Ken Kesey voices a wide array of his personal views and values through his novel ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. These concerns may have accumulated during his time working in a mental institution. It is in the orientation of the novel that these concerns are introduced. It could be argued that his main concerns were that of reality versus imagination, society robbing people of their individuality and the power of laughter. These values were very controversial at the time of the novel’s publishing and essentially what caused ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ success.
Kesey introduces the question ‘is this reality or imagination’ early on in the novel through Chief’s characterisation of being an unreliable narrator. After being detained due to his unwillingness to be shaved, Chief proceeds to explain his theory of the ‘fog machine’. We, as the reader, know that this ‘fog’ is most likely a product of Chief’s imagination. He then forces us to question this assumption through telling us, “It’s still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.” Kesey worked in a mental institution for some time, where he would have encountered patients such as Chief who believe beyond a doubt that what they see is reality. This provides the reader with a unique opportunity to delve into the mind of a person who society deems to be mentally unstable. Due to the effects McMurphy has had on the ward, Chief finally starts to listen to a man of the name Colonel Mattherson. What Chief originally dismissed as a madman’s ramblings, he now sees as sensical. He proclaims, “You’re making sense, old man, a sense of your own. You’re not crazy the way they think.” This begs the question, is Chief really ‘crazy the way we think’? Hitherto, Chief has narrated with a scary interpretation of the truth. He describes Nurse Ratched as she, “blows up bigger and bigger, big as a tractor, so big I can smell the machinery inside.” This is obviously not...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document