John Smith Essay Research Paper Kesey

John Smith Essay, Research Paper

Kesey’s brilliant work in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is the

by-product of many factors. Kesey uses the setting of the story as his most

powerful weapon in establishing his viewpoints. At first, one might

consider the story to simply be a fine piece of contemporary fiction, but

in reality it is a bitter commentary on the condition of the American

society. Obviously, it becomes evident that Kesey will convey many

viewpoints throughout the course of the story, however, I strongly believe

that a recurring theme can be singled out. The main theme behind One Flew

Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is that the society that we love so much is not as

good as it is made out to be. Kesey establishes this theme through the

brilliant manipulation of setting. Kesey uses the specific setting of a

fictional mental asylum to represent the non-specific realities of the real

world. The literary term for such a technique is the use of a “microcosm” -

a small universe representative of a larger one. Kesey uses the environment

of the mental asylum to demonstrate just how hypocritical society can be.

As aforementioned, Kesey utilizes many symbols that represent

elements in the real world. The very fact that the story takes place in a

mental asylum is in itself a commentary on society. In the asylum, it

becomes highly evident that a great deal of oppression takes place.

Although a considerable amount of abuse is in the physical form, most of it

manifests itself in subtle psychological torture. The abuse that

specifically takes place is the suppression of individualism. One cannot

help but notice the same suppression of individualism to exist in society

as well. Inside the hospital, the men are expected to not only act within

strict guidelines, but to also suppress urges to express themselves. They

are limited to doing repetitive, menial tasks and are never given the

opportunity to choose their own pathways for intellectual, emotional or

physical development. If they do attempt to act other than how they are

expected to, they are punished not only by a barrage of physical abuse but

psychological torture as well. In much the same way, this exists in society.

Society forcefully encourages people to develop their potential only along

certain accepted routes. The profession one chooses, their education, their

lifestyle, their opinions, their economic status, their intentions in life

- these are all variables in which society almost forces one into

predetermined guidelines. If people deviate too far from the accepted norms,

they can expect some form of retribution and punishment in return. Although

we often believe that we exist in a truly free society, there are certain

controls on that freedom which can be instituted at any time. As a result,

Kesey’s choice of the mental asylum for the setting clearly underlines the

hypocrisies of society.

This fact also underlines why McMurphey is such a threat to the

structure of the asylum. The suppression of the individual in the asylum is

machine-like. The men are dehumanized as much as possible. McMurphey is

detrimental to the hospital because he is the personification of all things

fought in the asylum. He is passionate and violent, angry and happy, jovial

and moody – all at the same time. He is the cauldron of emotions that is

the human condition. As such, he is also the most viable weapon against the

machine-like workings of the Asylum. Chief Bromden even goes as far to call

this mechanization of life the “Combine”. The impact that McMurphey has on

the cold, lifeless operation of the asylum is visible right from his

entrance into the story. Bromden remarks that he hears “the weight of his

steps”, implying that McMurphey walks with confidence and emotion. He also

mentions that McMurphey’s laughter “shakes the walls of the hospital”. This

is exactly why the conflict between Ratched and McMurphey is so pronounced

- his passionate and emotional nature is a threat to the mechanistic

network she has created.

The influence of the mental asylum upon the characters is

underlined when they go on a fishing trip. Symbolically, the fishing trip

is a radical departure from their normal lives. They are alone in the water,

devoid of outside influences. With intuition and judgment as their only

tools, they are free from the control of the asylum, Ratched and society.

The men slowly emerge from the cocoons of weakness that once suffocated

them, and learn to take control of their own destiny. The boat even goes

out of control during the trip. The patients obviously become frightened -

as for the first time in their lives they are forced to fend for themselves.

One of the men takes control of the helm and guides the boat back to safety.

The magnitude of this event lies in the fact that the man who did this was

previously looked down upon as being weak. The emergence of their

collective strength could only develop in the uninhibited freedom of the

boat trip. This underlines just how influential the mental asylum was upon

the men. The difference in setting allowed the men to stand up for

themselves- something that would have been impossible within the confines

of the hospital.

Along the same lines, Kesey also uses contrast in another situation

to effectively underline his theme of hypocrisy. It becomes evident that

the story takes place in Oregon. It is important to note that Oregon is

associated with the days of the “Wild West” – when men lead uninhibited

lives, where the pistol ruled more than reason. The characteristics of

independence, courage and strength are all associated with the image of the

“Cowboy”. As a result, it is quite ironic to see the men personify the

traits completely opposite to that of the Cowboy. The asylum turns them

into weak-willed shadows of real men. This second use of contrast helps

underline the amount of oppression in the world.

The control panel in Nurse Ratched’s office was another important

symbol in the setting It gave her control over the entire ward. She could

control what the patients saw on TV, the lighting, etc. In many ways, this

parallels the “control panels” present in the real world. The media is

moderated by certain people – censors, editors, media executives, etc. All

of these people influence what we think and what be believe by controlling

what we perceive to be reality. In the same way, Ratched uses the control

panels to moderate what the men can perceive and see. She even turns off a

baseball game in an attempt to punish their desire for freedom and

happiness. An important symbolic event involving the control panel takes

place at the end of the story. When Chief Bromden escapes to freedom – he

does so by ripping the control panel from Ratched’s office and throwing it

through a window. His new found freedom is not only represented by his

escape into the real world but also in the obliteration of the very object

which helped limit his life.

Several other symbolic aspects of the setting help underline the

true evil that resides in the asylum. It is clearly visible that Kesey

borrows elements from the Bible to support the struggle between good versus

evil. McMurphey is consistently displayed as a Christ figure – a man who

must lead others to salvation against oppression, and in the process of

doing so must also sacrifice himself. It is also interesting that the image

of the Cross appears in several instances of the story. The first of these

instances is when the patient Ellis is described to the reader. His manner

of restraint is peculiar – he is fixed to the wall, with his arms

outstretched and his legs bound. Obviously, this mimics the position of

Christ when He was crucified. When Bromden and McMurphey are being punished

in the shock therapy room, the machines they are placed on are described as

“cross-like tables”. The halo of electrodes through which the electricity

is administered parallels the painful crown of thorns that Christ was

forced to wear. The elements of evil in the story are defined through

symbols in the setting.

It is clearly evident that the setting plays a crucial role in the

effective communication of Kesey’s viewpoints. The presence of the

horrifying forces from the story in the real world leaves the reader with a

critical decision. One cannot look at society in the same way after having

read this story and understanding the commentary that Kesey makes on

society. A blind eye is not so easily turned to such pressing issues, so

that leaves the reader with two choices. They can become very cynical and

angry towards society, attempting to undermine it at every opportunity.

This is a difficult battle. If they do not choose to do this, they can use

the relationships they now know of to their benefit. They can make sure

that they never allow themselves to fall into the traps that society has

created. They can be sure to never suppress another person’s rights and

freedoms. Quite frankly, I believe that the second road is the more

attractive of the two, and after having read Kesey’s book, I am quite

inclined to follow it.


Все материалы в разделе "Иностранный язык"

ДОБАВИТЬ КОММЕНТАРИЙ  [можно без регистрации]
перед публикацией все комментарии рассматриваются модератором сайта - спам опубликован не будет

Ваше имя:


Хотите опубликовать свою статью или создать цикл из статей и лекций?
Это очень просто – нужна только регистрация на сайте.

Copyright © 2015-2018. All rigths reserved.