Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a book that has been translated into a fantastic film by the same team of writers who have created a number of other great books. It is still a good movie, even though the book was altered for the sakes of brevity or artistic flair. In the book, Dr. Spivey’s character is changed. When the book is turned into a movie, Spivey appears briefly, but has a greater role because McMurphy is the focus.
Kesey’s novel is told through the eyes of Bromden. A Native American with a mental illness who claims to be mute, Bromden tells his story. Bromden’s first-person narrative is a good fit for the book, as it gives a very honest account of events at the asylum. Bromden has a lot of hallucinations in his book which makes for an interesting read, but it would be difficult to show in a film. Bromden, a schizophrenic man, is best captured in words. But the movie format cannot do justice to his inner thoughts. The movie may have chosen to use the third-person perspective instead of Bromden as a narrator. We can’t see his inner thoughts, but we do know what the characters are doing. It was necessary to change the book into a film because it is impossible for a character who cannot speak to be the narrator and not have the ability of knowing what the character thinks. Bromden was dropped from the narrator role in order to make this film successful.
The movie also promotes McMurphy’s role as the protagonist. Jack Nicholson played McMurphy and was a Hollywood icon with the potential of making this film a blockbuster. Forman chose to make McMurphy a very appealing character to the audience. The book reader may not have liked McMurphy’s actions, but the movie audience cheers him on, as he fights Nurse Ratched and authorities. It is not surprising that with Jack Nicholson as the star of the film, the director would make McMurphy the main focus and leave Bromden out of it for the majority of the film.
McMurphy is a very different character in the book than he is in the movie. This has a significant impact on minor characters like Dr. Spivey. Dr. Spivey’s role in both the book and film is to diagnose whether McMurphy really is insane or is just trying to avoid work. While the movie’s doctor performs this same task, he is very different to the book’s doctor. The book has a character that is weaker than the movie. McMurphy gets a more profound impact from his role in movie than he does in book because McMurphy has the spotlight.
The doctor is amused by McMurphy’s brassy way of talking when they first meet him. Bromden says, “He is smiling as he flips through the folder. He’s just as tickled as we are by the brassy way this man talks. But, like us, he doesn’t laugh out loud.” (45). The book continues. After realizing that McMurphy went to the same high-school as him, Spivey becomes more friendly. In the film, Dr. Spivey doesn’t seem so friendly.
In the novel, when Dr. Spivey meets with the nurses and interns to discuss McMurphy, he hesitates before making a final decision. He instead asks what the others think of McMurphy, saying: “[H]e certainly is disturbing, this is evident.” This discussion, I think, is about deciding what action we should take with regard to him. Correct me if you disagree, Miss Ratched. I believe this meeting was called by the nurse to unify staff opinions and discuss the current situation. Nurse Ratched was the one who called the meeting and, implicitly, it was to satisfy her. It ended with her taking control and doing what she wanted.
In the movie, however, both times Dr Spivey interviews McMurphy he is professional and decisive. In the first movie interview, Dr. Spivey is straightforward with McMurphy. You are on court orders and we have a responsibility to the state. I want your cooperation. McMurphy is discharged by the doctor despite McMurphy’s and Nurse Ratched’s disagreement.
Dr. Spivey, in a major departure from the book’s portrayal, is the antagonist of McMurphy. This change in attitude is evident in the Dr. Spivey interviews of McMurphy. McMurphy has to be more aggressive and violate more rules. Bromden, who is shaken by the lobotomization of McMurphy, kills McMurphy to escape from the asylum. McMurphy is destroyed by Dr. Spivey’s decision. Bromden then kills McMurphy to escape the asylum. This is a terrible act but it shows the influence he had on the movie.
The doctor’s reaction to Nurse Ratched is another difference between the book and movie. The doctor in the book is respectful and even afraid towards Nurse Ratched. Harding says that Spivey, like all of us McMurphys, is aware of the inadequacy of his actions. He’s scared, desperate, and ineffective, and he’s aware of it. She knows that he does, and she reminds him of it every time she has the chance” (59). The nurse is implied to be afraid of reporting the doctor and getting him fired. He is afraid of losing his job, so he doesn’t speak up. Instead, he lets her run her ward in her own way. That is until McMurphy arrives and unintentionally empowers him. Within a short time, Spivey allowed patients to participate in recreational activities and even hosted a fishing excursion for the ward. This was despite Nurse Ratched’s opposition. The book’s doctor can finally implement his vision on proper psychiatric therapy, one that does not include bullying and coercion by Nurse Ratched. The doctor refused to resign even after Billy committed suicide and McMurphy attacked Nurse Ratched. He may have changed his mind because of McMurphy. The movie has Dr. Spivey on the authority’s side throughout.
Dr. Spivey is an important character in the movie and text, despite his small part. In both the text and the movie, Dr. Spivey plays an important role. He has a lesser impact on McMurphy in the book.