Way Over My Head: Schizophrenia in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

Essay by juicebox_17College, UndergraduateA+, November 2006

download word file, 10 pages 4.7

Running head: Psychological Examination of a Movie

Psychotic disorders are a miserable experience for all those affected by them, and the process of diagnosis begins by somebody's speculation that their acquaintance may be mentally ill. Somebody's atypical behavior does not always confirm mental illness because one's behavior could just be misunderstood. In the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the main character, R.P. McMurphy, is sent to a mental hospital for observation. Many of R.P. McMurphy's actions in the film qualify as criteria for the psychotic disorder schizophrenia, but by examining his situations and background, it is evident how the assertion of his illness could be a misunderstanding.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest stars Jack Nicholas as Randal Patrick McMurphy, a con-artist who fakes insanity to be transferred to a mental institution from the tough life at a penal farm. When he gets there, the rambunctious and rowdy Irishman is amazed how his fellow patients cower and fall into submission to Big Nurse Ratched, the stern, big-breasted tyrant who rules over the institution.

The patients in the institution have various social problems, and Nurse Ratched humiliates them by singling each of them out, and having the other patients criticize each other in group "therapy" sessions. This upsets McMurphy, and throughout the film, he uses different techniques to try to reverse the damage Nurse Ratched has done to the men. His disruptive behavior earns him two kinds of punishment; electrocution, and eventually, a lobotomy.

When McMurphy first arrives at the mental institute, he is taken to the doctor's office. This does not seem like an important scene, but reveals all the reasons why McMurphy was transferred from the work farm to the mental institute. One of the first things McMurphy does is ask if he can smoke.