Movie-Novel Comparison One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest





Movie-Novel Comparison: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The novel begins with Chief Bromden and other patients in the mental section of a hospital, restricted in a strict environment, subject to the harsh decisions of those in charge, and convinced there is no way out. Randle McMurphy the new patient renews there hope and plays the role of an advocate that comes to overthrow the cruel forces controlling the wards, Nurse Ratched in particular. The demonstrations of thematic elements in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the book are varied and making it difficult for one to synthesize the information and generate a common motif. However, this paper digs deeper and creates a comparison of the two presentations of a similar story.

There are obvious similarities between the plot of the film and that of the novel, in particular, the events leading to the sacrifice of the protagonist and main character, however, the film adaptation of the text undermines the simple the deep moral depictions to simple interactions that do not have profound meaning. Although the book is extraordinarily notable and complex, with profuse refinements, the film’s omission of important decent themes renders it mediocre and superficial in comparison.

To be fair some, there are a number of differences between the motifs of the book and those of the movie that do not hurt the intentions of Kesey, however, there are others that are harsh. It is also fair to say that some of the changes made by the film director Milos Forman were necessary to the perspective he chose and the transformation of Kesey’s work into a cinematic idiom. He does not tell the story from the perspective of the chief but chooses an objective one presented through a subjective camera. That brings a lot of changes because unlike the reader, the viewer can see and hear things directly since the chief could not be everywhere in the ward. The subjective camera removes the characters from the perspective of the Chief and instead each is given their own point of view.

Many things that happen in the novel are summarily captured in the book-with a few additions such as the scene with murphy in therapy which from a critical perspective it’s a chance for Forman to fill in some of the backstory and his battles with Ratched. However, a different tone appears, to the point that, it barely feels like a contest at wills. Let us first discuss the context at wills in order to create a basis for this argument. The novel presents its case with marginal spiritual fever. Bromden sees McMurphy as supernatural, a huge man with a wonderful voice and a life that appears inexhaustible, an avatar for everything that is human, masculine, and righteous (Kesey). His struggles with Ratched for the “ownership” of the ward unfold like an epic battle between wonderful, near-mythic enemies. Even the little bits where the reader catches a glimpse of the protagonist exhausted or acting in self-defense have a Christ-like composition. The contest of wills now appears where whether McMurphy wants it or not, he cannot shun this responsibility and in the end loses his life for the sake of others.

The film does not feel like a contest at will because in the book McMurphy flutters to his fellow patients that he can irritate Nurse Ratched. This bet feels like the primer of a basis: while the incentives direly increase with time and become the basic hook of a hero against a system from the beginning to the end. While he makes the same bet in the film, it is treated nonchalantly and basically forgotten. The film adaptation replaces the ritual of tragedy with something more organic and hard to construe. This happens with the constant foreshadows that speaks of an earlier troublemaker in the ward who was referred for a lobotomy for bringing chaos.

The adaptation, however, becomes smart when it chucks Kesey’s unfortunate portrayal of women. If the women in the novel are not controlling freaks they are presenting their bodies for sex, and every male in the ward agonizes at the hands of either. A good example is Billy, who is portrayed as a shy and desperate youth, who commits suicide when the nurse threatens to tell his mother about his transgressions with a prostitute. The story of hero versus the system is common in literature, and when the novel relies on McMurphy and his condemned determinations to beat the system a powerful account generates. But the interpretation of how the system operates is uncanny and narrow in a way that it undercuts the message.

In contrast, the film’s restructured approach presents something more open to interpretation. Although there are traces of sexism in representation, and other than McMurphy referring to Nurse Ratched as a “cunt” and another woman, there is not much talk of gender, or men being weakened by females in their lives. With all this removed, what remains is the fear of not being able to meet the demand that comes with adulthood. There is an elusive but discernible arc to McMurphy that sees him being forced into serving fellow patients almost against his will and appears as if he is infuriated by these other patient’s inability to see life the way he does and feels like he has to do something about it.

The film because of its entertainment aspect does not portray the idea of Ken Kesey as he intended. Kesey intends McMurphy as a savior who has the sole purpose of saving his fellow patients at the cost of his life. This idea’s shallow presentation in the film avoids capturing the essence of the story making it lack the richness and complexity presented in the novel. From a different perspective, however, one that gives the film liberty to stand on its own, it interprets the film in a manner that is fulfilling and removes flaws like sexism.

Works Cited

Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. New York: Penguin Books, 1996. Print.

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