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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.