Summary of Dale Wasserman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
This book has been adapted to a play by Dale Wasserman in 1963 and adapted for a film in 1975. The Protagonist: Randle Patrick McMurphy The protagonist of this novel is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a wild, larger-than-life character who brings life to the ward. He was admitted after having himself declared insane in order to be transferred to the mental institution. McMurphy is thirty five years old and was in the military. He has earned a Distinguished Service Cross in Korea after leading an escape from a communist prison camp. He was dishonorably discharged for insubordination. After that, his wild behavior had led him to a history of street brawls and barroom fights, including multiple arrests for drunkenness, assault and battery, disturbing the peace, and many others as well as one for rape.
He soon became the focus of a growing drug cult. He believed that using LSD to achieve altered states of mind could improve society. Kesey’s high profile as an LSD guru in the midst of the public’s growing hysteria against it and other drugs attracted the attention of legal authorities. Kesey fled to Mexico after he was caught trying to flush some marijuana down a toilet. When he returned to the United States, he was arrested and sent to jail for several months. In 1964, Kesey led a group of friends called the Merry Pranksters on a road trip across the United States in a bus named Furthur. The participants included Neil Cassady, who had also participated in the 1950s version of this trip with Jack Kerouac and company. The trip involved massive consumption of LSD and numerous subversive adventures. The exploits of the Merry Pranksters are detailed in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. This book became a must-read for the hippie generation, and much of the generation’s slang and philosophy comes directly from its pages.
Aside from that there was tremendous pressure to change. The bottomline is falling in most studios and this simply means that if it cannot produce a good movie that people will pay to watch then the golden days are over and they will have to learn how to file bankruptcy. According to film historians, “There was an external crisis: the initial challenge of television followed by the consolidation of its position as the mass medium, a situation which by the end of the sixties had led to truly alarming declines in the box office receipts of American movies” (Bernardino, 1991, p.1).
Nurse Ratched represented conformity that might have been explained as deviance by others. All the characters in this film exhibit a certain form of deviance.
Bernardoni, J., 1991. New Hollywood. NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.
Conner, F., 2002. Hollywood’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Lucky Breaks, Prima Donnas, Box Office Bombs and Other Oddities. VA: Brassey’s, Inc.
McDougal, D., 2008. Five Easy Decades: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Schaefer, D. and Salvato, L. 1984. Masters of Light: Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers. CA: California University Press.