Thursday, August 17, 2006

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

I picked up this book whilst cat sitting at my mum's house last week. I remember starting it before, but for some reason stopping halfway through. When I flicked through it an old cinema ticket for The Phantom Menace dropped out - dated 7th August 1999. I therefore find my second go at reading it is almost exactly 7 years to the day after my initial attempt.

I don't remember why I didn't finish it the first time, as I sailed through it this time around. I haven't seen the film, and I missed out on the recent London stage production.

I am starting to think that a large percentage of drama is fundamentally about freedom. In this novel the main characters are in mental institution. Some are sectioned and some are just so worn down by the world and their experiences in it that they voluntarily allow themselves to be imprisoned. The ward is ruled by the all powerful Nurse Ratched, or Big Nurse as the narrator calls her, but it is turned upside down by the arrival of the charismatic McMurphy.

McMurphy shows the other inmates that they have forgotten how to live, and their safe world of routine, medication, group sessions and therapy is disrupted. Inevitably the freedom that he offers them brings with it risks and consequences.

The book questions the nature of insanity and what it is to be normal. We never really find out whether Mack is faking his 'condition' or not, and it really doesn't matter. Meanwhile, Big Nurse's struggle for power over the seemingly broken souls on the ward reveals a certain tendancy for megalomania.

I found this book funny, moving, sad and thought provoking. Recommended.