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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An Instance of Verisimilitude: The House of the Seven Gables

"But, besides these cold, formal, and empty words of the chisel that inscribes, the voice that speaks, and the pen that writes, for the public eye and for distant time, - and which inevitably lose much of their truth and freedom by the fatal consciousness of so doing, - there were traditions about the ancestor, and private diurnal gossip about the Judge, remarkably accordant in their testimony" (Hawthorne 123).

     In analyzing this novel, I have noticed many passages hinting at an inner reality extending beyond just what can be read in the text. However, up until now, I had not found a true instance of verisimilitude that I could tie in to the work's inner theme. This passage, however, connects right to a certain suspected theme. There is a common thematic idea throughout this novel of letting one's superstition and ancestry reflect the lives of a family's descendants. A lot of this novel's inner passages hint at past history, family traditions, and fear of superstition. The previous passage cited takes these ideas and connects them to reality, going almost unnoticed as Hawthorne slips it in with Judge Pyncheon's character description. 
     The passage occurs in a chapter almost wholly comparing Judge Pyncheon to the accursed ancestor, Colonel Pyncheon, who was just as greedy and corrupt. As the narrator begins to discuss the Judge's past, this passage occurs, as if transitioning from an overall successful outlook into the bitter reality of his stature. In modern English, the passage says no matter what people say about someone, how many achievements that someone earned, or even what's engraved on that someone's tombstone, it's what people gossip about and establish as true that really matters. In reality, if someone has a great number of achievements but have bad stories spread about them, people will listen to the stories first. For example, Michael Jackson was one of the world's greatest entertainers, but people now pay more attention to his acquitted court charges than his success. 
     One of the biggest possible themes for this novel is the fact that superstition supersedes reality always, as revealed by this verisimilitude. People can achieve great success destined to sink by rumors, as the Judge's superstitious stories suggest about himself. 

Word Count: 300

Journal Entry 12/30/2015: The House of the Seven Gables

"The sick in mind, and, perhaps, in body, are rendered more darkly and hopelessly so by the manifold reflection of their disease, mirrored back from all quarters in the deportment of those about them; they are compelled to inhale the poison of their own breath, in infinite repetition" (Hawthorne 144). 

     This passage, as it appears in the novel, is extremely powerful, hinting at more than just the current situation. It strikes one of my soft spots as a reader due to Hawthorne's elegant use of language and its inner reality. Hawthorne crafts his language so precisely, making this passage sound as beautifully dark as it is real. It's easy to extend this passage beyond just how it appears in the text, especially if one were to have experienced what I have. 
     Prior to the passage's appearance, Phoebe had been taking care of recent ex-con, Clifford Pyncheon, with stressed detail on the bond that the two had developed. This passage occurs almost suddenly, breaking away from the main characters for the first time in a long stretch, feeling as if Hawthorne meant for this particular part to stick out. Its reality is much deeper to me than can be connected through text. Modernized, this means people who are ill are made worse by people's perception of their illness, as if cursed. In my hometown, people were guilty of this, making troubled minds feel even worse. After reading this, I can verify the sensitive reality: people conditioned into retardation. Sound familiar, followers?
Word Count: 200

Monday, December 21, 2015

Close-Reading Passage 1: The House of the Seven Gables

"There were curtains to Phoebe's bed; a dark antique of canopy . . . which now brooded over the girl like a cloud, making a night in that one corner, while elsewhere it was beginning to be day. The morning light, however, soon stole into the aperture at the foot of the bed . . . Finding the new guest there - with a bloom on her cheeks like the morning's own, and a gentle stir of departing slumber in her limbs, as when an early breeze moves the foliage - the dawn kissed her brow. It was the caress which a dewy maiden - such as the Dawn is, immortally - gives to her sleeping sister, partly from the impulse of irresistible fondness, and partly as a pretty hint that it is time now to unclose her eyes" (Hawthorne 70). 

     The reader is presented with this passage when the house's only living descendant besides its scowling, depressed resident comes to stay for a while unexpectedly. Up to this moment, the reader has only been presented with grim imagery of the House and its prime resident, Hepizbah Pyncheon. This passage appears almost out of surprise, shifting the tone from dark and grim to light and gentle, using many literary devices stacked on top of one another to convey the author's purpose.
    In beginning to dissect this wisely-written passage, one would notice almost immediately that the whole passage uses an extended form of imagery. The reader's presented with an image of an old bed with a canopy, shading Phoebe, and the sun's first light breaking the darkness through the canopy. Up until this moment, the imagery has been dark, grim, and serious in speaking about the House, its legend, and its atmosphere. Phoebe's light and cheerful entrance into the House first brings about this change of tone from grim to giddy, almost symbolic in conveying Phoebe as a bringer of light and delight to this House of lingering depression.
     The novel's narrator continues to describe this scene of a bright morning, personifying the approaching daylight and giving it a name: Dawn. Dawn, almost daintily, figuratively comes down to Phoebe, "with a bloom on her cheeks like the morning's own", and kisses her brow. This playful tone reinforces the assumption that Phoebe is this House's bringer of light. presenting delicate diction such as "gentle stir", "caress", "sleeping sister", and "irresistible fondness". The author uses both personification and simile to convey an even larger extended metaphor. All of this figurative language comes together in comparing Phoebe to a gentle bringer of light, like the personified Dawn.
     The passage is simply a gentle presentation and comparison of Phoebe as a gentle force of light coming into the House's presence. Even in the use of nature-like and feminine words such as "foliage", "breeze", "maiden", and "sister", the author conveys Phoebe as a kind controller like that of Mother Nature. By reading this, one could conclude that Hawthorne is suggesting Phoebe is the cheerful hope of the depressed House of Seven Gables.

Word Count: 365

Journal Entry 12/21/2015: The House of the Seven Gables

"Still, there will be a connection with the long past - a reference to forgotten events and personages, and to manners, feelings, and opinions almost wholly obsolete - which, if adequately translated to the reader, would serve to illustrate how much of old material goes to make up the freshest novelty of human life. Hence, too, might be drawn a weighty lesson from the little-regarded truth that the act of the passing generation is the germ which may and must produce good or evil fruit in a far-distant time; that together with the seed of the merely temporary crop, which mortals term expediency, they inevidently sow the acorns of a more enduring growth, which may darkly overshadow their posterity" (Hawthorne 2).

     Nathaniel Hawthorne is an author well-worthy of praise for his wisdom in crafting language, as shown in the passage above. Hawthorne has a distinct style of crafting long, weighty sentences containing metaphorical cannonballs of meaning. This passage occurs within the first few pages of the novel, in a way signifying that this style of writing is what the reader is going to experience throughout the novel. The reader is about to witness but a tale of tragedy told in the language of an educated philosopher.
     The reader encounters this passage in the beginning chapter, when the narrator begins to explain the purpose of his story to the reader. The narrator even addresses the reader, saying that if the reader "adequately" translates his words right, he should draw a lesson out of this story. This goes on to reveal the tone, which is almost advisory, like the introduction to a Shakespearean tragedy or a metaphorical parable. Hawthorne doesn't subject us to his traditional iceberg style (more beneath than visible) in content, but more in form, as one could get lost in Hawthorne's complex use of syntax. Hawthorne both captures and confuses the reader with his philosophical writing style, as probably intended.

Word Count: 200

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Plot Synopsis: The House of the Seven Gables

     Hawthorne's novel takes place in the mid-19th century in a seven-gabled house built upon land cursed by a wizard, the households' first owner. After the superstitious death of the second owner, the house falls to ruin. Presently, descendant Hepzibah Pyncheon must fend off Judge Pyncheon, a descendant seeking abundant greed. 

Word Count: 50

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Second Title: The House of the Seven Gables

     After a decently-casual read such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, I decide to move to a more difficult, intellectual, and aged piece of literature. For my next novel to pick apart, I chose Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables. Hawthorne wrote this way back in 1851 with the idea of superstition and family honor in mind. This novel, though rather dated, already seems to be one of the most intelligent books I've read, as I've found myself getting lost in the beauty of the Victorian-era language. Currently, I'm approaching the novel's third chapter.
      A film was also made based off this novel in 1940 of the same name, starring horror icon, Vincent Price as Clifford Pyncheon, the former inmate of the family. Though the film adaptation seems to greatly differ from the novel, critics say the film did have some potential, even for its time.
     I chose this novel specifically to challenge myself and broaden my spectrum of literature, as I have not practiced in analyzing the text of many novels written before the 1900s. Casually, I have read many. Analytically, I have read few. Stay tuned in, for I'll be picking everything I can out of this diffucult yet beautiful piece of literature.

Also, here are a few relevant links to help amplify our reading and analytical experience:

Complete plot summary from SparkNotes: 

Critical review of the novel by Jane Smiley (she didn't like it much): 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Additional Relevant Links: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

     As I conclude my in-depth study session of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, I leave my audience with these last few relevant links to help clarify any unclear meaning and enrich the understanding for both the novel and the film. Thanks to the readers for following me in this literary discussion and stay alert as I will be looking at another novel or set of works soon. Stay classy, and stay reading!

Creeper's Reviews from the Abyss, my critical analysis of the film adaptation:

"Madness and Misogyny in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", an in-depth essay analyzing theme and meaning in the novel:

Student reading guide from Shmoop, a site similar to SparkNotes, but more general:

Final Overview: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

     One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is an amazing novel, standing above the rest for its time and even today. In reading the novel, so much verisimilitude and meaning was revealed through a compelling story with all characters being fairly dynamic in each's own way. For intense readers, the novel serves as a pleasant treat with well-crafted language and a heavy mind behind it. For casual or novice readers, the novel serves as an outstanding piece paling in comparison to most books said reader has read in his or her lifetime. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has received loads of recognition throughout the years, including an Academy Award-winning film being made of the novel and the novel's recognition in the prestigious AP Literature exam.
     The novel left quite a lasting impression on me as I went about reading it. The novel definitely belongs in the canon of books with the most literary merit, as it hints at important themes in a vivid, intelligent way. One of the things that impressed me the most is the novel's focus on the idea of thought control. A prevalent theme in the text is how it takes one to rule the masses with fear, but it takes one better to actually lead the masses. Throughout the novel, Randall McMurphy and Nurse Ratched battle between control of the patients in the asylum, but only McMurphy leaves a lasting impression that causes the patients to fearlessly think for themselves. The novel basically feels like an allegorical battle between thought manipulation and mental liberation. The Head Nurse leads the patients to think a certain way, but McMurphy proves to them that the system can actually be challenged. Evidence of this is present even early on in the text when all-knowing Chief Bromden observes that McMurphy had "shown us what a little bravado and courage could accomplish, and we'd thought he taught us how to use it (227)." One other thing I also enjoyed in reading this novel is the power of the vivid, descriptive language the author uses to set the tone for each scene. Kesey uses vivid language to set the tone for each scene, from describing the nightmarish "special" shower (258) to setting the tone for the monotony of the asylums' "mechanism" (170). The biggest treat aside from the actual story in the novel is Kesey's brilliant use of language to convey his meaning. 
     The film based on the novel is also just as much a treat. Though the two pieces seem like entirely different entities altogether, each has its own set of ideas to focus on. In transition from the novel to the screen, a lot is lost, such as the Chief's powerful narration and some of the more riskier elements presented through the text. However, clarification is gained in certain other aspects of the source. Irony's role is made clearer, as it becomes more obvious the ones actually "committed" to the asylum tend to be the most sane. Also clarified and less two-dimensional would be the transition from controlled to free thought, as signified through the rebellion of the patients against the Nurse. 
     One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest remains as true a novel as it is a film. The composition altogether is an intelligent and challenging look at the question of mental illness and thought control. The book, as well as the film, has reserved its place in my favorites.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Close-Reading Passage 3: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

"Our solemn worry was giving way, in spite of us, to joy and humor. When the nurse found the pile of pills . . . we started to pop and snort to keep from laughing, and by the time they found Mr. Turkle in the linen room and led him out blinking and groaning, tangled in a hundred yards of torn sheet like a mummy with a hangover, we were roaring. The Big Nurse took our good humor without so much as a trace of her little pasted smile; every laugh was being forced right down her throat till it looked as if any minute she'd blow up like a bladder (Kesey 297)."

     This passage as it appears in the novel seems to signal a definite end of the lead of the Head Nurse, crafted in a very vivid way by author Ken Kesey. In the events preceding this passage, the patients, with the help of staff member Mr. Turkle, sneak in a couple of prostitutes carrying alcohol. McMurphy and the rest of the Acutes throw a party in the middle of the night, mixing the alcohol with some cough syrup in the medicine room and smoking marijuana with Mr. Turkle. What happens in this passage is the equivalent to the morning after, which symbolizes more than just that through the author's technique. 
     Kesey crafts this passage with hopes of signaling the patients' lack of concern toward the Big Nurse or the repercussions they might face after everything settles. Through Kesey's diction, one could see that he meant to inspire a more upbeat, relaxed tone in speaking about the Head Nurse than expressed previously throughout the book. Kesey uses words like "joy", "humor", "roaring" in describing the Acutes' attitude about the situation, which clearly reveals they lack any concern toward the severity of their situation. 
     To add to the more humorous tone of this passage, Kesey uses vivid literary devices to set the tone. Kesey uses the similes in the passage to make the situation sound even more vivid and humorous. In calling Mr. Turkle a "mummy with a hangover" and saying the Nurse would "blow up like a bladder", the author intends to make us feel just as casual and bubbly as the Acutes do in this situation. 
     This passage acts in a solid transition from fear to complete nonchalance toward the Big Nurse and her policies, as well as signaling the end of her fear-invoking rule over the ward. Through Kesey's positive diction and humorous use of literary devices, the audience is left feeling just as unconcerned and relieved as the Acutes on the ward do. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Journal Entry 11/16/15: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

"My friends, thou protest too much to believe the protesting. You are all believing deep inside your stingy little hearts that our Miss Angel of Mercy Ratched is absolutely correct in every assumption she made today about McMurphy. You know she was and so do I. But why deny it? Let's be honest and give this man his due instead of secretly criticizing his capitalistic talent . . . He's a shrewd character with an eye out for a quick dollar. . . He has a healthy and honest attitude about his chicanery, and I'm all for him, just as I'm for the dear old capitalistic system of free individual enterprise . . . for him and his downright bullheaded gall . . . (Kesey 253 - 254)"

     In approaching this passage, one would notice that this isn't a quote by the novel's novel narrator. This quote isn't from our narrator, Chief Bromden, but from the most dynamic of all the Acutes, Mr. Harding. In summary, Mr. Harding was the "elected leader" before McMurphy entered the institution and was almost one hundred percent against him, as supported by him calling McMurphy to "meet him in the main hall at high noon and . . . settle this affair once and for all, libidos a-blazin' (20)." The substantial passage cited at the top of this post shows how Harding has changed throughout the novel as a dynamic character, in contrast to his feelings toward McMurphy at the beginning of the novel. 
     In the beginning of the novel, Mr. Harding had established himself as a sort of "elected leader" under the rule of the Head Nurse. In reality, he and the rest of the patients bend over backward in service to the Head Nurse. All Harding really did was restore happiness when necessary and observe the Nurse's actions. Harding, in the beginning, believed there could be no other leader than the Head Nurse, until McMurphy proved him wrong. 
     Now, Harding's opinions on leadership and the question of rule are completely altered. As evident by his tone in the passage, Harding has been led to believe that McMurphy is the all-powerful, omniscient ruler in place of the Nurse, even though the Nurse had attempted to turn the Acutes against him. It's clear that Harding believes solely in McMurphy's unalterable rule through his exaggeration of the Head Nurse as "Miss Angel of Mercy Ratched". McMurphy has taken the lead so securely and twisted the minds of the patients so cleverly that their "former leader" sees no fault in his actions. McMurphy clearly robs the patients of their cash every chance he gets, but Harding and the rest of them can see no fault in him, but praise. They give him his due for being a con man. 
     In conclusion, Harding has changed to believe only in McMurphy and his desires. He's no longer scared to stand up for himself as long as he has a dynamic leader like McMurphy. His mind has been crafted, formed, and manipulated in such a way that he can only think McMurphy is key. In fact, this seems more of a move from isolation to freedom, through McMurphy and his rebellious liberation.

Close-Reading Passage 2: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

"The guys complained and kidded and joked about it, trying not to look at one another or those floating slate masks working down the line behind the tubs, like nightmare faces in negative, sighting down soft, squeezy nightmare gunbarrels (Kesey 258)."

    As soon as I came across this passage in the novel, I admired it. The writing style which author Ken Kesey practices in this passage craftily invokes a feeling of detailed discomfort. It is evident that Kesey picked his words and description carefully as to signal a certain emotional shift in the novel. By looking at the literary elements of the passage, one could easily infer the speaker's nightmarish feelings about the situation.
     To briefly summarize the preceding events leading up to this passage, the orderlies in the hospital had grouped all of the patients who went on the fishing trip for a "special shower" ordered by the Head Nurse. Once grouped together, the patients are grotesquely disinfected everywhere by these black orderlies holding tubes of salve. This event, even in summary, appears as extremely uncomfortable to the reader. If one were to take a closer look at the text, one would notice that it only seems worse. 
     Kesey measures his diction in this passage carefully and precisely. The use of alliteration is so omnipresent throughout this passage that it's almost ridiculous. The first occurrence of alliteration would be the hard "c/k" sound in "complained and kidded and joked". The next two that occur repeat the "n" sound and the "s" sound, with "nightmare faces in negative" and "sighting down soft, squeezy . . ." The effect this has on the text is to sort of paint a picture of the uncomfortable, nightmarish situation that the speaker is witnessing. If one were to imagine a man with a face as blank as slate approaching him or her in the shower with a tube of salve, one would immediately want to throw that image out of his or her mind as fast as it came. Kesey also imparts the reality of the situation on the reader through the use of metaphor and simile. The speaker, through Kesey, calls the faces of the orderlies "floating slate masks" and compares them to the "nightmare faces in negative, sighting down soft, squeezy nightmare gunbarrels." As previously stated, this technique is used to paint this nightmarish picture for the reader. 
     As far as syntax goes, this is all broken to the reader in one, well-crafted sentence. There is a possibility that Kesey did this intentionally as to reveal how much horrifying understanding the speaker had of this situation. However, Kesey may have also crafted the passage this way as to show how fast things were moving in procedure. One could only infer, but if I had to come to a conclusion, I would say that Kesey made this powerful passage a singular sentence to convey the speed at which this reality passed. Just like when most people are faced with some terrible situation, it either passes by in pain-staking detail or so fast they don't truly realize what's going on at first. The latter is the mindset the speaker seems to use, as crafted by the author. 
     This passage is probably one of the most powerful and descriptive in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and I respect Kesey for portraying it this way. Expertly-crafted dialogue such as this must take a lot of thought power to develop, keeping in mind that this is still all one sentence. Through the stylistic devices, syntax, and diction, the reader is able to feel just as uncomfortable as the speaker in the novel, which is quite a beautiful art for great authors. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Theme Exploration 2: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

     In the previous post discussing themes for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, it became evident that the Acutes, or lower-priority mental patients, didn't truly believe themselves to be mentally deficient until some other entity led them to do so. In this theme exploration, some of those outside entities will be discussed, but in a sort of different manner. The patients in the novel have a constant craving to either establish leadership amongst themselves or pick a leader to follow. At times, they bend under the will of the Head Nurse, whereas at other times, they blindly follow McMurphy into whatever antics he has planned for the day. The main theme to be discussed here is how people crave a leader but follow the chosen leader blindly and loyally, molding their personalities around that of the leader's.
     The two main "leaders" in the novel are McMurphy and the Head Nurse, each leading in each's own way. The Head Nurse leads the patients on the ward in a forceful, intransigent way that suggests they must follow her and be molded by her ways or suffer the consequences. Evidence of this is present throughout the novel, especially when Chief Bromden speaks for the first time to McMurphy. The Chief says that the Nurse and her establishment "work on you in ways you can't fight! They put things in! They install things. They start as quick as they see you're gonne be big and go to working and installing their filthy machinery . . . (Kesey 209)" The Head Nurse's lead is focused on breaking the will of the patients, forcing them to side with her. Up until McMurphy enters, the patients are afraid to speak out against anything. In relation to the theme, the patients blindly follow this leader to the point of their own wills breaking. Their individuality is robbed from them in lieu of establishing a leader. Some might say this isn't entirely an effective leadership. In fact, it's really not. It's a dictatorship. The minds of the people are forced to be expressed in a certain way and nothing further than that, which is exactly what the Head Nurse wants. However, McMurphy stands for something more worthy.
     The presence of Randall McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is along the lines of a free-thinking savior. It's not until McMurphy starts to change things up in the institution that the patients start to realize their full potential. With McMurphy, the patients flourish in standing out and making their true wants and needs known, in place of having this spirit drained out of them by the Head Nurse. However, even with the introduction of McMurphy and his new leadership, the patients still lack the true skill to think for themselves. This becomes evident whenever they decide to do something and McMurphy either disappears or tells them the opposite of what they first believed. One instance of this is shown when the group is on the fishing trip and McMurphy disappears, when the Chief states "all our hard-boiled strength had just walked up those steps with his arm around the shoulders of that bald-headed captain (230)." As soon as McMurphy is out of the picture, the patients seem to lose all hope and begin to revert back to their natural skittishness that the Head Nurse has implanted in their minds. It becomes even more obvious when one of the patients believes he sees something in the shower's canvas straps. When McMurphy says he can't see anything, the patient responds with: "Oh . . . well I didn't see thum either. I's just kidding you (176)." As soon as McMurphy puts in his opinion, this patient immediately changes his mind.
     The discussion of this inner theme prompts very curious psychological questions. Can a mass of people truly move without a stable leader? Can people who've been beaten down their whole lives truly think for themselves? In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the audience is led to believe that no person who establishes a leader can really act on their own accord. Everybody chooses to follow a common leader, whether blind to the leader's values or not.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Journal Entry 11/12/15: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

"All up the coast I could see signs of what the Combine has accomplished since I was last through this country, things like, for example - a train stopping at a station and laying a string of full-grown men in mirrored suits and machined hats, laying them like a hatch of identical insects, half-life things coming pht-pht-pht out of the last car . . . moving on down the spoiled land to deposit another hatch. Or things like five thousand houses punched out identical by a machine and strung across the hills outside of town, so fresh from the factory they're still linked together like sausages . . . (Kesey 227-228)."

     The passage which has been cited from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest may come off as confusing to novice readers or those unfamiliar with the stylistic use of figurative language. So many literary devices are used that one may get lost in the poetic cacophony of the speaker's intentions. The first half of this entry will explain what's really going on, while the second half will focus more on the speaker and the effect he intends to achieve through this passage. 
     In the events leading up to the appearance of this passage in the novel, McMurphy had been taking his group of patients on their planned fishing trip. As they pass through town, Chief Bromden, who had not seen the outside world in a long time, starts to notice what town looks like and what civilization has achieved so far. It almost feels like the Chief is sizing up the human race and its attempts at establishing a stable society. The Chief refers to the human race as the Combine, comparing it to a well-oiled and structured machine. When the Chief refers to "men in mirrored suits and machined hats" as well as when he refers to the suburban landscape as "five thousand houses punched out identical by a machine . . . so fresh from the factory they're still linked together like sausages," he simply means to establish a universal truth that everything has become the same. By intelligently using metaphor, alliteration, and hyperbole, the reader can see that everything is ordered the same and true to the conformity, for it looks all monotonously similar. This reveals that one of the main focuses of this passage is to recognize the established human conformity and how it appears in relation to the Chief's perspective within the novel.
     If one were to look back through the novel and read up on Chief Bromden's character, one would take note that he's not only an Native American in looks, but also still at heart. The Chief has the traditional Native American mentality where he acknowledges and respects that his race was established first. He still seems to look at the white man as different. Keeping all of this information in mind, one could infer that Chief Bromden, who's also the speaker, is seeing all of this civilization as just more means of white colonialism. Through the diction in this passage, comparing the typical businessman to "insects, half-life things," it becomes obvious through close-reading that the comparison wasn't blind or unintentional. By describing them as insects, author Ken Kesey speaking through the Chief hints that the Chief still sees normal businessmen as foreign, and maybe even annoying or insignificant. He strengthens this point by cleverly molding the syntax to place "insects" right by "half-life". It seems pretty far-fetched, but after reading both in succession, one can get the image of a weak, alienated human being. It's almost as if the Chief wants the reader to feel as foreign as he does in this situation.
     This passage may seem confusing for some, but if one just slows down long enough to truly take everything in, everything will become crystal clear. One just needs to look at the syntax and the diction as well as the author's intention to determine its true meaning. Remember, just because one has eyes, it doesn't mean they always see.

A Second Instance of Verisimilitude: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

"He'd shown us what a little bravado and courage could accomplish, and we thought he'd taught us how to use it. All the way to the coast we had fun pretending to be brave. When people at a stop light would stare at us and our green uniforms we'd do just like he did, sit up straight and strong and tough-looking and put a big grin on our face and star straight back at them till their motors died and their windows sunstreaked and they were left sitting when the light changed, upset bad by what a tough bunch of monkeys was just now not three feet from them, and help nowhere in sight (Kesey 227)."

     This is another instance of verisimilitude I found in the novel that relates to the presence of a hidden reality. In the events leading up to this passage, Randall McMurphy and the patients had been on their way to board the boat for their planned fishing trip. They stopped at a gas station and McMurphy led the rest to look tough and threatening, as to keep everyone else of their case. If you find yourself questioning how this passage reveals even a hint of verisimilitude, ask yourself this question: Have you or you and your friends ever acted tough and brave just for the fun of it, or to keep someone off your case? That is exactly what is going on in this passage. McMurphy has taught the patients to be brave, and the patients are having an exuberant time in exercising this new skill. Just like people do in real life, the patients are putting up a front to keep people away from them and treating it all as a joke. If one would disagree with this being a common instance of verisimilitude in life and literature, then one should look at some certain extraneous works, such as S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders. This freedom or skill is also exercised as Ponyboy and his gang put up a fearless front and have great fun with it. Sound familiar? The instance in One Flew is not much different than this example. Kesey reveals this verisimilitude also through his diction, as he refers to the bunch as " a tough bunch of monkeys". One could argue that, in life, all a tough group of people are is a bunch of monkeys; they put up a front and joke about it. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Journal Entry 10/22/15: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

 ". . . it still made me smile a little to think about it. I had to keep on acting deaf if I wanted to hear at all" (Kesey 197).

     In Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the narrator pretends to be deaf and dumb and uses it to his advantage to listen in on the novel's antagonist. This passage is an ironic come-to-realization that if he wanted to know or understand anything further, he would have to keep on pretending not to hear it. 
     There is a small hint of verisimilitude in this passage as well. In life, one sometimes has to stay quiet and oblivious to listen to and comprehend what the general public has to say. If someone puts his or her opinion out in the open, someone else may disagree with it and shoot it down. So, instead of putting out an opinion in lieu of it getting shot down, one may want to listen and learn from what the other opinion conveys. One can judge and learn better based on that. 
     Irony function broadly in other ways throughout the text. A few more ironic aspects of the novel would be the fact that the most sane man in the institution ends up being the biggest problem and the fact that this same man chose to go to the institution for an escape but still ended up being trapped. He wanted to escape from his prison sentence so he switches it to a commitment to the mental institution to find out all of the other patients like him can leave when they want to but he can't. 
     Irony isn't heavily present throughout the novel, but when it does show up, it leaves a lasting effect. There is a purpose behind it; it helps drive the novel. 

An Instance of Verisimilitude: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

 "While McMurphy laughs. Rocking farther and farther backward against the cabin top, spreading his laugh out across the water—laughing at the girl, the guys, at George, at me sucking my bleeding thumb, at the captain back at the pier and the bicycle rider and the service-station guys and the five thousand houses and the Big Nurse and all of it. Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy" (Kesey 237). 

     This passage from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest reveals a type of verisimilitude that gives off a glint of reality. For those who are unsure, verisimilitude is a kind of hidden truth that one can link back to real life. One can relate to a statement with this type of verisimilitude in real life. The verisimilitude occurs within this passage within the last lines mostly. To summarize briefly, this takes place in the novel after McMurphy starts fighting back again against the Head Nurse and convinces her to let him take the other Acutes on a fishing trip. They're out fishing and start to catch a sort of huge fish, adding on to everything going on already. Within that, Kesey drops a bomb of wisdom on the reader in the last line, saying: "Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy." Readers can relate to this if they had once been at a point in life where they get hurt or things just go wrong, and they laugh at it just to keep from getting angry or negative. In a way, it's very true. Even musician Maynard James Keenan says (to tie back to this kind of verisimilitude): "Once you take yourself too seriously, your art will suffer." 

Close-Reading Passage 1: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

 "Whatever it was went haywire in the mechanism, they've just about got it fixed again. The clean, calculated arcade movement is coming back: six-thirty out of bed, seven into the mess hall, eight the puzzles come out for the Chronics and the cards for the Acutes . . . in the Nurse's Station I can see the white hands of the Big Nurse float over the controls" (Kesey 170). 

     This passage is presented to us as its own individual section in the novel. Sequentially, this passage follows when McMurphy stops trying to fight against the head nurse because he learns that he's committed to this institution while the other Acutes have the chance to leave. Since his arrival, McMurphy has been testing Nurse Ratched's patience with his rude and outspoken attitude, inability to take much seriously, and crude sense of humor. When he finds this out, he suddenly stops, and as author Ken Kesey writes in the aforementioned passage, things almost systematically go back to normal.
     Through Kesey's diction in the passage, we're given an idea of how systematically the mental hospital runs. With precise word choice, such as "mechanism," "clean and calculated arcade movement," and most importantly "hands . . . float over the controls," we can tell Kesey wants us to see the institution's daily process as clean as clockwork. It runs smoothly and systematically like machinery.
     One could tell by Kesey's syntax in this passage that he meant for it to sound exhausted and habitual (much like clockwork). Through use of precise alliteration in the use of the sharp "c" sound ("calculated arcade movement is coming back"), one could say that Kesey wanted his speech to sound quick, sharp, and precise. In fact, it gives a sort of clockwork effect. Through use of non-specific, casual, and procedural tone ("Whatever it was went haywire . . .", the sequential order of what happens at what time), one could say this gives a sort of exhausted and stuck-in-a-rut feeling. Kesey makes the reader feel like he or she has known this procedure as long as the novel's narrator, Chief Bromden.
    As far as symbolism goes, one could picture the head nurse as the "puppet master" over the institution. She has everything in a clean, organized procedure and is almost controlling the patients through this procedure. As insisted by the last lines of the passage where it reads, ". . . white hands of the Big Nurse float over the controls," one could infer that the nurse is the operator or conductor of this "mechanism" the narrator mentions.
     Essentially, Kesey styles this passage to make the reader know and feel that things are falling back into an exhausting order almost as by clockwork, controlled by the hands of the Head Nurse. The use of alliteration, tone, and precise diction, one is able to infer this.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Theme Exploration 1: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

     One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a novel of a very specific set of themes. One theme found within in the novel is that society treats people different, or almost as if insane, based on the individual's personality differences, personal struggles, and unique attitude. The characters in this novel seem only mentally ill when the head nurse categorizes them as such. The general question the audience leaves us to answer is if McMurphy and the other Acutes (not completely disturbed, but problematic, mental patients) are really mentally ill.
     Evidence of this theme is present throughout the novel, especially in reference and presence of the head nurse. One accurate example would be when Nurse Ratched, in one of the daily meetings she has with her patients, addresses the fact that the Acutes need to be punished for listening to McMurphy (possibly one of the sanest characters in the novel) in coming together in protest of watching the World Series in the institution. Nurse Ratched elaborates on her reasoning in punishment when she says:

"Please understand: We do not impose certain rules and restrictions on you without a great deal of thought about their therapeutic value. A good many of you are in here because you could not adjust to the rules of society in the Outside World, because you circumvent them and avoid them. At some time . . . you may have been allowed to get away with flouting the rules of society. When you broke a rule, you knew it. You wanted to be dealt with, needed it . . . That foolish lenience on the part of your parents may have been the germ that grew into your present illness" (Kesey 188). 

     Up until this point, McMurphy and the patients found their protest normal, necessary, and successful. They didn't believe that they were wrong in doing so because they did so without conscious thought. Meaning, this might have came from deep within the patients' psyches. The patients' following shows that they listened to their intuitive thinking cogently; there was no lack of understanding in their actions. If a person struggles to act rationally in making their own decisions, then one could consider a person mentally ill. 
     If this passage isn't convincing enough, McMurphy hints at the preceding passage (courtesy of Ken Kesey's writing style) a few pages earlier on in the novel, stating "all I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down" (Kesey 174). I find this to be a type of foreshadowing or ultimate revealing to Nurse Ratched's true nature and how she leads the patients to believe they are truly ill. By tearing down the self esteems of these sensitive people, she leads them, as if a dictator, to believe that they are truly insane. 
     This isn't the only theme prevalent in Kesey's novel, but it is one of the most intriguing of the ones I've noticed. Later on, I will discuss another similar theme more based on Nurse Ratched's rule over the patients. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Plot Synopsis: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

     One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is a novel about a certain Randall P. McMurphy, who transferred to the local mental institution to serve the rest of his prison term. Originally, he was sent to stay on a work farm, but by request and persuasive techniques, McMurphy finds his way into the local mental institution.
    The institution runs much like a machine, with the main cog in the machinery being the head nurse, Nurse Ratched. Nurse Ratched has bent the will and terrified the souls of the institution's patients and other staff. Even the lead doctor is scared of the head nurse. As soon as McMurphy enters the institution, he starts to take charge of the lost patients and test the nerves of Nurse Ratched, by establishing his self as leader of this small society.
     Through constant speaking out against the head nurse's ways and challenging of her pre-set standards, McMurphy eventually ends up being put in shock therapy (which they call the Shock Shop), and eventually (spoiler) receiving a lobotomy.
     The story is told through first-person perspective of Chief Bromden, an Indian chief committed to the institution who has fooled the staff throughout the years to be deaf. Bromden only reveals his secret to McMurphy, becoming a close friend of his near the end of the novel.

Friday, October 9, 2015

First Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

     For my first literary title to pick apart, I chose Ken Kesey's notorious novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Kesey wrote this book in 1962 about individual rights being taken and complete control over human nature. A film was made in 1975 starring Jack Nicholson as the main character, Randall McMurphy. The film won numerous Academy Awards including Best Picture, but even with all of this cinematic prestige, it falls in comparison to the novel. The insightful, omniscient point-of-view given by the "deaf" Chief Bromden is lost in the film adaptation, as well as the colorful language in which he paints the novel's many scenes.

     I hope to delve deeper into this surreal novel, as well as the film, for I'm already peering into Part 2 of the novel.. Stay alert for more posts, discussing basics such as plot synopsis and journal entries to deep discussions about theme and verisimilitude through close reading. Until then, here are some relevant links to keep you entertained. 

Ken Kesey's biography: 

Critics Consensus of the film by Rotten Tomatoes (a film review website, much like IMDb): 

50th Anniversary literary review of the novel: