One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest forces us to ask tough questions about what counts as madness and what doesn't. Is McMurphy crazy in any specific way? Is Mr. Harding or any of the other patients, or do they just not fit neatly into mainstream society? Madness depends an awful lot on how tolerant society is toward people who are different. Heck, they used to think that women who were not satisfied with sitting in the house all day deserved to be carted off to mental institutions. Now we think of many of these women as pioneers for women's rights. So you know, it's all a matter of perspective.

Questions About Madness

  1. Do you think that McMurphy is crazy in a medical sense of the term? Why or why not? Of all the characters in this movie, which ones do you think belong in the hospital and which ones don't? Why? 
  2. What do you think this movie's overall attitude toward mental hospitals is? Is it sympathetic toward them or critical? Why? 
  3. How is society in general like a mental hospital? What are their attitudes toward people who think differently?

Chew on This

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, sane and insane are pretty arbitrary definitions without much of a basis in reality.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest reminds us that it doesn't matter if someone's sane or insane. What matters is whether they pose a danger to the people around them.

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