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Old 05-17-2016, 05:07 AM View Post #1 (Link) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
ScottyMcGee (Offline)
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My humdrum ol' Signet paperback. I really want to get a nicer edition someday.

I never saw the movie and this book had been lying on my shelf for ages. I never had to read it for school either. I knew very little about it aside from Big Nurse and McMurphy. I had no idea the wild ride I was going to take.

The story takes place inside an asylum through the eyes of Chief Bromden. Everybody thinks he's deaf but he simply stopped talking because of several traumatic experiences as a Native American boy. Big Nurse Ratched runs the ward with an iron grip. She disapproves of any kind of fun. Life in her ward has always been dreary and mindless, until the day troublemaker Randle McMurphy is admitted and changes things forever.

Chief Bromden suffers from hallucinations after being in the battlefield - so basically like PTSD. He keeps thinking the ward is gassing everybody and imagines a thick fog everywhere. It's not written so complex like, say, Benjy the mentally disabled character in Faulkner's Sound and Fury. Bromden is still easy to follow and you figure when he's suffering from delusions.

The writing and pacing flows nicely. This is one of those books that doesn't waste its words.

Man. I gotta say. It's up there for me - one of the best I've read. I finished it last week and so it's still fresh in my mind. Every incident, big and small, is still in there. There's a lot of humor (I burst out laughing several times) but also a lot of solemnity.

Bromden as a Native American character is fresh for me. It's also fucking terrifying how stereotyping Native Americans back then still persists today in the exact same fashion. Bromden has a lot to say about the treatment of Native Americans and I just shook my head in dismay like "Yeeeeep. We still do that shit to them." Kesey presents those issues without flinging them in your face. They pop up naturally in Bromden's memories and flashbacks.

The ending is probably one of the most memorable in literature. I assumed what would happen more than halfway or so through the book, but then there were still a couple things that happened that made me go "Oh shit. . . oh fuck. . ." The ward is filled with memorable characters - each with their own mental illness and quirk.

Chief Bromden is one of the best narrators in literature. It just wouldn't be the same if it were written following McMurphy. I've heard members here on YWO ask questions like "Does the main character need to be the most important?" This is a perfect example of how the main character doesn't need to be the most important. McMurphy is the fuel of the story - of course without him nothing sets fire. He's such a larger than life character that it feels wrong to follow the story through him and instead follow him through another character. That way, McMurphy feels like a legend - a myth - rather than a concrete, living being. But Bromden himself has his own fleshed out personal history, and McMurphy affects him in almost every way.

Friggin read it! Do it now! It's up there on my list of must-reads.
Only thieves kiss with their eyes open.
						Last edited by ScottyMcGee; 05-17-2016 at 05:20 AM.
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