Some Questions on Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

These are rather shallow questions. SPOILERS

  1. Can someone summarize the whole story?
  2. How did McMurphy become a vegetable in the end?
  3. Is the movie basically the same as the book?
  1. He had a lobotomy.
  2. Pretty much

I suspect we have yet another poster who doesn’t want to do his/her homework, doesn’t want to read an assigned book, and is hoping that watching the movie will suffice to help him pass the test.

Now, I’m not Ken Kesey fan, but…

  1. I don’t like homework shirkers, and

  2. I had to suffer through that book, so why should YOU get off easy?

I can tell you this, regarding question #3: the EVENTS that take place in the book are, essentially, the same as the events that take place in the film. But the emphasis is VERY different, and so is the viewpoint. The film is not told from any one point of view. The book IS! It’s told from the point of view of Chief Broom (a relatively minor character in the film).

So, while watching the movie would give you the nuts and bolts of the story, you’d miss out completely on the Chief’s view of the world… which is largely Ken Kesey’s view of the world. Which means you’d miss out on a lot.

Not to mention the movie totally leaves out the sequence with Bert the Chimneysweep and the carousel.

Actually I’ve read half of the book and I haven’t seen the movie. And yes, I’m running out of time. :slight_smile:

PS. Is some of the descriptions by Bromden not real? Like when he didn’t take his sleeping pills this one night and he talks about the dorm going down an elevator and seeing one of the veggies killed by workers. I’m quite confused sometimes.

It all comes clear in the second half of the book. :slight_smile:

Kesey was experimenting with LSD when he wrote the book, and he used that. The LSD hallucinations Kesey had were written in as schizophrenic episodes in the book.

The Chief’s commentary - about “the machine” or “the Combine” and how the Big Nurse can slow down time or speed it up just by using the controls at the nurse’s station - are thought to be just part of the Big Chief’s delusions.

But at the end, when he goes nuts and kills McMurphy, then rips out the washtub and heaves it through the window, the delicate controls underneath are exposed, and the mental controls from the Combine over the rest of the Chronics are shattered, leaving the reader to wonder just how much of it was really real. This is buttressed by the return of the supposedly dead-by-suicide Billy – is he a reanimated corpse under the controls of Nurse Ratched, or what?

Sadly, the movie leaves most of those questions unaddressed. I’ll never understand how it won Best Picture.

Oh, by the way - do your own homework.

  • Rick

Summary (I love this book and the movie too, if this is homework you should enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading CRIME AND PUNISHMENT):

The Kesey book was written from the perspective of Chief Broom. He was ACTUALLY nutso (mentally impaired). He thought that the floors dropped down on an elevator every night and they did experiments on his implants while he was down there. When he was a child on the reservation (salmon fishers), the white folks did not acknowledge him, and eventually he quit talking at all. Everyone thought he was deaf. He wasn’t. In the film: Nicholson: “Juicy Fruit?” Chief: “Thanks” Nicholson: “You sly son-of-a-BITCH!!!”

The film was produced by a 2nd-rate TV detective-show actor, the son of a famous guy. His name is Michael Douglas, you might have heard of him since “The Streets of San Francisco.”

Kesey’s McMurphy was a big ol’ strapping red-haired Irishman. I can’t picture the film without Nicholson, but it was supposed to be Robin Williams or Keitel or Neeson or someone. Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched was perfectly portrayed on the big screen, as chilling as the novel.

McMurphy pushes the envelope too many times, and is lobotomized. He had bet that the chief could lift the MARBLE WASHSTAND from its moorings and lost. At the end, the chief smothers him with his pillow (McMurphy would NOT want to live in veggieland) and snatches the washstand and tosses it through the window to make his escape.

Look for an IMPOSSIBLY young Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd among the memorable inmates. One great book, one great movie. I’ll save my next epic for the next Godfather II question.

<<side note to Eve: I’ve lurked for years, and would like to hear your impression on this. Also Cervaise, same note>>

Read the book AND see the film. They are separate but equal, in my estimation.

Read the book. This message board is not for people who don’t want to do their own homework.