One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Society and Free Will in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 12th Grade

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey was published in 1962. The fifties and early sixties were a time of conformity versus rebellion in the United States. While the average breadwinner was returning to a suburban living room lit up with Father Knows Best, Allen Ginsberg was in Greenwich writing “Howl” to criticize the mechanization and conformity of modern society, Pollock was spattering a canvas with paint, Kinsey was redefining sexuality, and Kesey was publishing One Flew (“Voices against Conformity"). These themes of rebellion which marked the era are mirrored in Kesey’s novel, the story of an unnamed ward in a mental hospital and the patients who reside there. The ward is headed by Nurse Ratched, the head nurse, who rules the ward with fear and manipulation until Randal McMurphy, a man who feigns insanity to get out of the prison work camp, arrives to shake things up. McMurphy refuses to be subjugated by the system of manipulation by which the Nurse rules the ward. His aim to dethrone Nurse Ratched begin as a bet he makes among the men that he can “Bug her till she comes apart at those neat little seams,” within a week, but as the novel continues his carefree rebellion eventually evolves into a desperate battle to...

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