnostic or therapeutic value. Despite the prestige of these publications that usually attuned to academic standard in intellectual circles, none of such literature had the widespread impact of this novel written by Kesey who worked the graveyard shift at a mental hospital in Menlo Park, California. He participated in government-sponsored drug experiments during his employment with this hospital and became sympathetic to the patients and began to seriously question the boundaries that had been created between the sane and the insane.

    One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is an unforgettable story of a mental ward in which the despotic Nurse Ratched reigns over the doctor and all the inhabitants. She exercises a somewhat cultic tactics to render her patients completely submissive. In what she embellishes a Therapeutic Community, an outwardly democratic entity run by patients, she imperceptibly manipulates them into grilling each other as if they are criminals. She has over the years has welded an insurmountable power over the ward that even the doctor is rendered frightened, desperate and ineffectual. She has no need to accuse or to enforce obedience because all it takes to maintain that tight grip of power is insinuation, which allows her to force the trembling libido out of everyone without an effort.

    The Nurse's unchallenged tyranny begins to whittle as McMurphy, a 35-year-old Korean veteran who has history of insubordination and street brawls, resolves to oppose her every step of the way and raises the racket in her ward. His defiance is justifiable: he is surprised at how sane everyone is in the ward. Nobody and nothing in life have got much of a hold on this boisterous personality, who knows that there is no better way in the world to aggravate somebody (like the Nurse) who is trying to make it difficult for him than by acting like he is not bothered. McMurphy's fun-loving arrival at the ward brings about a different shade of opinion among the staff and the patients. The latter come following him as if he is their Savior, for he is utterly different and has not let what he looks like run his life one way or the other.

    One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is narrated by a patient in the ward, a Columbia Indian whom everyone thinks deaf, mute, and unintelligible, but who throughout the years of his commitment has overheard all the trickery of staff meetings. He epitomizes the mishap of the erroneous boundary with which the sane separates them from the insane. McMurphy's arrival and his friendship with the Indian Chief spur him on to recover his own identity and rebuild his self-esteem. The novel examines the notion of madness in the sense of its own and in the sense of the term being patronized by mental institution. The narrator's seamless observation and eagle-eyed description of the ward illustrate salient flaws of such a mindless system that targets only at reducing patients' mental capability. Kesey considers whether madness really means the common practice that confines to a mindless system or the attempt to escape from such a system altogether. Like its audacious protagonist, the novel itself is a literary outlaw.

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