One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey


Our Author, Ken Kesey

Week Five: March 26
Pages 219-272 (53 pages)
Person A: Rachel
Person B/C: Alexis
Person D: Katie

We would not recommend this book to peers. None of us got anything out of this book and there was no point to it. It is hard to answer whether this topic has been discussed better in a different because there was no clear message or topic. This book should never be considered for the school curriculum. The book did not teach any valuable lessons nor did it have any point. There was nothing appealing or challenging about the writing style for high school students, but the content of the novel is not appropriate for anyone younger.

This week, Katie came up with five questions (see below) and Rachel brought the candy. This week, Rachel brought in Sour Patch Kids and dark chocolate m&ms. We started off our meeting by discussing Katie's questions. The first question caused a debate in our group as to whether McMurphy was really a conman and how good of a conman he was. The debate was short-lived and we finally came to a mutual agreement. We continued our meeting with the rest of Katie's questions without any more disagreements.
The ending of the book was a huge surprise to us all. Although, Bromden was upset with McMurphy, none of us expected him to do anything as drastic as he did. Due to his mental instability, the fact that Chief Bromden acted out of character was not as surprising as it would have been had it been someone sane. We all agreed that although McMurphy had wronged Chief Bromden and all of the others, it was a little bit too extreme to go as far as to murder him in his sleep when he was in a vegetative state.

1. Do you think McMurphy is really the conman everyone has come to believe he is?
McMurphy, though he doesn't want to admit it himself, is defintely a show man. He makes bets only when he feels secure about his chances and he almost always makes sure he will win beforehand. The way Nurse Ratched brought this to the other patients attention was a little unethical, but it was something that needed to be said.
2. Nurse Ratched's reaction after the party is met with McMurphy's calm attitude, do you think he was putting on a facade or was he actually that calm?
McMurphy is probably putting on in act in order to appear strong to Bromden. What McMurphy doesn't know is that Bromden already knows that he is suffering and that he feels bad for him.
3. Do you feel that McMurphy was justified in his actions towards Nurse Ratched, specifically at the end?
Nurse Ratched was cruel woman throughout the novel, especially when she resorted to using electroshock treatments in order to "keep patients in line" . However, McMurphys attempt to strangle her was a little too far. Throughout the novel McMurphy ws constantly getting back at or doing things to undermine her, the fact that he tried to kill her was just a little too far though his feelings were justified.
4. Did the ending come as a surprise to you?
Overall, the ending was definitely a surprise. Bromden may have seemed to be upset with McMurphy in the last part of the novel, but nobody would've guessed that he would have ended up strangling him
5. After finishing the book, do you feel any differently about it? Overall opinion?
The story appeared to be pointless throughout the entire novel, and the ending left if off seeming as though nothing had actually happened. The fact that it remains a classic is mind-boggling to us.b

Week Four: March 19
Pages 169-219 (51 pages)
Person A: Alexis
Person B/C: Katie
Person D: Rachel

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest, it's hard to find items that have been particularly symbolic. However, we feel as though the entire institution may be symbolic of the real world, and each patient may fit into a separate stereotype. Though they may only be stereotypical of people who have been classified as crazy or mentally unstable, Nurse Ratched would fit into the stereotypical sociopath. The fact that each of the patients acted out when they went on the fishing trips shows them fitting into the stereotypes they portray by telling people that they are crazy and that they would kill them.

The question about symbols brought us back to the fact that the author was taking several different drugs at the time hew as writing the book. It seems like a lot of the lot only goes as far as the surface, while the rest of it is hard to understand because it is unclear. This may lead the certain ideas or items that were meant to be symbols to appear in a different light to the reader, but it also makes it hard to compare one thing against the other. This also brought us to compare the novel to books we had read earlier in the year, within Outliers it was hard to find symbols because of the way the book was written. While on the other hand, in The Scarecrow, the symbols played a major role in the plot of the story.

This week, Rachel wrote up questions for us to answer, and Alexis was unexpectedly absent, so we had no food for this week. Since Alexis was sick, everyone in class was very upset by the lack of candy in the classroom. Rachel and I discussed each of her questions, while we spent a lot of time talking about the behavior of each of the characters throughout the novel. McMurphy's actions were a key topic, considering he keeps changing the way he acts towards Nurse Ratched and the other staff. Another key point of discussion was Chief Bromden and what will happen with his character in the end section of the book. We both feel that the truth about him not actually being a deaf mute will come to the surface and it may create problems with other characters in the novel.

When we moved on to the assignment for the week Rachel and I both found ourselves between a rock and a hard place. It was hard for us to think of anything that had been considered a symbol within the text, because everything seems to either be straight forward or somewhere way off the deep end depending on the moment in the story. Overall, we determined that the only symbol we could find was the asylum itself and the way the characters acted when they were in public. They seem to represent how the author felt as a drug addict, and the differences between when he was alone in his own mind, and when he was in public with others.

1. Why do you think McMurphy's attitude and behavior toward Nurse Ratched has changed so much?
At first, McMurphy stood up to Nurse Ratched and tried to upset her in any way he could. He wanted to instigate a reaction from her that would show a side of her the patients had never seen. But once McMurphy found out that she was the one that decided when McMurphy could leave the institution, his behavior changed. He began to act kinder toward her, and tried to get on her good side. For some reason, however, McMurphy suddenly went back to his old behavior. This was probably because annoying Nurse Ratched was the only source of entertainment he could find.
2. Do you think Bromden will eventually tell the truth about the fact that he isn't deaf or mute?
We think that eventually, Bromden's secret will be revealed. It's hard to keep a secret like that from so many people, and he is bound to slip up soon. McMurphy already knows the truth, so it seems likely that someone else will find out also.
3. Why do you think Nurse Ratched tries so hard to maintain control over the patients? Why does she always feel the need to be right?
Nurse Ratched tries so hard to keep her control because she is the only woman, and feels she has more to prove than a man in her situation. She exerts her power by using outdated practices that harm the patients. She tries so hard because she is the only woman, and if she doesn't get what she wants, her power is lessened in the eyes of her patients. She maintains control, usually at the expense of the patients' well being.
4. At the gas station, everyone who went on the fishing trip followed McMurphy's lead and used their illnesses to their advantage. Do you think McMurphy is a bad influence on them?
McMurphy is a bad influence because he is always causing trouble. But he does teach the other patients to stand up for themselves and have self-respect. He also shows them not to let Nurse Ratched control them just because she is in charge.
5. Do you really think McMurphy will try to escape the institution? Do you think Bromden would actually help him?
McMurphy will definitely try to escape, but won't be successful. Bromden will help him, once he is strong enough. He always does what McMurphy asks of him, but now it might get him into serious trouble.

Week Three: March 12
Pages 116-169 (52 pages)
Person A: Katie
Person B/C: Rachel
Person D: Alexis

The narrator of our novel is living in a psychiatric institution, and he is not completely stable. He suffers from delusions and hallucinations, and pretends to be deaf in order to go unnoticed. Because the novel is told from this interesting point of view, the tone of the book is darker, or even slightly creepy. Any reader would be able to see that the narrator of the story, or even the author, is very troubled.

In comparing this novel to the other books we have read this year, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the heaviest. Outliers was not a novel, but more an informative book. The tone was more lighthearted and an easy read. During the second marking period we read The Scarecrow, which was a mystery novel. It was suspenseful and interesting, but still flowed well and was a page-turner. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is so unlike the other books; we don't find the plot as interesting, and it is more of a slow story. It was written in the late 1950s, and covers a more serious subject, which gives the book a more ominous feel to it.

This week, Katie brought in food, Alexis wrote the questions, and I was in charge of the assignment and summary. Katie brought in Kit Kats, Starbursts, and gummy bears, as usual. We began this week's discussion with Alexis' questions, but quickly moved on to talking about our impressions of the book. We spent most of the period comparing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to the other books we have read this year for book club. All three books we have read this year are so drastically different in terms of writing style, genre, and even our interest in them. The consensus was that The Scarecrow has been our favorite so far, and that we aren't totally in love with our current selection. We agreed that we preferred the relaxed tone of Outliers, and the interesting plot of The Scarecrow.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is very different than the other books we have read so far for book club, mainly because it was not written recently. The writing style is very similar to other books, like Catcher in the Rye and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. These books were all written around the same time, and the language used makes this apparent. We hope to be able to read a more modern novel next marking period; hopefully we choose a novel we can more easily relate to.

1. How do you feel the characters have evolved since the beginning of the book?
McMurphy has become more sympathetic toward the other patients in the ward. He realizes that Nurse Rached is evil and that the way the institution is set up allows betrayal and hate to thrive and create tension between the patients. Unfortunately, he has become too concerned about his own well being to do anything about it.
2. How have your feelings toward any of the characters changed since the beginning of the novel? Do you feel any different about the institution they are in?
We like McMurphy a little bit more than we did at the beginning of the novel because it has become apparent that he is the sanest person in the institution. He defends those who he feels Nurse Rached and the other patients pick on. Also, he cleverly comes up with ways to act out against Nurse Rached and the other evil administrators. Unfortunately, once he learns that the staff controls how long he will have to remain in the mental institution, he becomes more submissive. Our feelings toward Cheswick have also changed. We feel bad that he got moved to the Disturbed ward for following in McMurphy’s footsteps and trying to have a vote held to get what he wanted. We feel the same about the institution. We still believe that almost all members of the staff are evil or easily influenced by the other staff members.
3. Why do you think the patients choose to stay in the hospital?
The patients voluntarily stay in the hospital because they are too weak and afraid to leave.
4. Do you think Cheswick’s death was a suicide?
Yes, because he had just recently gotten back from the Disturbed ward, which Chief Bromden has led us to believe is one of the most horrible things that any person could ever go through. Also, it would have been unlikely that he accidently got his fingers stuck in the pool vent.
5. What do you think the fog machine means?
The fog machine is what Chief Bromden remembers of electroshock therapy, which is why whenever he has thoughts of it, he reacts in a wild and irrational way.

Week Two: March 8
Pages 70-116 (55 pages)
Person A: Rachel
Person B/C: Alexis
Person D: Katie

The book is told in the past tense in first-person, so we know that the main character lives through all of the events. The book would have been more suspenseful and interesting if told in the present tense. The novel is told from the point of view of one of the patients in the mental hospital, Cheif Bromden, who is a huge Indian. Since the story is told by someone who is involved in the events, it is difficult to determine whether what he is saying actually happened the way he is saying it did or if his recounting of the story is skewed. There is some 1950's slang in the book, which can make it difficult to understand at times.

This week, Katie was questions, Rachel brought in food. Rachel brought in gummy bears and thin mints. At the beginning of the meeting, we spoke about how the book has become less confusing. After, we answered the questions that Katie had prepared (see below.) Unlike during many of our previous meetings, there were no arguments or debates had over the questions. We all shared the same opinions about what was going on in the book.

We finished the questions when there were ten minutes left in the period, so we discussed what generally was happening in the book and how we felt about each of the characters. We all felt the same toward most of them. Nurse Rached was hated by all of us and we all feel sympathetic toward Cheif Bromden because he seems like a good person, but he has to deal with many horrible people and be treated in inhumane ways on a daily basis. We then discussed how different the times talked about in the novel are from the times we cuttently live in. In the novel, racism seems to be everywhere, but today, in the United States, people are much more accepting of people of other ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, etc.

1. Do you think the book is easier to follow now that you know more about each character? Why/why not?
The book is easier to follow because we now know more about each characters background and where their thoughts and ideas come from. We also understand the way they think, which makes it easier to understand what they are saying.
2. What did you think about McMurphy's actions towards Nurse Rached?
His actions, though they may be a little rash, seem justified because of the way Nurse Rached always treats the patients cruelly.
3. How do you think the carnival will go at the ward?
If the carnival goes well it will be fun for the patients and it while allow them to interact with each other while being out in the open.
4. Has your opinions on McMurphy and Chief changed after this section?
McMurphy seems to be a little less arrogant in this section, meanwhile the Chief is becoming more distant in his thoughts.
5. Do you think the "Disturbed" killing will play a major part later on in the book?
The way they are discussed seems to lead that they may end up being a key factor in the book later on, however, it may be too early to tell for sure.

Week One: March 1
Pages 9-70 (61 pages)
Person A: Alexis
Person B/C: Katie
Person D: Rachel

Though the novel is told from first person perspective, the narrator is not the main character. We meet the other characters through Chief Bromden's perspective, which gives insight into a mentally unstable man living in an institution in the 1950's. He is half-Indian, and seems to be treated poorly. He is forced to sweep the hallways, and gets the nickname Chief Broom. The main character is Randle McMurphy, who is a new arrival at the mental institution. On the surface he is arrogant, but the patients take to him because he helps them build up the confidence they are lacking. Another main character is Nurse Ratched, who acts masculine in order to keep control over the institution. She maintains control by using harsh methods, and the patients seem to be afraid of her. Even in the first few pages of the book, Chief Bromden expresses his fear of Nurse Ratched through his actions. He tenses up as she walks by, and closes his eyes to prevent from making eye contact with her. The overall consensus is that Nurse Ratched is cruel and cold-hearted because of the way she treats her patients.

This week for book club, Rachel came up with incredibly in-depth questions that can be seen below this passage. Alexis was responsible for bringing in food, which consisted of Sour Patch Kids, Snow Caps, and Gummy Bears. At the beginning of the meeting we spoke about how confusing we felt the beginning of the novel was. Since the text is written in 50's slang with a hint of pure insanity, it becomes hard to follow at certain points, but overall it's becoming easier as we move on. After going over Rachel's questions, we moved on to the assignment for the week. The characters are introduced in a way that is unique to this text, which is very insightful into life in the institution. Since the book is written from a patient's point of view, some of the events or descriptions may be skewed.

1. What was your overall first impression of the book?
We found the book a little confusing and hard to follow. Some of the sentences aren't well worded, and some things seem to be exaggerated.
2. The book was written in the 1950s. What did you think of the language and style used in the book?
Since it was written in the '50s, some of the terminology is different than today. However, the slang is similar to that in Malcolm X, so it isn't that hard to follow. There are some racist terms used, and the way the characters talk are so different than today.
3. What do you think of Nurse Ratched and her methods of running the mental institution?
By today's standards, Nurse Ratched doesn't run the institution very well. She doesn't seem to care for her patients, but only cares about keeping control. She acts more masculine to keep control in an institution where she is among men.
4. What do you think of the narrator of the book, Chief Bromden?
We feel bad for him because he seems insecure. Since he is part Indian, he doesn't seem to be treated very well, and his self-esteem has been shattered by Nurse Ratched and her harshness toward him.
5. What do you think of McMurphy, the main character?
He seems really arrogant and acts as if he is better than everyone in the institution. He acts as though he doesn't deserve to be in the mental institution.