Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
The Novel
• It’s a counter-culture protest novel, which
is allegorical of society at the time.
• Allegory: a symbolic representation of
ideas.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
DURING READING
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Ken Kesey
Role of Women. How are they portrayed?
Language: Looking for specific figurative devices.
Interesting dialogue (how does each character
speak). Machinery metaphors.
Insinuation: Identify all the things that are implied in
the novel. Read between the lines.
Biblical Imagery: Note any reference to Christ,
crucifixion etc
Size: who is large? Who is small? Why are they
large? Why are they small?
Sexuality: What do we learn about each character’s
sexuality?
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
THE NOVEL’S SETTING
As you read through the following slides,
fill in the gaps in the setting sheet. At the
end, stick it into your books under the title:
setting.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
1950s – The Setting
• The book was written and set in the
1950s. It was published in 1962.
• At this time in America, people outside the
mainstream were often viewed with
suspicion.
• WHY? Because of the Cold War and the
Red Scare.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
The Cold War
• The US was engaged in a ‘cold war’ with the
Soviet Union. Even though no warfare was
declared, things were tense between the two
countries. (note: today the Soviet Union does
not exist – the largest country of the Soviet is
Russia)
• Both countries had nuclear power and it was
feared that one or the other might use it.
• USSR was communist and the US was scared
of the spread of communism. Anyone that
appeared to be different were presumed to be
supporters of communism and were ostracised.
They were called ‘reds’ and it was a time of ‘red
scare’.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Propaganda Film
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7LCKs
zv3wE (duck and cover)
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWeZ5
SKXvj8&feature=related (he may be a
communist)
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Joseph McCarthy
• Republican senator from Wisconsin who capitalized
on Cold War fears of Communism in the early 1950s
by accusing hundreds of government employees of
being Communists and Soviet Agents. McCarthy
had no evidence to prove communist affiliations, but
the very spectre of doubt was enough to pass
judgement.
• Many artists and writers (those of the counterculture) were arrested and questioned for having
communist ties. Playwright Arthur Millar was among
the accused. He depicted his own experience in his
play The Crucible, likening McCarthyism to the
Salem witch hunt in the 1600s.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
The Cold War
• People in the states became increasingly
persecuted for their beliefs under Senator
McCarthy. This was called McCarthyism.
• Towards the end of the decade national rebellion
began against civil injustice. Young people, in
particular began to question authority.
• One particular group of dissenters were the
‘beat generation’ – they expressed
dissatisfaction through art, writing, dress and
nonviolent action. They were called Beatniks.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Beatniks
• Poetry readings were a common forum for
Beatniks to articulate dissatisfaction with
societal constraints.
• Allen Ginsberg’s poem HOWL illustrated what
many people saw as the moral and social
problems of the time.
• Groups such as the Beats were a part of a
larger movement called the ‘counter-culture’.
This movement led to the emergence of ‘hippies’
in the 60s. Hippies were dedicated to peace,
love, happiness and they endeavoured to
‘expand their minds’ through the use of mindaltering drugs such as LSD.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Allen Ginsberg: Howl
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVGoY
9gom50
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJDV9z
8XvEo&NR=1
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
LSD
• Ken Kesey took part in scientific
experiments at a hospital trialling LSD as
a state-controlled mind-altering substance.
It was thought that it could help those
suffering mental disorders such as
schizophrenia. LSD was not so effective
as a medical panacea as it induced
hallucinations.
• To the counter-culture of the 1960s LSD
was a good thing; it helped hippies to
explore their own mind and expand their
horizons.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Kesey and the Novel
• Published 1962
• It was met with immediate success. Kesey
bought a farm in California where he and his
friends spent time taking LSD. Known to the
local authorities for his drug usage, the police
caught him flushing marijuana down his toilet.
He fled to Mexico. When he returned he was
arrested and put into jail for several months.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Kesey & the Novel
• In 1964 Kesey and his friends took a road
trip in a bus named Further across the US.
On the journey they continued to indulge
in masses of LSD and took part in
subversive behaviour. The group called
themselves The Merry Pranksters and
their adventures were captured in Tom
Wolf’s story The Electric Kool-Aid Acid
Test. This book became a must-read for
the hippie generation.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Ken Kesey Interview
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4ilnAD
vT2s
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Nursery Rhyme
Tingle, Tingle, Tangle Toes
She's a good fisherman
Catches hens, puts'em inna pens
Wier blier, limber lock
Three geese inna flock
One flew east, One flew west,
One flew over the cuckoo's nest
O-U-T spells out
Goose swoops down and plucks you out.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Nursery Rhyme
1.
2.
1.
Upon first reading, what does the nursery rhyme mean
to you?
What do you know about the word ‘cuckoo’?
European cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds' nests
and build no nests of their own. The baby cuckoo is
raised by parents of a different species along with their
own babies but usually grows more quickly than its
non-cuckoo nest-mates and pushes them out to die. If
someone is called a cuckoo, they are being called
crazy .
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Nursery Rhyme
• The title refers to a shock-therapy-induced
recollection of a childhood game played by
Chief Broom’s grandmother.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Title
• Obviously, Nurse Ratched is the "good
fisherman Catch(ing) hens..." and "...put(ing)'em
inna pens." With respect to the "Three geese
inna flock," Kesey uses the chant to assert the
opposite polarities of the Big Nurse & RPM. The
"east/west" polarity represents the opposite
philosophies and social-politics at the base of
their conflict, and which represents their
respective ideas re: the individual's relationship
to the state/society.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Themes
Themes in novels are never one word,
they are an idea. Below are some themes
evident in this novel.
– Individuality & rebellion against conformity.
– The state is a machine that controls.
– The emasculating power of women.
– The importance of expressing sexuality.
– The false diagnosis of insanity.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Themes
• Write each theme up in your book. Using half a
page, note down all the ways that this theme is
made evident in the novel.
• Beneath your notes, write a couple of sentences
explaining what Kesey’s purpose was in
exploring that theme. What is he trying to teach
his audience about this particular idea?
• At the end we will collate your notes on the
board.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Theme: Women as Castrators
• Aside from the prostitutes women are seen as threatening and
controlling.
• Bromden and McMurphy attribute the suffering of the patients to the
emasculation and castration caused by Nurse Ratched.
• Fear of women is a central feature of the novel.
• Harding; “We are victims of a matriarchy here.”
• Rawler commits suicide by cutting off his own testicles. Bromden “all
the guy had to do was wait” implying that the institution would have
achieved the same in the long run.
• After McMurphy’s third EST Nurse recommends an ‘operation’.
McMurphy jokes that she means castration. The labotomy achieves
the same results.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Theme: Society’s Destruction of
Natural Impulses
• Mechanical imagery represents modern society.
• The hospital is made of machinary and Blastic bleeds
rust, not blood.
• Bromden was a pure natural spirit accomostomed to
hunting and reading natures signs. This way of life is
subverted by society when his fishing village is
converted into a profitable hydro-electric dam.
• McMurphy represents unbridled individuality that the rest
of the patients are in awe of. McMurphy fights to retain
his individuality until he can bring individuality to the
others. Only then does society get the better of him.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Theme: The importance of expressing
sexuality.
• Kesey implies that an expression of sexuality is healthy.
• Most patients have warped sexual identities because of
relationships with damaging women.
• Due to repressed sexuality, perverted sexual acts are
made implicit: the aides engage in ‘sex acts’ and it is
suggested that they rape patients.
• The ward is sexless until McMurphy appears and boasts
of his sexuality: he owns cards with 52 sexual positions,
he’s slept with a 15 year old girl, and he wears Moby
Dick boxer shorts. He first had sex aged 10 with a girl
even younger.
• McMurphy attempts to cure Billy of his stutter by
arranging his first sexual encounter.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Theme: False Diagnosis of Insanity
• McMurphy’s sanity is expressed by his laughter,
his sexual appetite, size and confidence, yet he
is considered insane by the state.
• The institution is insanity.
• Throughout the novel the sane actions of the
men are contrasted with the insane actions of
the institution.
• Kesey asks us to question ‘what is crazy’?
Bromden’s hallucinations seem crazy, but
they’re also very perceptive and insightful.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Laughter
• Why is laughter such a theme of the book?
What does it mean for Kesey?
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Homework on Laughter
• Find out:
– Why do humans laugh?
– How is laughter powerful?
– When are you told not to laugh and why?
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Motifs: Invisibility
• Bromden tries to be as invisible as
possible. He hides in fog, and he avoids
talking.
• The control of the combine is invisible.
• McMurphy smashes the glass. This
symbolises to the patients that while they
may not see the control that society has
on them, it is there, and it can be smashed
through.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Motifs: Power of Laughter
• Laughter is a defence against society’s
insanity. It is implied that those that cannot
laugh properly have no chance of survival.
• At the end, on the fishing trip all the men,
including the doctor share real and deep
laughter. This illustrates their physical and
psychological recovery.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Motifs: Real vs Imagined Size
• Bromden describes people by their true
size, not their physical size. Their size
relates to their level of power.
• Bromden is six foot seven, but thinks he’s
smaller than everyone. He says that
McMurphy is broad as ‘papa was tall’ and
his father’s name was The Pine that
stands Tallest on the Mountain.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Symbol: Fog Machine
• The ward is perpetually oppressed by a
dense fog that Bromden hides himself in.
• He believes that the fog is a mechanism
used by the Nurse to control the men and
render them incapable of acting contrary
to the way she dictates. McMurphy drags
each of them from that fog.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Symbol: Boxer Shorts
• White whales: make us think of Moby
Dick. The whale is a phallic symbol which
suggests McMurphy’s blatant sexuality.
• Also calls to memory Ahab’s obsessive
and futile pursuit of the whale. Nurse
Ratched is McMurphy’s futile pursuit.
• Moby Dick also stands for the power of
nature. McMurphy’s untamed nature
comes to conflict with the institution.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Symbol: EST Table
• Associated with crucifaction.
• It is shaped like a cross with straps across
the wrists and over the head.
• Ellis, Ruckly and Taber, all acutes whose
lives were destroyed by EST stand as
public examples of what happens to those
that rebel against society. Ellis is actually
nailed to the wall – an explicit reference to
Christ’s crucifixion.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
FREUD
• Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a
famous psychoanalyst. He believed
sexual desire was the primary motivational
energy of human life. He also believed that
you could interpret dreams to gain an
insight into unconscious desires.
• Some of this theories were…
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Castration Anxiety
• This is a freudian term for the fear men have of
being castrated. The thought is that when boys
see a female’s genitalia they falsely assume that
the girl had her penis removed, as punishment
for misbehaviour. The boy becomes anxious that
the same thing will happen to them.
• Castration anxiety is when one fears that their
testicles will be removed, resulting in a loss of
power.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Penis envy
• A theory that girls are envious of a male’s
possession of a penis, as they connect it
to having strength.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Oedipus Complex
• The desire to possess the parent of the
opposite sex.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
FREUD
• Write down in your own words what some
of Freud’s theories were.
• Identify parts of the novel where these
theories are explored by the characters.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
POST READING:
Discussion Questions
• Kesey states that One Flew over the
Cuckoo's Nest helps the reader to
"question reality" by "tearing away the
fabric of what we've been told is reality
and showing us something that is far more
real." Do you agree with Kesey's analysis
of his book? Select a scene or two that
does or does not effectively accomplish
this.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
POST READING:
Discussion Qts:
Microcosm of America
The mental hospital is clearly meant as a
microcosm of America in the early 1960s,
a picture of the world that the counterculture is rebelling against. Who do people
on the ward represent in society? In what
other ways is it shown as a microcosm?
What does this tell us about the revolt?
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Microcosm Ideas
• The group therapy: all about tearing down
your neighbour.
• Control imposed by the Nurse is similar to
control imposed by state.
• Men are scared to act in an individual way
for fear they are identified and punished.
Or that others will tell on them.
• Expression of sexuality is forbidden.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
RELIGIOUS IMAGERY:
Christ
• Throughout the book, McMurphy is
presented very much as a Christ
character, often in quite heavy-handed
ways why and how? Think about this
carefully there are a real lot of examples
to draw on. How does Candy fit in all this?
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Religious Imagery
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
McMurphy is alluded to as a Christ figure.
He becomes a martyr for the patients.
Ellis stands ‘crucified’ to the wall.
Before fishing trip Ellis shakes Billy’s hands and tells him
to be a ‘fisher of men’.
It’s the phrase Christ used to his disciples to win people
over as converts.
The fishing trip is the salvation of the men.
Patients are 12 in number, same as the 12 disciples.
When McM is put on the EST table he says, ‘Anointest
my head with conductant. Do I get a crown of thorns?’
Both McM and Christ die to save others and give them
hope.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
POST READING: Discussion Questions
RELIGIOUS IMAGERY
Throughout the novel there are explicit
references and allusions to the bible. Why
do you think Kesey has done this? What
does he imply by making connections
between religion, characters and the
ward?
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Exam Questions
“Novels present flawed character(s) in
challenging environment(s).” To what
extent do you agree with this view?
Respond to this question with close
reference to one or more novels you have
studied.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Exam Questions
“Central to the purpose of a novel is the
presentation of a major theme.” To what
extent do you agree with this view?
Respond to this question with close
reference to one or more novels you have
studied.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Exam Questions
“Characters and how they interrelate is the
main focus of a novel.” To what extent do
you agree with this view? Respond to this
question with close reference to one or
more novels you have studied.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Exam Questions
“What matters most? In a novel, it is always
the ideas.” To what extent do you agree
with this view? Respond to this question
with close reference to one or more novels
you have studied.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Exam Questions
“Setting enhances the reader’s appreciation
of important ideas in novels.” To what
extent do you agree with this view?
Respond to this question with close
reference to one or more novels you have
studied.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Exam Questions
“The novel is often concerned with human
weakness and its consequences.” To
what extent do you agree with this view?
Respond to this question with close
reference to one or more novels you have
studied.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
Exam Questions
“The novel usually depicts the journey of a
character or characters.” To what extent
do you agree with this view? Respond to
this question with close reference to one
or more novels you have studied.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
“Setting enhances the reader’s appreciation of important
ideas in novels.”
“The novel is often concerned with human weakness and
its consequences.”
“The novel usually depicts the journey of a character or
characters.”
To what extent do you agree with this view? Respond to
this question with close reference to one or more novels
you have studied.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
TIMED ESSAY: 50 MINS
“Central to the purpose of a novel is the presentation of
a major theme.” To what extent do you agree with this
view? Respond to this question with close reference to
one or more novels you have studied.
OR
“What matters most? In a novel, it is always the ideas.”
To what extent do you agree with this view? Respond to
this question with close reference to one or more novels
you have studied.
Ken Kesey
ONE FLEW OVER THE
CUCKOO’S NEST
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1950s – The Setting