Luke Hanlon
Mr. Hadary
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The recreation of books as movies has been a popular trend in the last few decades. There has always been a debate on which was better. Movies almost never recreate the book perfectly and even if they were recreated with complete accuracy, everyone has their own version of a book. Movies give little opportunity for the viewer to use their imagination because the events and the characters are already given. Although everyone can have different opinions on a film, there is no denying that everyone sees the same characters and things that occur in that film. The book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was published in 1962 by Ken Kesey. In 1975, a movie was recreated and it went on to be a very successful Academy Award winner. The book version, as well as the movie version One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, each have strengths and flaws. However, the flaws in the movie outweigh the few flaws in the book. As with most movie remakes, there are a few missing scenes in the movie that are essential to the deeper meaning behind the book. There is also a lack of detail and background knowledge about the characters in the movie compared to the story. Part of this is because the movie version is not narrated as it is in the book.
The plot and the majority of the events in both versions of the story are very similar. Nonetheless, there were missing pieces to the movie that would have shaped a main focal point that was in the novel. The missing point in the movie is the fact that the patients in the mental hospital were heavily influenced by the main character, McMurphy, and would go to extremes to prove this. The book highlights this throughout the story by showing the patients become more outgoing as well as the suicide of a patient. The suicide of Charles Cheswick did not occur in the movie, but this was especially vital to the plot of the book. Cheswick was a patient who probably was most influenced by McMurphy in the novel. Cheswick got into an argument with the head nurse and was stunned that McMurphy did not stick up for him. "He(Cheswick) looked over at McMurphy's corner. Everybody did"(Kesey 172). All of the patients, especially Cheswick, were anticipating a rebellious action from McMurphy, but nothing came. The lack of confidence and the loss of hope that McMurphy showed in this scene made Cheswick lose hope as well. Charles Cheswick drowned himself in a pool because of how upset he was.
The lack of background knowledge of the characters in the movie will once again make it harder on the audience to comprehend that McMurphy is supposed to represent a heavy influence on the patients. His influence is supposed to be so significant that in the book he is represented as a Christ figure. The book even gives small examples like how McMurphy's shock table was in the shape of a cross. These small details were simply left out of the movie making McMurphy seem like a normal guy who wants to get out of labor and have fun. The movie shows little evolution of the characters and portrayed the patients similarly throughout. Without the background knowledge of the characters, the audience just assumes that the patients had outgoing and aggressive tendencies even before McMurphy arrived at the institution. The first group meeting in the mental hospital from the book and movie are very different. They each begin on the subject of a marital issue between Harding and his wife. In the book, the nurse in charge specifically asks McMurphy to "touch upon" the particular issue. McMurphy makes a joke about the patient's wife and the nurse immediately begins to read off his past crimes. The nurse reads, "...Followed by a history of street brawls and barroom fights and a series of arrests for drunkness, Assualt and Battery..."(Kesey 45).
In conclusion, the novel of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is far better than the movie remake. There are many flaws with the movie that include missing scenes, a lack of background information on the characters, and most importantly, the perspective in which the movie was filmed. Yes, there were crucial missing scenes and missing background knowledge, but these could have been produced or developed more efficiently if the audience was able to see the story happen from a man who knew what was going on in the ward.