One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

by Ken Kesey
281 pages, General Fiction
Reviewed by Clodsley S.

Very, very mature, controversial classic - not for kids.


The entire hospital ward changes when cocky McMurphy steps in and wreaks havoc in the asylum, claiming to be insane but only entering merely to escape duty. At the ward he has an ongoing rivalry with the head nurse but gains a friendship with a silent Native American.


McMurphy enters the asylum only to escape the duty of his everyday life. He intentionally gets into a fight to end up there. He also smokes, drinks, swears, lies, and acts very unchivalrously towards women. Not a great role model.

Spiritual Content

One of the patients utters what seems like a mock prayer and also mentions the name of "Allah". One of the nurses is Catholic.


A few of the ward patients have seizures which are described a little graphically. Some of the patients are in the ward for violence (they are given the nickname "Disturbed"). McMurphy and other patients get shock therapy which is described a bit intensely numerous times. A man commits suicide (however, it's behind-the-scenes and not described in a lot of detail). There is a large fight inside the showers resulting in bruises to the face. McMurphy violently attacks a woman.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Ward patients often smoke, especially McMurphy. During the last half of the book, the patients drink beer, wine, and even medication, and get drunk. Most wake up with a hangover.

Sexual Content

A woman encounters a man who is only wearing a towel. A lot of references to sexual harassment as well as male and female anatomy. It is implied that McMurphy sleeps with a woman (who is said to be a prostitute) as does another patient with a different woman.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

A few insults as well as four-letter words through out the book (h-ll, d-mn, etc.) The Lord's name is taken in vain a few times. There are also some f-words, either the word itself or variations of it. Some slang for male anatomy is used. "Crap" and "bull" are also used, as well as some insults that get a bit vulgar. There is also a lot of references to bodily fluids.


"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is very well written and described in intense detail. Some call it a story of morality, but I think exactly the opposite. McMurphy is supposed to be the hero of the story, but his morals are very low and he treats women very unfairly. He also imposes himself upon others. It was a very colorful, dramatic, and intense novel. If you are a mature reader and like a challenge, I would recommend this book, but this books is certainly not for kids. Even though the title gives the illusion of a nursery rhyme, this is not a children's book.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 1.5
Written for Age: adult

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