One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Book - 1999
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"Powerful, poetic realism...makes the tired old subject of life in a mental hospital into an absorbing Orwellian microcosm of all humanity." --Life .

An international bestseller and the basis for a hugely successful film, Ken Kesey 's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was one of the defining works of the 1960s. This Viking Critical Library edition is accompanied by essays, discussion topics, a chronology, and a bibliography.

A mordant, wickedly subversive parable set in a mental ward, the novel chronicles the head-on collision between its hell-raising, life-affirming hero Randle Patrick McMurphy and the totalitarian rule of Big Nurse. McMurphy swaggers into the mental ward like a blast of fresh air and turns the place upside down, starting a gambling operation, smuggling in wine and women, and egging on the other patients to join him in open rebellion. But McMurphy's revolution against Big Nurse and everything she stands for quickly turns from sport to a fierce power struggle with shattering results.

With One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , Kesey created a work without precedent in American literature, a novel at once comic and tragic that probes the nature of madness and sanity, authority and vitality. Greeted by unanimous acclaim when it was first published, the book has become and enduring favorite of readers.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 1999.
Signet, c1962.
ISBN: 9780140236019
Branch Call Number: FIC/KES
Characteristics: 276 p. ; 24 cm. : paperback.


From the critics

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Apr 30, 2021

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a book that was given to me to read for English class sophomore year and it’s such a good read. Even though it was a requirement for my class, I’m so glad I got to read it. Kesey tells a story of an unlikely friendship that really warmed my heart when I read the book. One of the main characters, McMurphy is witty and just an overall interesting character to read about because you’re constantly wanting to know what kind of trouble he’s going to get into. All the characters are unique which makes the story never boring. Even though the book does delve into more serious topics, Kesey doesn’t fail to add humor to the story. I recommend reading this book because the storytelling coming from the protagonist is really well done.

Apr 07, 2021

The world of Ken Kesey's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST is filled with contradiction. At once a world of compliance, it's also one steeped in rebellion. It takes place on a mental health ward - the "cuckoo's nest" - drawing on familiar archetypes for its characters. The result is a microcosm of society that shows everyone to be a little nuts, especially those regarded as sane. It smacks of America, 2020.

pacl_teens Feb 09, 2021

Ever wondered what a tyrannical and oppressive psychiatric ward looks like from the perspective of a 'mute' patient? The 1962 classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, describes a 1960s mental ward reigned over by a merciless dictator, Nurse Ratched.
She rules with an iron fist, abusing patients through severe psychological mind games and the constant threat of electric therapy. No one dares to oppose her, neither the patients nor the doctor until a mischievous gambler arrives, McMurphy. He disrupts the mind-bending routines of the other inhabitants, standing up for them and rallying them to fight against the oppressive rule of Nurse Ratched. We receive the story through the perspective of a seemingly mute patient, Chief Bromden. It is a tale of rebellion and self-reliance, turning the definitions of insanity and sanity on their heads.
This novel was a groundbreaking tale of the abuse and hardships of living in a mental facility, bringing to light many of the horrors of such places. It has important themes of standing up for oneself and seeking light in darkness and has inspired many generations. The writing is carefully crafted to weave the intricate story, painting a picture of the events within the ward in the reader's mind. However, there are many sexist and racist undertones that severely detract from the overall message of the book. Overall, it is both an exciting and outdated piece, providing reasoning for four stars.
If you enjoy fiction or classics, this book is for you but make sure to read the novel with a grain of salt. -Ines, Grade 10

Apr 05, 2020

We've all seen the movie, but have you read the book? Written by counterculture icon Ken Kesey (SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION, KESEY'S JAIL JOURNAL), this is a diabolical romp into the environment of a mental health ward. Rebellious, funny and moving, the subtleties lost in the film come screaming at you when reading the text.

Oct 20, 2019

Amazing! We read this is LA and it was very enjoyable. There is so much depth and many symbols. I believe anyone can relate to someone in the book (not because of their actions but because of their innermost desires, insecurities, etc). This book is very misogynistic, but I believe that it has redeeming qualities. Truly affected me emotionally. There are various quotes that I wrote down because they were worth remembering for me. Some of the quotes are just thoughts or observations and therefore I feel like the movie may be lacking. Need to get myself a copy of this book!

Oct 02, 2019

Having seen the movie first (albeit years ago) it was hard to separate RP McMurphy from Jack Nicholson's portrayal of him in the film (which was entertaining). Examines the struggle to find a place in the straight world of society for all the rebels, misfits, outcasts and insane out there. Does conformity help you, or does it control you?

Mar 22, 2018

Interesting read. A bit dated but a very in depth look at life in a mental institution in the 60's. A classic.

Aug 21, 2017

very telling and frightening allegorical tale of institutional control of people

ArapahoeTina Jul 31, 2017

If you've only seen the movie, you're missing out. McMurphy is a quintessential charismatic protagonist - flawed, but wholly likable. Kesey's rendering of the this character through the eyes of a fellow patient adds a level of depth not possible in a visual format. The narrator's backstory is heartbreaking as well and has literary merit worthy of its own exploration.

Apr 17, 2017

The reputation of this book made me expect it would be a more interesting read. I was determined to slog through it, but did not find many times when I was glad I was reading it. The subject matter is heavy and we are introduced into the mind of one of the inmates of the asylum to see how the ward and the staff look to him. It is dark and depressing and its tone reminded me of Catch-22.

Not sure I even want to try and watch the movie, but Jack Nicholson as McMurphy intrigues me. Perhaps watching the story on film will giving me a new appreciation of the book?

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Slavomir Jan 17, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

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Violence: This title contains Violence.

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Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.


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Apr 07, 2021

One flew east / One flew west / An' one flew over the cuckoo's nest!"

Apr 05, 2020

Kesey's a bold, lion-hearted writer who doesn't shy away from the difficult issues of institutionalized prejudice, abuse and racism, rampant - for the times - in America's mental health wards.

Halfbloodprincess Jun 16, 2013

To Vik Lovell, who told me dragons did not exist, then led me to their lairs.


Add a Summary
Apr 07, 2021

Criminal-minded Randle P. McMurphy fakes crazy to get out of sentence to hard labor. He thought he was going to summer camp. He was wrong.

Apr 05, 2020

Immortalized by Tom Wolfe in his novel THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST, Ken Kesey navigates the twisted halls of mental health in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. Filled with humor and poignant insight into the human condition, NEST delivers an indictment of the mental health system while raising those it's meant to serve to the height of heroes. Kesey's a bold, lion-hearted writer who doesn't shy away from the difficult issues of institutionalized prejudice, abuse and racism, rampant - for the times - in America's mental health wards.

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