One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

4.3 372
by Ken Kesey

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Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the seminal novel of the 1960s that has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Here is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new…  See more details below


Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the seminal novel of the 1960s that has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Here is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the struggle through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the awesome powers that keep them all imprisoned.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A glittering parable of good and evil." —The New York Times Book Review

"A roar of protest against middlebrow society’s Rules and the Rulers who enforce them." —Time

Library Journal
Kesey's new introduction to this anniversary edition could very well be the last thing he worked on before shuffling off this mortal coil in 2001. Additionally, 25 sketches he drew while working at a mental institution in the 1950s, the inspiration for the novel, are littered throughout. Critics are divided on the meaning of the book: Is it a tale of good vs. evil, sanity over insanity, or humankind trying to overcome repression amid chaos? Whichever, it is a great read. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Classics Ser.
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.06(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt


Psychedelic sixties. God knows whatever that means it certainly meant far more than drugs, though drugs still work as a pretty good handle to the phenomena.

I grabbed at that handle. Legally, too, I might add. Almost patriotically, in fact. Early psychedelic sixties...

Eight o'clock every Tuesday morning I showed up at the vet's hospital in Menlo Park, ready to roll. The doctor deposited me in a little room on his ward, dealt me a couple of pills or a shot or a little glass of bitter juice, then locked the door. He checked back every forty minutes to see if I was still alive, took some tests, asked some questions, left again. The rest of the time I spent studying the inside of my forehead, or looking out the little window in the door. It was six inches wide and eight inches high, and it had heavy chicken wire inside the glass.

You get your visions through whatever gate you're granted.

Patients straggled by in the hall outside, their faces all ghastly confessions. Sometimes I looked at them and sometimes they looked at me. but rarely did we look at one another. It was too naked and painful. More was revealed in a human face than a human being can bear, face-to-face.

Sometimes the nurse came by and checked on me. Her face was different. It was painful business, but not naked. This was not a person you could allow yourself to be naked in front of.

Six months or so later I had finished the drug experiments and applied for a job. I was taken on as a nurse's aide, in the same ward, with the same doctor, under the same nurse—and you must understand we're talking about a huge hospital here! It was weird.

But, as I said, it was the sixties.

Those faces were still there, still painfully naked. To ward them off my case I very prudently took to carrying around a little notebook, to scribble notes. I got a lot of compliments from nurses: "Good for you, Mr. Kesey. That's the spirit. Get to know these men."

I also scribbled faces. No, that's not correct. As I prowl through this stack of sketches I can see that these faces bored their way behind my forehead and scribbled themselves. I just held the pen and waited for the magic to happen.

This was, after all, the sixties.

Ken Kesey

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From the Publisher
"A glittering parable of good and evil." —The New York Times Book Review

"A roar of protest against middlebrow society’s Rules and the Rulers who enforce them." —Time

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One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 372 reviews.
Meagan_Traver More than 1 year ago
The novel One Flew Over a Cuckoo¿s Nest is a dark, classic book that describes the journey of ex-prisoner Randle Patrick McMurphy and how he shakes up the life of a mental hospital after being sentenced as a patient himself. He claims to be insane but quickly shows his rebellious persona by challenging authority in the ward with his dramatic way to take over. The book maps his constant battle with the big nurse Ratched who is the overseeing power of the institution. Their combative ways is an eye-opening and compelling story line that shows the era of the 1960¿s was way different from today. The repetitive themes found in the book are standing up for one¿s self even if it is against a higher power and of course surviving the cruel, brain frying punishments executed in the disturbed ward. McMurphy is a brute and forceful man that has to push nurse Ratched¿s boundaries and break the rules to keep him from actually going crazy. I found myself riveted with the storyline and always wanting to turn the page to read what scheme McMurphy had dreamt up next to put into action. His interactions with the other patients was humorous and gave a clear picture of what life must have been like living with such twisted and physiologically disturbed people. McMurphy might not be considered the stereotyped ¿Hero¿ but is a timeless character who you want to see succeed nevertheless. Author Ken Kessey was not disillusioned into creating tragic endings. It is not a book for a younger audience or a feel good time. This book can measure up into being one of the greatest horror stories written and a perfect read during the Halloween season. If you enjoy this book as much as I did, I would recommend the following novels that give off the same eerie but page turning thrill; 1984 by George Orwell, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Go ask Alice by Anonymous, or 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. This book was an impeccable piece of writing with a shining 5 star quality. It is a longer read but the pages fly as the novel steadily peaks to the climax and shocking ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For starters, I have this strange curiosity about psychology; coincidentally we were assigned outside ready in my English class and to my delight a Ken Kesey novel was on that list, One Flew Over the Cuckoo¿s Nest. I went into the book without many expectations other than the fact that I was excited to read it, I fell in love. Not only does Kesey refrain from shying away from saying something vulgar and true, he shines a light on what many don¿t want to see. Based on semi-non-fictional experiences, Kesey offers a glimpse into a psychiatric ward in the late 1950s. Many things are learned throughout the novel such as brutal ways patients were treated with, the head nurse exercising a totalitarian rule over the ward and that not all the patients are crazy rather they have tendencies that are different from the norm. I really loved the novel and I highly recommend it as a ¿must read¿ because it touched topics that most people would not think of on a normal basis and really made you question the definition of insanity.
James_Krudop More than 1 year ago
This book was phenomenal. It's a crazy adventure right from the get go, and boy, that adventure rages and powers on through all 325 pages of the book. The story is simply amazing, Kesey's description of the ward, his world, really puts you into the state of mind of living in a place like that. The book is fantastic right up to the very end. I would definitely recommend this to anyone up for one insane (no pun intended) ride.
Dan Combs More than 1 year ago
very interesting take on the treatments of the mentally ill. sometimes funny, other time ver harsh. a slow read, but a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best and craziest stories i have ever read...if you like this try...the yellow wallpaper...its wierd and nit many people might get it bit there is a full description i put up for it....any way this book is very entertaining...and im readkng it fora college class so this is goods
Starspace More than 1 year ago
Good, funny, and meaningful This book is well worth the read. It is one of those rare books that tells a story beyond the one on its pages. Mental institutions and the idea of "insanity" are explored. It is a serious piece of literature and has to be approached with the knowledge that it is well-written and employs supreme symbolism. I highly recommend it to any fan of literature.
AhmedNF More than 1 year ago
The emotioal book "One flew over cuckoo's nest" by Ken Kesey is a story about unseen control of authority over the lives of innocent people in the mental asylum in the name of medical treatment or making them good citizens. The author described the asylum scene very effectively and thoroughly.I'' recommend everyone to read this book because it leaves the thoughtful affect that how each one of us are bound by someone else's claim that we are right or we don't need to take any medicine to be fit. The book tells the demanding and dominating nature of big nurse, who wants to control every patient's life and decide about their mental capacity to move into a society. She has no kind feeling for any one but to show her superiority by neglecting all patient's happiness. The author chose very effective language to describe her and the main patient McMurphy, who was supposed to be a patient but he was more kind than the nurse. He understands the needs and the feelings of others more than the big nurse.She,herself,actually was mentally sick. The book actually written in 60's but the central idea could still be apply today. I only don't like the ending, which shows that good intentions ends soon. This is very emotioal and impressive book over all.
betty_gidey More than 1 year ago
personally, i hate reading books.i don't mean fictions or short stories,i mean reading in general.but when i was taking my English class,i had to read this one book titled, "one flew over the cuckoo's nest", by Ken was so interesting that i didn't even get bored while reading it.the way the book was written was very understandable and detailed.i didn't need to refer a dictionary or ask someone to know what the book is trying to say. i would recommend this book for anyone to read because, the story is very unique, interesting and has a whole lot of new information in the time i was done reading this book, i was so amazed and shocked.and the reason for that is,this book contain a disturbing part at the end, and when my friend told me they actually do that kind of stuff in real life, i didn't know what to people should really read this book because they will know what is really going on not only in a fiction book, but in a real life also.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every high school student should read this book. I don't really have much else to say.
Dee-D More than 1 year ago
one of my favorite summery the story is>>>>> you throw a character who is outspoken, careless, selfish and in various trouble with the law into a center for those mentally insane. at first it bothers to a degree some of the things he sees there and some of the things he stirs up with his less than polite comments. However by the end you ll see a shift in the characters motives>> this book definately pulls you in instantly>>its very random too so keep up with the hazy form of speech the patients have....but definatley worth it at the end! mainly a gray mood book but the idea behind it is important i think.....>>>read it!!!!
cody21 More than 1 year ago
This book was excellent! The plot was good but was a little confusing in the beginning. The ending was a good surprise and I didn't expect it to end the way it did. Some Mental Institutions can be very harsh and some not, but this one in the book really captured the feel of it. The characters in the book are well thought out and after doing research it was even more interesting on how Ken came to create the characters. The best created character has got to be Chief Bromden. I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes a good ending and excitement and suspicion. Even though this book was published in the 1960's, it is still a great book that a lot of people read. Kesey was a genius in writing this book, it still has its popularity today and will continue for much longer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone! It is a very interesting book with lots of twists and surprises. The ending to this book is fantastic. You will never see it coming. The author, Ken Kesey did an awesome job telling the story. It does get confusing at times though, so I wouldn't recommend it to younger people. Also, if you are turned off or offended by cursing or sex, this is not the book for you. There are many curse words and sex references throughout the novel. This book really opens your eyes to see how terrible conditions used to be in mental institutions. It can even get disturbing every once in a while, but in the long run, I think that this is a book that everyone should get a chance to read.
PasLAko9 More than 1 year ago
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a book worth reading. Ken Kesey illustrates the world of Chief perfectly. He puts the whole setting of a mental institution into complete perspective. Throught the book you find yourself being pulled into his life. You seem to find yourself there, in the Dayroom, with all the other characters. Ken Kesey sets up a world through which the reader learns to respect others. You learn to feel like those with disabilities do. In reading this, I learned more about myself as a person. I learned to have more patience with those who can't fully understand everything they hear. While it is not a light read or an entirely clean, I believe that it is a very good book worthy for consideration. This book was certainly a great influence on my reading palette.
Eric_Sindall More than 1 year ago
The beginning of the story dumps you into the everyday cycle of a mental hospital that is situated within Oregon run by a retired Army nurse, Nurse Ratched. She believes it is best to rule the ward with an "iron fist" and performs shock therapy and even lobotomies if patients misbehave. It seemed to me that the novel was going to be way to confusing for my taste, but a few chapters in and I was hooked. The story is narrated by a patient at the ward, "Chief" Bromden, who is half Native American-half White and who suffers from paranoia and hallucinations. He has been at the ward longer than any other patient, about ten years. Chief Bromden pretends to be deaf so he can be left alone and isn't noticed within the ward. He refers to the outside world as "the combine" where people are forced to act all the same. Every day at the hospital is the same, continuous cycle until a guy named Randle Patrick McMurphy comes to the ward. He is introduced as big and full of tattoos, a gambling man. He had been diagnosed as a psychopath for doing to much fighting. After he learns the routine of the ward, and meets Nurse Ratched, he makes a bet that he can get Nurse Ratched to crack before she cracks him. The rest of the story persists of the two of them going back and forth with each other until Nurse Ratched finally has had enough and uses her unfair advantages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest is a novel by Ken Kesey. In this classic novel of the 1960's, Kesey's hero, Randle Patrick McMurphy, a convict rebel, enters the world of a mental hospital and takes over. McMurphy rallies the other patinents by trying to over rule the cruel and manipulative, controlled leadership of Nurse Ratched. He gambles, promotes riots among patients and smuggles in wine and hookers. This novel is truely captivating. Many aspects of it are based on occurrences author Ken Kesey witnessed while working in an insane hospital in the 1950's-60's when experimentation of meth, LSD, etc. were in vogue. Juxtapposed the experimentation of EST and lobotomies. When the patients became united against the common evil of the ward's employees headed by Nurse Ratched their bonds grow deep. The characters despite their common problems, are likeable and surprisingly realistic, for example at the beginning the character Chief Broom feigns deaf and dumb. Under the leadership of McMurphy he comes out of his shell and becomes a part of this society. An unexpected ending adds to the book's costant thrill factor.
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It is a interesting book and a very good read. But a little hard to follow at times.
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“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the first and most critically acclaimed novel by author and cultural revolutionary Ken Kesey. Published in 1962, this novel gained instant popularity due to its unusual subject matter and interesting style. The 320 page novel follows the story of Mr. R.P McMurphy, a local troublemaker admitted into an Oregon psychiatric hospital after feigning madness to get out of a prison work detail. The story is told from the perspective of fellow Chronic, Chief Bromden, a schizophrenic Indian assumed to be deaf and dumb. He documents all aspects of McMurphy’s stay on the ward from his rambunctious and sometimes unbelievable antics, his standoffs with the Big Nurse, and the impact his presence has on his fellow patients—many of which may not be as crazy as they initially seem. This story is one of both unanticipated humor as well as powerful moral arguments depicted in Bromden’s delusional sagas of the ‘Combine’ as well as McMurphy’s encounters with, and heartfelt attempts to understand as well as help the others on the ward. The reader is introduced to concepts that refute traditional Freudian ‘man v. woman’ theory and suggest a far more unsettling ‘man v. machine’ look at contemporary society. Kesey forces the reader to not only think about the possibilities involved in ‘mind over matter’ but ‘mind over mind.’ With this novel, Kesey redefined the word crazy for a generation. I was struck by how the events in the story are not only humorous but thought-provoking, and how the unbiased, peripheral narration of Chief Bromden not only gives the story an unique flavor, but completes the book as a true work pure and insightful genius. Through a creative and colorful cast of characters, incomparable set of events, and an ending that will forever strike a chord in your heart, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” has earned its rightful place as one of my favorite novels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must read !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago