"One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" (Individual VS society)

Essay by jay0whyHigh School, 11th grade May 2006

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"...With liberty and justice for all". All across the United States, these final words of the pledge of allegiance are uttered daily, but to what extent are they really meaningful? Should they really be saying, "...With liberty and justice for all that are willing to conform"? Ken Kesey's novel "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" is the by-product of many factors. Although there are many themes behind this novel, the key premise behind the novel is that the society that we call 'liberated' may not be as free as it is made out to be. Kesey establishes this theme through the manipulation of setting, and indirect characterization of McMurphy. Kesey uses the explicit setting of an imaginary, machine-like mental asylum to correspond to the non-specific realities of the real world; he uses the surroundings of the mental asylum to demonstrate just how hypocritical society can be, and by creating McMurphy to break these rules, the readers can sympathize with the characters trapped in the novel, thus further understanding Kesey's perspective of humanity's pressure to kowtow.

Kesey utilizes the ward to represent elements in the real world. The fact that the story takes place in a mental asylum is in itself a commentary on society. In the asylum, it becomes highly evident that a great deal of oppression takes place. Although a considerable amount of abuse is in the physical form, most of it manifests itself in subtle psychological torture. The abuse that specifically takes place is the suppression of individualism. When looking at the time period of Kesey's novel, it's apparent that the same suppression of individualism was being protested. An example being the hippies, and their desire to not be boxed in. In Kesey's novel, the combine symbolizes society's box. "Like a cartoon world, where the figures are...