One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Essay by Ken Kesey "Sane or Insane?"

Essay by rondaheartsyouHigh School, 12th gradeA, December 2008

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In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey, one is constantly forced to question the meanings of simple words that are used every day. Should someone on a mental ward automatically be considered “insane”? Does the fact that a person holds a position of power make them the “healthy” one? Throughout the entire novel, one wonders who is really sick and who is not. In most cases, it is not what it would initially seem.

When first introduced to the patients on the ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, it is assumed that this is a real group of whack jobs. They are living in a mental institution, after all. There is a huge Native American man with a broom who does not speak, an extremely shy man with a stutter, a loud and rebellious man who retreats from any real confrontation, and many others with such strange qualities.

Should these traits really classify a man as insane, though? While some of the patients certainly do belong on the ward, others seem to just be regular guys with a few issues, not raging lunatics. When finding out from Harding “there are only a few men on the ward who are committed… Not many commitments in the whole hospital. No, not many at all,”(167) it also changes one’s perspective. Living on a mental ward does not automatically mean “insane” and “sick”. Many of the patients are a small variation from your average man, and just want to find resolutions to some of the issues in their lives.

Nurse Ratched and the whole system of power she is a part of also force on to question the concepts of “sick” versus “healthy” and “sane” versus “insane”. Just because the big Nurse and her black boys have control...