First edition cover Feb, 1962
Later he worked in a hospital’s psychiatric ward at the nearby Menlo Park Veterans' Hospital. During the night shift there he used to converse with the patients. He observed that many of them were thinking people who acted abnormally according to societal standards, but who were otherwise fine. It was the push to conform that had ejected them from the free society in which they lived.
The book depicts therapies for the insane ranging from group discussions under an iron-willed nurse, to the invasive Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) and surgical Lobotomy. The inventor of Lobotomy, Egas Moniz, won the Nobel Prize in 1949; but its use has been entirely discontinued after the 1950s because the results were poor. Besides, newer psychiatric drugs were coming on stream with hopes for better results.
Ken Kesey – the Oregon Author who lived a colourful life
ECT has remained on the treatment list as a last option for maladies like depression and bipolar disorder, but with two radical changes:
1) it is performed only under anaesthesia, and
2) it is done with far lower currents and voltages than originally used and employs an ultra brief pulse of less than 0.5 millisec
McMurphy – locked up and alienated, he nevertheless tried to resurrect the spirits of the inmates
The novel can be read as McMurphy’s attempt to liberate the patients of the asylum from the tyranny of Nurse Ratched and the system she represented, so that they could live with dignity even within the precincts of the loony bin.
As before the readers gathered online using Zoom (courtesy of Rachel Cleetus) and were immensely comforted to listen and talk with each other in these trying times of Covid-19. Here is a group picture – only Kavita is missing: