One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: A Review

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is a great novel for anybody working in the mental health field to read. It takes place during the 60s mental health era, where shock treatments and lobotomies were generally accepted practices. In a book that was extremely well written and creative, it was disturbing for a mental health worker (like myself) to read. The mental health field is constantly changing and growing, and the newest perspective has moved from the "Case Management" perspective to what is called "Community Support." The emphasis on people learning to help themselves rather than having workers take care of people like they're helpless children. And inflicting shock treatments and lobotomies against people's wills is just flat out creepy.

I felt that the plot was a little slow as the plot wasn't necessarily the point of the novel, but rather the vehicle to illuminate the mental hospital and the characters involved. But it picked up near the end and the ending was inevitable. The characters, especially the narrator, Chief, were unforgettable and the story is sad on many different levels.

I also watched the movie. I liked it but felt that the book was much more powerful and effective in describing the feel of the mental institution. The way that Chief described the fog (of being on medication) and the Combine (the machinery of the government and society trying to control you) was brilliant in the book and definitely was lost in the movie. But it did pretty well overall reproducing the book, and it's unfortunate that over a legal dispute Kesey never watched the film. As if writers don't get screwed enough, stupid companies screwing them out of the movie earnings!! I mean, don't they know 95% of writers are poor as shit? At least if all they do is write and don't have another job too (which most now-a-days have to).


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll have to read this book. I watched the movie and loved it. Finally understood all those cultural reference to Nurse Ratchatt. I'm fascinated by the mental health field and the way it's changed. Although in Australia it's gone back to the craper again because there isn't much funding for it.


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