The Vanishing American: Identity Crisis in Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

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The Vanishing American: Identity Crisis in Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest Author(s): Elaine Ware Source: MELUS, Vol. 13, No. 3/4, Varieties of Ethnic Criticism (Autumn - Winter, 1986), pp. 95-101 Published by: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS) Stable URL: Accessed: 05/12/2009 13:39 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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The VanishingAmerican: Identity Crisis in Ken Kesey's the Nest OneFlew Over Cuckoo's Elaine Ware Middle Tennessee University State of Most literaryscholars who examinethe personality Chief Bromden in KenKesey'sOne Over Cuckoo's quickly Flew the Nest pointout thatthe Indian thatpreventshis normal suffersfroma debilitating participation psychosis in society. What the scholars tend to overlook, however, are the It circumstances whichcontributed Bromden's to hospitalization. is evident that the weak self-concept in part, fromKesey'streatmentof Bromden is, a resultof Bromden's in a sub-culture is in its finalstage that growingup of sociocultural Because is Bromden tornbetweenthe desire disintegration. to maintainhis Indianheritageand the necessityof developing behavior white culture, experiences identitycrisis. he an to the dominant acceptable Kesey sets Bromden'schildhood in the 1920s and 30s, a time when the U.S. government was struggling to decidewhether Indiansshould maintain tribalcustoms or should adopt white culture. The Dawes Act (1887), which reduced tribal land holdings but allocated 160 acres of land to individual Indians, failed to achieve Indian integration into American culture (Hoxie 95). Many Indians sold their tracts, not realizing that without land, they would be incapable of earning a livelihood. As whites moved onto the former Indian holdings, tribal organization disappeared,and this loss of tribalunity caused a loss of pridein self and in tribalcustoms. Subsequently, many Indians,unableto manage the money they did receive from land sales, fell into debt and then turned to alcohol. Excessive drinking may have deadenedtheir feeling of loss of tribalidentity,but it addedanother negative characteristicin the eyes of the white community.The government studied contemporary tribal deteriorationduring the 1920s in an effort to remedy such conditions.The Meriam report, completed in 1928, startled the nation by revealing the poverty of the Indian sub-culture. It called for improvements in education, health, and welfare and also questioned the wisdom of the Dawes Act (Prucha19). Then, in 1934, the U.S. government tried to combat Indian poverty by passage of the Indian Reorganization Act, known as the Wheeler-Howard Act (Philip 171). Rather than attempting...
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