One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is a 1962 novel by Ken Kesey. It takes place in a mental hospital in the American Northwest. Randle Patrick McMurphy is a prisoner who has himself transferred to the hospital in order to serve out the rest of his sentence in comfort. He is horrified at how cowed and miserable the other patients are, living in total fear of Nurse Ratched, the head nurse. McMurphy originally plans to make money by organizing poker games on the ward, but soon realizes how desperately the other men need a hero, someone to stand up for them, since they cannot.
The story is narrarated by Chief Bromden, an American Indian who has been on the ward longer than anyone besides the nurse.
The novel was intended not only as a criticism of psychiatry and mental health practice but as an indictment of mainstream social standards. By challenging the concept of "normal", Kesey predated the radical and psychedelic thinking that became popular in the late 60s. The novel, alongside the film, was also responsible for the closure of the psychiatric hospitals and allowing the mentally ill to be "free", with the ACLU playing a major role in the closing.
Kesey's novel was made into a film released in 1975, directed by Milos Forman and featuring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, and Will Sampson as Chief Bromden. The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Nicholson) and Best Actress (Fletcher), and was nominated for four more.