One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
By Ken Kesey

Seeing as how I currently work in a residential treatment facility in Oregon for teenagers who require intensive mental health services, it seemed like a good idea to revisit a story about life in such a facility- of course, this one being about adults.

Do you really need me to fill you in on the basics of the story? Really? You somehow missed the movie too? Okay well, here are the absolute basics: Oregon mental hospital, RP McMurphy- a man who feigns mental illness to get out of jail work detail, a ridged, passive-aggressive, sadistic head nurse, a complex crew of mentally ill patients trying to make sense of things, a half-Indian man who has pretended to be deaf and mute for two decades in order to manage his delusions, and the question of what really makes a person crazy.

Let’s just get the nitpicking out of the way, shall we?

I got a little bored with detailed descriptions of the chief’s descriptions of his reality. I understand the point, of course, and also understand that this adds to the overall question of perspective in the story. But at the same time, they went on for a bit too long.

That being said, this is an incredible book. The story is complicated and hugely dramatic but on a small, personal scale. McMurphy is the voice of freedom, the voice of rebellion, but also the voice of a rational person witnessing irrational circumstances. The chief is our guide, and as untrustworthy as he may be, he is gentle, complex, and an unexpected hero. Nurse Ratched is the cruel, cold face of authority who sadistically demands order through the most subtle, blood-boiling passive-aggressiveness.

What adds a whole new depth to this story, one that most people do not have the…um… luck to experience, is my experience working on the side of, dare I even say it, Nurse Ratched. I see hints of many of the fictional characters in my real-life clients and realize that, while our methods are much more therapeutic and in no way based on personal shame or physical punishment, I am one of the many Nurse Ratcheds- one of many who work hard to create order and structure in a chaotic environment. I understand her perspective on a whole new level- though that is not to say that I would ever recommend electro-shock therapy or a lobotomy (at least in a serious way) and understand characters like McMurphy to be a real danger to the other clients- mainly in his open disregard for rules and desire for anarchy. Don’t think I am her. I’m not. This just adds a new depth and reference source. But anyway, let’s talk about your fears of sexual inadequacy with your wife, Mr. Harding.

In truth though, I would never work on this ward. I work on “Disturbed”- where these characters fear to go as that is where the violent and explosive patients (and the spitters- the dreaded spitters I have come to know so well) inhabit along with the bed-wetters and those who bark and hiss instead of speak (yes, I know those too).

Anyway, outside of my own rambling, this is a wonderful book worthy of your time/ space on your shelf.

Read it, or I will be forced to tell your mother, who will be terribly disappointed in you…

No comments:

Post a Comment

did you read the book? what did you think?

Elegant de BlogMundi