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Free Study Guide-One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey-Free Notes
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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The novel is narrated from the point of view of Chief Bromden. It is divided into four parts. Parts I, II and IV are set inside the hospital premises itself, and Part III is set on a boat. Each chapter ends with a big victory for McMurphy and the patients.

Part I starts with the admission of McMurphy, who immediately begins to cause trouble for Nurse Ratched. It ends with McMurphy winning the patients to his side over the World Series issue. In Part II, McMurphy learns that it is the Big Nurse who is in charge of discharges. He then tries to become a model patient for awhile.

When McMurphy realizes that these patients, who have voluntarily admitted themselves, rely on him for strength and courage, he takes up the fight once again. At the end of Part II, McMurphy breaks the glass of the Nurse's station to prove his again fighting for the patients against the repressive forces of the hospital staff. In Part III, McMurphy takes the patients on a fishing trip. Upon their return at the end of Part III, they begin to fend for themselves for the first time.


In Part IV, the Nurse tries to drive a wedge between McMurphy and the others by making him seem only like a money grabbing con man. He foils her plan by sticking up for one of the patients and beating up the Black orderlies. His actions land him in the shock shop, which ironically restores everyone's faith in him. After Billy's party and suicide, McMurphy strikes back at Nurse Ratched by attacking her and tearing her uniform open. This proves to be the last straw for Nurse Ratched, and she has McMurphy lobotomized. The Chief cannot bear to see McMurphy in such a state, mercifully kills him, and then escapes. It is the last victory over the Big Nurse in the book.

NARRATIVE TECHNIQUE

Kesey has cleverly chosen Chief Bromden as his narrator and achieves technical excellence in the narration. Using the same method that Melville used in 'Moby Dick', Bromden acts like a prism, and the events and characters are filtered through his imagination, appearing as he sees them. The fact that the narrator is a paranoid schizophrenic absolves the author from presenting an objective account of what goes on inside the hospital; as a result of the Chief's perspective, the narration is often magical and incoherent. It also contains many flashbacks that are effectively incorporated and developed.

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