One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Book review by Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 17+

Kesey's great madhouse epic best for older teens.

Parents say

age 15+

Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 15+

Based on 10 reviews

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A Lot or a Little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Classic

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is an appraise-worthy title not only because of beautiful prose and memorable characters--but also because of its controversial approach to politically charged storytelling. And with this last facet comes some potentially inappropriate material; lots of racial tension present throughout the story. This is mostly through frequent prejudiced references to the "black boys"--staff members at the asylum in which the book takes place--and to the main character's Indian heritage. Racial slurs; "J-p," "Inj-n," "c--n," and an instance of the "N" word. Others call the main character "Chief." Besides racial terminology, swearing includes infrequent uses of "c--ksucker," "f--k," "s--t," (and derivatives including "motherf--ker," "bulls--t," and "chickens--t,"). On top of that various sexual references--to prostitution, breasts. Very frequent smoking, plus drinking (beer, hard liquor, cough syrup). Ultimately, lots of disturbing and depressing material, including underlying themes of mental illness, and, more secondarily, suicide. Older, more mature readers should give it a try because of its important social messages and masterfully crafted writing style.

This title has:

Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
age 16+

All around a great, classic book.

I teach high school English, and I use this in my 11th grade American lit class. There are so many topics that can be discussed and analyzed, and the characterization is rich and in depth. It has many positive messages as the characters find ways to gain strength in the face of adversity. It also gives us a glimpse of what psychiatry was like at that time, so provides some historical perspective. I think it's a great example of the finest American lit has to offer, my students always love it, and although there is some risqué content, it's no worse than many classics that are standard fodder for high school English (think of Native Son, read in many high school classes, which contains a graphic description of two men masturbating in a movie theater, as well as a graphic description of Bigger murdering his girlfriend by smashing her head with a brick until it felt like "wet cotton"). I only wish I could follow the book by showing the film, unfortunately the language in the film is even worse than in the book, and I'm not comfortable showing it to 17 year old kids.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Too much swearing

Book Details

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