"One flew over the Cuckoo's nest" by Ken Kesey.

Essay by hotstrawberrysyrupHigh School, 11th gradeA, May 2003

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Themes Essay

The author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey, was deliberate in choosing which themes to include in his story. Society's depiction of mental institutions as well as Kesey's own experience with mental patients formed the themes of this novel. A number of the themes discussed within the novel support Chief Bromden's idea of "The Combine". Also, the idea of the abuse of power is introduced using thematic clues. Kesey was sly in the delivery of such themes but quite obvious about making them known later in the story. Although this novel contains several themes, the major themes are sanity vs. insanity, women in the role of castrators, oppression, sexual expression, humor, individual vs. society, and the concept of freedom vs. captivity. In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, the themes are delivered both deliberately and articulately.

Obviously, one of the themes that is first introduced into the story is sanity vs.

insanity. The idea that some of the patients at the hospital have been misdiagnosed is easily detectable. For example, Billy Bibbit is nothing more than a stuttering boy with low self-esteem who fears his own mother. The majority of the acute patients are diagnosed with mental illness while being afflicted with everyday ailments. The theme of women as castrators is first presented when R.P. McMurphy refers to Nurse Ratched as a "ball-cutter" following a group meeting. The fact that several of the other patients have been damaged by relationships with women is also notable. Billy not only is extremely fearful of his own mother but he is also quite afraid of Nurse Ratched for the same reason. Earlier in the story, Chief Bromden speaks of how his father feared his wife so that it drove him into alcoholism.

Humor played a large part in...