Critical Insights: One Flew Over the Cuckoo Review

“That one work could inspire such a variety of critical response attests to the provocative and compelling talent of its author. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest came out at a time of rapid change, and represented the struggle of the individual against institutional authority. This volume in the Critical Insights series takes a close look at this particular work, focusing on its broader depictions of individualism and authoritarianism as well as some of the novel’s lesser developed threads.

After a brief overview of the book and the life of its author, Ken Kesey, the Critical Contexts section offers four foundational essays which explore its historical background and critical reception in addition to noting the importance of a multiperspective critique and comparing the work with another iconic novel—The Grapes of Wrath.

The Critical Readings section exposes many themes within the novel, and presents 10 essays such as Ronald G. Billingsley’s "American Minorities in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest," which posits that the widespread use of minorities in the story relates to the author’s view on the whole of humanity, and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: A Survey of Commentary on the Film Adaption" which provides an important overview of the critical response to the 1975 film adaption, arguably the tool which cemented the book’s stature.

Concluding with a chronology of Kesey’s life, a listing of his works and adaptations of his works, a bibliography, and an index, Critical Insights: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest succeeds in using this groundbreaking book as a magnifying glass on a truly significant time in America’s past.”
—ARBA Staff Reviewer