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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: