Johnson- Analysis 4 One Flew, Part 2

After finishing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, I decided to do some extended research on a component of the novel that has had me puzzled since the beginning of last week’s reading: the title. There are obvious reasons why I didn’t understand the title last week, because we had not been introduced to the short little rhyme that includes it. However, even though I now know the rhyme associated with the title, I still wanted to dig deeper as to why Ken Kesey chose that for the title of the novel.

Before researching any other analytical opinions on the title, I wanted to do some thinking of my own. I tried to see if I could make any connections with the title literally, which was hard for me to do. No one flies, there really isn’t anything in the story that has to do with birds or nests, and a cuckoo isn’t mentioned, only in the short rhyme. It was easier for me to make connections figuratively rather than literally. I thought about flying again and that really didn’t seem to fit anywhere that I could think of right off the bat. However, the word “cuckoo” had me thinking of someone that was perhaps “a little coo-coo” if you have ever heard that saying. I’m not sure if that was a stretch or not, so I wanted to do some research to find out what other people thought.

As soon as I searched “meaning behind the title of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, many results came my way. I was intrigued by the one source that was from titled “Analysis: What’s Up With the Title?”. The short analysis gave a brief summary of where the title was present in the text, and what it came from. Then the author of the analysis went on to suggest that “Flying over the cuckoo’s nest is probably a way of expressing that someone is crazy (think back to elementary school when you’d call people “cuckoo” as an insult).” This was similar to what I had suggested before doing any research. Reading into some other sources, I found that someone on suggested that ” The cuckoo’s nest is the hospital and the one who flew over it is McMurphy.” In my own analysis of this idea, I would suggest that McMurphy flies over the nest because he is one that is always pushing the limits and testing the authorities within the hospital.

I’m glad that I was able to find a variety of thoughts on why Ken Kesey chose the title he did, and I was also glad that I felt I had enough ties to create my own thoughts on it as well. After reading the second section for this week, the title of this novel makes more sense.




3 thoughts on “Johnson- Analysis 4 One Flew, Part 2

  1. kaitlynschweda

    First of all, I think your extended research of the title is really thought provoking. I’ve read One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest before in high school where we had tried to decode the title. However, we never came a solid conclusion so I really loved all of your research.
    The part that really stood out to me was “The cuckoo’s nest is the hospital and the one who flew over it is McMurphy”. I think that this makes sense at the beginning of the novel when McMurphy by pushing the limits and testing authorities, as you suggested. However, as the novel concludes, I think that it might be Chief that actually flies over the cuckoo’s nest. Especially if you look at “flying over the nest” as standing for defying the hospital’s typical expectations.
    Throughout the novel, Chief has the hospital staff fooled. He pretends to be deaf and mute which allows him to learn the secrets of the hospital. I think this is the first incident in which Chief “flies over the cuckoo nest”. The hospital staff sees themselves as being top dog, like Nurse Ratchet acting as a dictator that can’t be stopped. However in reality, she’s been fooled by a neurodivergent narrator the whole time.
    To address this week’s reading, I think the ultimate act of “flying over the cuckoo’s nest” occurs in the very last scenes. The entire novel, the hospital fights to force these men into believing their mental illness. Chief even goes as far to label himself as a Chronic at the beginning of the novel, which means he believes he’ll never be fit to join the outside world. However, in the end, Chief not only escapes but also allows McMurphy to escape a mindset he knows he’d never be okay with. Therefore, I feel like Chief’s physical escape from the ward (which eventually leads to a mental escape as well) acts as the literal flying over the cuckoo’s nest.
    In conclusion, I can see both McMurphy and Chief as flying over the nest for many different reasons. Obviously there’s not a clear 100% true answer, but I think it’s kind of fun to look at it from both angles. Either way, I think it’s notable that both neurodivergent characters defy a places run by a neurotypical staff.


  2. Uyen Nguyen

    Awesome! I was also wondering what and how the title had any relation to the book as well. I was a little confused about the rhyme and what the meaning behind that was as well. I did some research on that and someone made a prezi on the significance and meaning of the title. They broke down the rhyme and analyzed it which I thought was interesting.

    Tingle, Tingle, Tangle Toes
    She’s a good fisherman.
    They referred to this line meaning Nurse Ratched.

    Catches hens, puts ‘em inna pens
    Wier blier, limber lock
    Three geese inna flock
    Symbolizing the patients in ward. This may be also referring to McMurphy’s analogy of the group meetings.

    One flew east, One flew west
    Nurse Ratched versus the patients. Nurse Ratched conforming patients to individualism

    One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
    O-U-T spells out
    Goose swoops down and plucks you out
    This is Chief believing that McMurphy is the one saving them out from the Combine.

    I definitely thought this analysis was interesting and in some parts made more sense to me as of why it was included in there. There was a blog post discussing about how this rhyme may be in some relation to a different children’s rhyme called, William Matrimmatoe.
    William Matrimmatoe
    He’s a good fisherman.
    He catches hens,
    Puts them in pens.
    Some lay eggs.
    Some lay none.
    William Matrimmatoe
    He’s a good fisherman.
    Wire, briar, limber, lock.
    Three geese in a flock.
    One flew east.
    One flew west.
    One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.
    Wire, briar, limber, lock.
    Out goes you, old dirty dish rag, you.
    Most of the lines are the same as each other and I’m not quite sure if that’s where Kesey got the rhyme from either. Most of the blogs and sites were really vague on this. Someone also brought up that some of these lines are from an elimination game. It was a game to decide who was “it” in several of the games they would play. It was said that this chant was used in early to mid 1940’s. I don’t know if this is a stretch but maybe it might be showing that Chief was “it” showing that he would be the one to escape from the mental hospital? There’s so many different interpretations for this rhyme so I wonder what Kesey’s reasoning for putting it besides the title.
    R., M., M., & X. (2016). What children’s song is also known as “William Trimmytoes”? Retrieved October 31, 2016, from


  3. vanords

    On reading your analysis for part two of One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest I was intrigued and impressed. I hadn’t outright wondered about the title of the book myself, but in the back of my mind I suppose I didn’t totally understand the title either. The same as you, when thinking about it I did infer that maybe the person depicted to be flying over the cuckoo nest would be an insane person, so likely a patient at the asylum. I also did assume that the “Nest” is the asylum. The part I wasn’t clear on is where the flying comes into play. I think you explained it well about McMurphy being the rebellious patient who always is pushing the other patients to defy the asylum and Ratched and change things up. But ultimately I agree with Kaitlyn’s comment where she agrees with your theory for the first part but thinks the person flying over the nest is most likely Chief in the end. I think Chief getting out of the asylum is a possible alternate title. I think the “Cuckoo” is Nurse Ratched because she’s the one who demonstrates some disturbing issues of her own throughout the book. The “Nest” is of course the asylum that she controls with a lethal grasp. I believe that the end point of Chief defying the gravity the asylum and sadistic Nurse Ratched has on him is significant and really interesting to think about.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s