One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest:A Controversial Novel
The groundbreaking novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, gives readers a realistic view of the world of the insane, shown through the eyes of a man living in a psychiatric unit. The author highlights a disturbed world that is increasingly becoming dehumanized and gives it a timely and accurate picture of human condition, which is far from perfect. The novel is largely subjective and contains language many considered obscene, racist, and immoral.
The language in the novel exposes readers to the many themes portrayed throughout the book, giving an overall message of obtaining freedom and a controversial view of a disorderly society many see as problematic. Though this novel is considered controversial for its harsh language and portrayal of mental issues, it should not be banned because it allows readers to gain a new perspective on psychiatry wards and psychosis.
The novel gives readers an accurate picture of the human condition inside a mental hospital. It uses language, habits, and attitudes, that were typical of disturbed men whose world has been dehumanized. The novel uses many sensitive issues that exceed the boundaries of acceptable social behavior to give readers a sense of authenticity on mental illnesses and the numerous hallucinations that may go along with it. These sensitive issues including racism, sexism, obscenity, and immorality caused the novel to be subject to controversy and have many attempts of banning it. The novel is narrated through the eyes of a half-Indian patient named Chief Bromden. He is thought to be deaf and dumb and through these assumed disabilities, he hears and sees things go on in the mental institution that he would normally not know about. Throughout the novel, he is obsessed with the struggle between good and evil and eventually falls victim to the evil that goes on inside the mental hospital. Though the Chief is the narrator of the novel, he is not the protagonist, and instead provides a firsthand look at a figure who dominates the story through force and rebellion. McMurphy, who faked insanity to escape a prison sentence, encourages the other inmates to follow his rebellious actions and fight a battle against the hospital. Giving the Chief hope that life is not as conformed outside as it is inside the mental hospital, he starts to see McMurphy as a hero and protects him from the evil. With their constant struggle between good and evil, the chief gain freedom but fails to protect McMurphy against the evil inside the mental institution. Through the Chief’s role as the eyes and ears of the novel, he gives readers a deeper understanding of the sane and insane and allows readers to experience and compare themselves to the inner conflicts and realistic problems encountered by him and the other character.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is known for its influential themes and other important ideas. Pivoting on the idea of domination and rebellion, it has been subject to continual battles across the country over whether it should be banned. The novel consisting of racism, sexism, obscenity, and immorality, gives students exposure to the many mature concepts. The level of maturity in the novel has caused many schools and parents to criticize its influence on risky behavior. Challenged in Strongsville, Ohio in 1974, because it glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles, and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination was removed from all school classrooms and eventually banned. The novel’s most recent challenge was in 2000 in Californian school. It was banned after complaints by parents stated that teachers can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again. Giving readers a view of the darker sides of society and civilization, the novel attempts to show the truth behind a mental institution. Showing what happens inside a psychiatric institution, it becomes dangerous to places that teach conformity because it influences and brings awareness and change. The novel has many disagreeable themes and crude language that many would rather not have students reading about. These complaints over its vulgar and vivid descriptions over violence and other scandalous ideals has caused the novel to be one of the most challenged books in the United States.
The novel written during the early 1960s, was a time where social norms were being highly debated and rejected. It focuses on the inner workings of a mental institution and challenged and raised awareness of the psychiatric culture. Before more ethical practices were introduced in the twentieth century, the novel used many psychological treatments that were normal during the time. It wasn’t until the novel was written, that Americans became aware of the horrible treatments mentally ill patients had to undergo in order to be cured. Centering around the history of mental health, the novel takes place in a psychiatric institution where inhumane practices were being applied. Throughout the novel, the issue of ethical patient treatments that were used, were brought to light, and eventually changed. The narrator, Chief Bromden, suffers from the psychological condition of paranoid schizophrenia. Trapped in the Oregon psychiatric ward, he struggles with extreme mental illness that increasingly worsens. He and McMurphy undergo many operations such as electroconvulsive therapy, that many view as violent and unethical. When McMurphy attempts to strangle the nurse because she causes one of the patient’s death, he is sentenced to undergo lobotomy that leaves him in a state of comatose. Left in a vegetative state, Chief Bromden see that’s there’s nothin’ in the face. Just like one of those store dummies. This misuse of psychosurgery during the 1960s on patients that were considered mentally ill, was unethical and left severe unintended effects on the patients.
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