Notes From Book Club 1:
"The transition to state hospitals and "state schools", however, brought with them many abuses that shocked operators of private American psychiatric hospitals. Reformers, such as American Dorothea Dix began to advocate a more humane and progressive attitude towards the mentally ill. Some were motivated by a so-called Christian Duty to mentally ill citizens. In the United States, for example, numerous states established state mental health systems paid for by taxpayer money (and often money from the relatives of those institutionalized inside them). These centralized institutions were often linked with loose governmental bodies, though oversight and quality consequently varied. They were generally geographically isolated as well, located away from urban areas because the land was cheap and there was less political opposition." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychiatric_hospital

  • We found that mental institutions may have been inhumane and hellish, but their intention was right because the public wanted to treat the ill. The problem lies in the treatment and diagnosis that were harmful and not scientifically correct.
  • Is the big nurse really as bad as she seems?
  • These people might not be crazy, they might just be social outcasts.



Notes From Book Club 2:
  • Pictures
    • Hannah : The big nurse is drawing the cartoon strip that is a metaphor for the surreal experiences of the inmates. "Like a cartoon world, where the figures are flat and outlined in black, jerking through some kind of goofy story that might be real funny if it weren't for the cartoon figures being real guys..."(34).
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    • Kenna: The dice represent the men in the asylum gambling for their lives. They are trying to rebel against the system by making bets and going against the policies of the asylum. But, if anything goes wrong they could be punished severely. So it has to do with luck and gambling for their lives to survive.
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    • Shannan: This is a drawing of a wolf, rabbit and chicken. McMurphy calls The Big Nurse a chicken "pecking" at all of the patients in the meeting by personally attacking Billy. The patients are also referred to as rabbits and one of them McMurphy calls a wolf.
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    • Delaney:
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In this picture, the men on the left are competing for who is the craziest. On the right, it shows Big Nurse behind her glass. The true and false are written below the pictures because the patients aren't actually the insane ones. Big Nurse is actually the one who is crazy [for power and control].

  • Christ is reflected through the man who is nailed to the wall. This could represent how this institution is full of citizens sacrificing a good life so that society doesn't have to deal with insanity. We connected this to "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas". We found that the nails were metaphorical, that Ellis chooses to be isolated because he knows there is no way out so it is better to be "cagey".
  • The people aren't crazy, they are disturbed by past experiences.
  • The significance of sounds: there are many allusions to water (waterfall, hydroelectric dam), "Silent as death". They are so accustomed to being called crazy, that eventually they believe it and hearing it doesn't matter anymore.
  • The fog: It could be medicine, realization of the truth, or ignoring the truth of his existence----

Notes From Book Club 3:
  • Children's rhyme - The cuckoo's nest might represent the insane people, and therefore most people choose to ignore it but McMurphy decides to confront it.
  • The butter bet is probably foreshadowing the fact that McMurphy's bet about the big nurse will turn his way in the end just when everyone thinks it isn't possible.
  • The feud between M. and the B.N. consumes the patients because it's the only exciting/motivating thing that's happened.
  • Dr. Spivey is goodhearted and truthfully wants to help the patients.
  • McMurphy lifted the bed because he wanted to teach the patients that one person can't change this institution, but all of us can. He is saying they need to work together to achieve goals, and that they MUST try.


Notes From Book Club 4:
  • Relating the novel to literature
    • Hannah - This book relates to Orwell's 1984 because it has similar techniques for control and the characters are likewise aware that if they don't submit, they will lose everything and suffer. This connection might show that O.F.O.T.C.N. will end with McMurphy going to the shock shop and losing the fight with the Big Nurse.
    • Shannan - like Catcher in the Rye because in C.I.T.R. the main character ends up in an asylum but doesn't believe he is crazy.
    • Kenna - One Thousand White Women
    • Delaney - the Chief = Nick in The Great Gatsby because Nick is the narrator who looks in from the sidelines and the prediction is that the Chief will not suffer the same fate as the other patients just like Gatsby didn't have the same suffering as Gatsby.
  • The mental asylum, The Big Nurse, and isolation make the disturbed disturbed. They probably were voluntarily committed, but they are now so far gone that they can't get themselves out.
  • Why are they still in the institution voluntarily if they hate their situation and they could heal by being a part of society? Are they just trying to find acceptance?
  • Shock treatment is more of an assertion of power than something meant to help the patients.


Notes From Book Club 5:
  • "silence speaks" the reason why the chief is so astute is because he listens and understands everything around him.
  • The fight between the doctor and the fish represents how it will take all of them to fight the Big Nurse and escape the fog.


Notes From Book Club 6:
  • Opening activity: Opening activity: Hannah - Sandy's eyes: "That night was the craziest, most eye-opening night of my life. The way McMurphy looked when he knew he was whipped, but he wanted to make me feel at ease anyways, was priceless. I admired the way he comforted me and the boys when we were waiting to get in trouble. But Billy... poor Billy. You should have seen Candy after she heard. I've never seen her so broken up about losing a client. I mean, she usually tries not to emotionally attach herself to the men. But it was sad for all of us. Of course, she blamed herself. She just wasn't the same after that. And neither was I. We had to travel away in that god-awful car, knowing full well what was going on behind us. Those poor men... those poor poor birds."
  • Opening Activity Shannan - McMurphy's perspective...That night with Sandy and the girl was epic. Miss Ratched did not see it coming at all and neither did I until I woke up that morning. No wake up call, no nothing. Was I surprised? Not at all. It's what's expected, and I'm getting out of here by myself anyway. If I leave now, what would the men think? I'm supposed to do the repulsive act, plan the unexpected.
  • In the beginning, there were the powerful people and the persecuted, but throughout the book McMurphy showed the men that they could be powerful and that the Big Nurse's power was false and fleeting. There are many people, and one "dictator", so once they realize that they have more power than that one person, they can escape and be free.
  • "I been away a long time" - This last quote relates to the first quote of the novel "They're out there". This shows how the novel has changed from pessimistic to optimistic and from society/them to individuals/I. It could be interpreted many different ways: he's been away from the asylum a long time, he's been away from home a long time, he's been away from reality a long time, from his mind, from happiness, etc.
  • One flew east - some people died - one flew west - some went home - one flew over the cuckoo's nest - the one who went astray (McMurphy's lobotomy).
  • McMurphy wasn't afraid of the nurse, and the patients lived vicariously through him. It was important to show his exhaustion, it was Kesey's way of showing that McMurphy sacrificed his whole life to save these men. This relates to Kesey's allusions to Christ, McMurphy was the sacrificial savior, the man with the crown of thorns who would not give up his ideals to save himself. He absorbed their pain and suffering so that they could be free.
  • Billy's shame makes his death tragic. It was astounding how McMurphy reacted, he was so close to leaving, to getting out, and he gave it all up to avenge Billy's death, even though it meant he was going to die.