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One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest

In: Novels

Submitted By Cindy4554
Words 1717
Pages 7
Cynthia K. Nessmith
Professor Shawana Stanford
American Literature 2130
14 April 2013
Film adaptation of the American novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest novel was written by Ken Kesey in 1962. The film adaptation version was directed by Czech Milos Forman in 1975. My goal in this paper is not only to compare the film adaptation to the Novel but to also explain what I think the symbols represent, critic’s analysis, themes presented in this film, and the significance of the Novel.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest film’s setting begins with a police car driving down the road to people sleeping in bunk beds, ending with a glimpse of a drawing taped to the wall with a crazy face centered in it. A nurse enters a locked down facility, while another prepares medicine for the patients. The police car arrives at the facility with a prisoner in handcuffs that is released to the hospital staff. The characters in this film are as follows: Randall P. McMurphy played by Jack Nicholson, a rebellious convict with a loud mouth and a set of sexual playing cards. He’s courageous and challenges the staff/system of the mental hospital. Nurse Ratched played by Louise Fletcher is a calm, cold, well mannered, and soft spoken head nurse of the mental hospital that plays McMurphy’s enemy. Chief Bromdon played by Will Sampson is a big and tall Indian who is described as “deaf and dumb” (according to the character Billy). Billy Bibbit played by Brad Dourif is a young ‘momma’s boy’ who stutters and is a coward with suicidal tendencies. Harding played by William Redfield is a well educated intellectual who appears to be a leader for the patients until McMurphy arrives. He is a compliant patient participating in all the facilities requirements and activities. Cheswick played by Sydney Lassick is a nervous and “fretful patient who’s brow is always wrinkled in concern” (according to SparkNotes Editors.) Martini played by Danny DeVito smiles constantly thinking everything is comical and is one patient who really likes McMurphy from the beginning. Taber played by Christopher Loyd is an outspoken sometimes angry patient. The character Harding especially gets on his nerves causing him to challenge and even make fun of him. Dr. Spivey played by Dean R. Brooks is a mature man who doubts there is anything wrong with McMurphy other than trickery & belligerence. Candy played by Marya Small is McMurphy’s girlfriend who befriends Billy and shares in his first sexual experience at the end of the film. Orderly Turkle played by Scatman Crothers is the night time attendant who takes a bribe of $20, liquor, and time with Candy’s friend Rose allowing the women to enter the facility. The criminal McMurphy has gotten himself transferred from prison to a mental ward in order to escape work detail by acting mentally unstable. Once he arrives there he immediately begins to witness the sadness, cruelty, and abuse. Nurse Ratched is the head facilitator of the patients. She quickly becomes McMurphy’s target to challenge rebelliously, ultimately making her his enemy. The patient’s band together with McMurphy in attempts to make a stand against their mistreatment.
One of the most important themes of the film is how blind obedience can threaten freedom which is represented in the patients conforming to Nurse Ratched’s rule of the hospital. She changes the rules to suit her as is evident in the scene where McMurphy wins Chief Bromdons vote for watching the World Series. “Under her totalitarian control, McMurphy cannot even be sure what the rules are, for she rigs them to achieve the results she wants” (according to SparkNotes Editors). After McMurphy gets the majority vote to watch the ball game, she tells him that the meeting was adjourned and Chiefs vote does not count but that they can try again next counseling session.”Her coolness, deliberateness, and inflexible stance of professionalism are destructive…” (according to Safer, Elaine B.).
One of the symbols in this film is the sexual playing cards with naked women pictures. The cards point to McMurphy’s total disregard for authority. He interrupts the patient’s playing cards by flashing one of them at Martini leading him away from the game he was playing. In the first counseling session with Nurse Ratched he snaps and shuffles the cards while she is speaking. McMurphy also makes a mockery of Dr. Spivey in his evaluation by flashing one of the nude women at him as the session concludes. “McMurphy is described as belligerent, lazy, and resentful toward work; he is vulgar and sexually preoccupied, and he enjoys making people uncomfortable” (according to Boschini, DJ, and NL Keltner.).
The significance of the novel ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ is Chiefs transformation from being shut down and invisible to again feeling worthy and proud due to the friendship developed with McMurphy. “The great value of the novel is that it provides a picture of a universal fact of human life. Oppression of the weak by the strong is a constant reality.” And “… the model is the Chief, for he gains his free life again and lives to tell the tale” (according to Macky, Peter W.) Chief is considered a schizophrenic who has adapted by protecting himself in silence. McMurphy is loud and outspoken helping to save the big Indian from himself and the abuse at the hospital. The impact the novel has had on American Literature is to reveal for the first time the inhumanity, cruelty, and abuse that was happening in mental institutions.
Historical Impact The movie became a rallying point for reformers of the state-hospital system. Nicholson’s character is sympathetic, especially to a generation just a few years past the social upheavals of the 1960s and Vietnam. McMurphy is painted as a free spirit, who though he manipulates his way into the hospital, upon arrival begins a crusade to free the “inmates.” He sharply contrasts to the rigid, vengeful, and power-hungry character played by Louise Fletcher (i.e., Nurse Ratched)…The final insult to psychiatric care of that day was the suggestion that electroconvulsive therapy … and psychosurgery were used as instruments of punishment and retaliation. ( Boschini, DJ, and NL Keltner.) In my research, comparing the film to the novel, I think a big flaw in the film is how I am caught up in each and every moment with a clear sense of who’s right and who’s wrong. “…one is so easily drawn into the center of the struggle that it is difficult to gain enough emotional distance from it to critically reflect upon it. In one important sense, this is a flaw in the film.” (Nostrand, Jillian Van). Some differences are as follows, Bromdon has an inner dialect as the narrator in the book but in the movie he isn’t. I felt I was watching McMurphy’s view as the narrator instead of Chief’s and by looking through his eyes, his ‘rights’ became what I was cheering for. “The filmed version discards Chief as the story's narrator, discards the background story of Chief, and relegates his character to a secondary — albeit important — character to McMurphy. In the film, McMurphy is clearly the hero.”(Walker, Bruce Edward.) Dr. Spivey is just as intimidated by Nurse Ratched in the book but in the movie, he is distant from the patients while looking to the nurse for direction. I believe the films adaptation in the Dr’s case was better than having an intimidated fearful Dr. running the show. Also, in the book McMurphy is seen by all the patients after his lobotomy and vegetative state but in the film only Chief sees him. The contrast here is a big one, in my opinion, because in the movie Chief is able to save not only McMurphy from the shame of being made a vegetable but he also saves the patients belief in and freedom they found in knowing McMurphy, by smothering McMurphy to death with a pillow. Ultimately freeing them all! All in all, I really enjoyed the film. I was not surprised at the portrayal of insane asylums’ treatment of patients. I can only imagine how difficult it is to secure employees with a true heart for mental illness. I can’t help but hope that in these times it is much different and better! I know we all deserve love, understanding, and a reasonable degree of freedom, and in the patient’s absence of, my heart hurt. The parts I liked most involved Chief and McMurphy’s friendship. Watching polar opposites attract in freedom touched me. My least favorite part, of course, was when McMurphy returned in a vegetative state and was mercifully put out of his misery by Chief. I would recommend reading the novel and am planning on it myself because I think the story may have more depth with Chief as the narrator. If it had not been for my research and comparison film vs. book, I would not have looked to read the book. So, yes, with my knowledge of the two, I would recommend the reading.

Boschini, DJ, and NL Keltner. “Real Reels. Different Generations Review One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Milos Forman (Director). “Perspectives In Psychiatric Care” 45.1 (2009): 75-79. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.
Forman, Milos, Saul Zaentz, Michael Douglas, Lawrence Hauben, Bo Goldman, Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, William Redfield, and Ken Kessey. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Burbank, Calif: Warner Home Video, 1997.
Macky, Peter W. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Masterplots, Fourth Edition (2010): 1-3. Literary Reference Center. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. Nostrand, Jillian Van. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: A Portrait of Despair in One Dimension.” Film Criticism 1.1 (1976): 23-26. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.
Safer, Elaine B. “ ‘It’s The Truth Even if it Didn’t Happen’: Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Literature Film Quarterly 5.2 (1977): 132. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2004. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
Walker, Bruce Edward. CliffsNotes on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. 14 Apr 2013
<http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/literature/id-136.html>.

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