First published in 1962, this bleak satire of institutionalized treatment for mental health sufferers is poignant, beautifully written and socially aware. Set inside a Northwestern mental institution and narrated by a half-Indian inmate named Chief Broom, the story revolves around McMurphy, a con man, who chooses to be institutionalized instead of working on a prison farm after being convicted for statutory rape.
Clearly sane and avoiding prison, McMurphy begins to influence others on his mental ward, including a thirty-three year old stutterer named Billy and a man who suffers from severe hallucinations named Martini. (How’s that for a double entendre!)
The ward is “ruled” over by Nurse Ratched, who is referred to as “The Big Nurse.” Nurse Ratched is a cold, calculating woman who commands the inmates and two orderlies on the ward with a ruthless and tyrannical demeanor.
The on-going battle for psychological supremacy of the ward between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched comes to a head after McMurphy organizes an after hours party that eventually leads to the suicide of an inmate.
Though the tone of the novel is mostly grim, melancholy and desolate, the ending has the emotional impact of the sun rising over a lake, reflecting hope, beauty, enlightenment and freedom.
A film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1975.
Submitted by Dan@Central