This is an important book, with unforgettable characters, an interesting setting and an engaging plot, but first a couple of side notes. It seems in-coincidental that the main character's surname, McMurphy, is similar to that of Larry McMurtry, one of Kesey's Standford classmates in the Wallace Stegner writing program in which they were enrolled while Kesey was writing the book--perhaps a nod of fond respect or gratitude. Also consider that Kesey was likely to have been under the influence of LSD-25 while writing the book. It was before LSD had been declared illegal, and he'd volunteered to take it under a school-sponsored program funded by the CIA. The drug could account for some of the book's more hallucinatory scenes.
Kesey's been tagged by critics as misogynistic, unfairly in my view. It is no more misogyny when villainous female characters are depicted than it is misandric when badly flawed males are featured. This book is richly endowed with both. When characters exist in society, it's a writer's duty to serve them up with craft and gusto as Kesey does, lifting the veil on Nurse Ratched's cruelty and passive aggression. Female cruelty is also evident in Harding's wife, who flirts openly with other men in the ward to torture him. Nor does Kesey spare the topic of prostitution in the characters of Candy and Sandy, who go about their work with charm and enthusiasm.
Lesser villains are the black orderlies, Washington and Warren, who extract a vicious toll of hatred against the virtually all-white inmates.
The main character, McMurphy, is well drawn and believable, driven to inevitable combat with Nurse Ratched as the plot moves relentlessly forward.
My only real complaints are the choppiness of Kesey's writing style and the hallucinatory mental wanderings of the narrator, Chief Bromden. I also found Bromden's first-person subjective point of view to be distracting in places, too. It is through the Chief that unrealistic insights into the mind of Nurse Ratched are conveyed. Omnicient qualities are more effective when conveyed in third-person.
Sheep attract wolves and frogs, snakes. It seems that collections of the vulnerable, such as orphans or mental patients, serve as magnets for abusers. CUCKOO does a masterful job of exposing this social tendancy. One hopes that, if nothing else, the book and its related film resulted in some degree of reform among America's mental institutions.
Causes Monty Heying Supports