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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey …one flew east, one flew west,
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.


This classic book gave birth to a movie which won a truckload of Academy Awards. This means the majority of readers are familiar with one or the other and I thought a very brief review would be enough; something along the lines, "The book is very good". Seeing that some people miss the point of the story I had to ramble a little more than this short sentence, sorry.

A ward of a mental hospital in Oregon was ruled by an iron hand of its head nurse Ratched. She even had power over the doctor of the ward. The patients were completely under her thumb until a rebellious guy called McMurphy was committed for the treatment. He decided to challenge the nurse's rule for completely selfish and not-so-selfish reasons.

I mentioned the movie. This is one of the rare and very precious occasions when the movie was as good as the book. In case you have not seen it, but like the book: drop everything and do it now. Those Oscars I mentioned in the beginning: they are well-deserved. I also believe Jack Nicholson was born to play McMurphy. No actor in the world - dead or alive - could do a better job.
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I really did not want to use the movie stills in my review as countless other people did it in theirs, but I also thought it is impossible to talk about the book without mentioning the movie. By the way I saw it before reading the book. Later when I read it I realized I cannot put it down even though I knew what would happen next at any moment. This should tell something about how good the book is.

Another points for the book: I really hate stories told in present tense. This time it took me about one quarter of the tale to realize this one was in present tense as well; I simply had not noticed that before being busy literally living in Nurse Ratched's ward. When my mother got her hands on this one she was sure she would not like it, being a doctor and as such familiar with goings-on in psychiatry hospitals. Several pages later I realized I had to wait for her to finish it to resume my own reading - her having an advantage of seniority and all.

Unlike the movie the book is told from Chief Bromden POV - this by the way made a nice surprise in the middle of the movie. He is without a doubt mentally disturbed in the beginning and as such it is possible to see him as an unreliable narrator; this would open a can of worms and a whole new level of speculation: what if not everything he told really happened? Aside from his obvious delusions that is. I will not go there.
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We now come to the main reason I decided to write a longish review: the Nurse Ratched.
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I heard two types of argument.
1. She is a strong woman doing what she thinks is best and as such cannot be a villain thus McMurphy is the one.
2. If the Nurse is a villain how comes there is no other strong woman on a good side?

My answer for the first argument would be yes, she is undoubtedly a strong woman. Being a strong woman does not make one a good person by default. The fact that she believes that everything she does is for the greater good makes her even scarier - and she is scary, no doubt about it.

For the second argument I can only say that there is no place for a good strong woman in the story. We are talking about a male ward, so she cannot be one of the patients. She also cannot be one of the nurses as the head nurse surely would not let a strong woman into her domain: she really does not want a competition. So to have another strong woman only as a tribute to political correctness would be pointless.

I will stop here. TLDR (too long; did not read) version of the review: book - great, read it; movie - great, see it.