Hit Me! Remembering Ken Kesey.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Photo credit: Evil August)

June 14, 2013 by Jerry Alatalo

For whatever reason the image of the Danny DeVito character in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” came to mind. Those of you who have watched the movie remember the scene where the inmates of the institution were in their weekly poker game, and the DeVito character fell in love with saying “hit me!”

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is the name that the writer of the book, Ken Kesey, gave to the big Native American man, the Chief Bromden character in the film. It is the Chief’s story. It is a name that is Native American like Dances With Wolves. The DeVito character could have an Indian name like One Who Likes To Be Hit. I believe that Kesey was trying to create and to give us an image of life as seen through Native American eyes. He accomplished it.

This One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest tangent originated with the thought of what we call in the blogosphere “hits”. As the thought of hits entered,  simultaneously the image of Danny DeVito sitting in at the card table entered. A short post on one of the finest films ever created.

Ken Kesey’s creative effort, his writing of Cuckoo’s Nest, led to the film adaptation and eventually a well deserved Academy Award for Best Picture of the year. Jack Nicholson won for best actor. Louise Fletcher won for best actress in her portrayal of Nurse Ratched. Milos Forman won for best director. That Nicholson and Louise Fletcher would star in this movie says something about their artistry. The same credit for artistry is deserved by director Milos Forman. The same credit for artistry is deserved by rest of the actors and actresses who appeared. All those who played a part.

The cast was what I believe we call a tour de force. The picture was a masterpiece which was all about human freedom, and a universal story. For those of you who have viewed the film you understand Ken Kesey’s writing power. For those novel writers who have yet to view the film please do as you will recognize your potential more fully.

This writer has yet to attempt fiction but if that time comes I hope that I am able to create a work which matches the power that Ken Kesey displayed in Cuckoo’s Nest. His creation of a scenario which takes place at a mental institution and touches on all of our human concerns in the process was pure genius. His experiences around real mental health facilities and conversations with patients were invaluable to his writing of the book.

Ken Kesey was disappointed that the film did not use the voice of the large Native American character, Chief Bromsted, to narrate the film as was the case in his book. But he was pleased overall with the final production of the film.

Ken Kesey’s greatest gift to humanity was One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, his profound reminder that our personal experiences are far more powerful than we are fully aware of. His use of seemingly unimportant people and mundane activities in such a setting to unveil universal truths deserves all the honor and respect a true artist has earned.

Thank you Ken Kesey (1935-2001).

Ken Kesey - date unknown (late 60's?)
Ken Kesey – date unknown (late 60’s?) (Photo credit: Zooomabooma)