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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Introduction to Politics and Political Analysis Braunwarth. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Written by Ken Kesey Grew up in Oregon, Most likely to succeed Won fellowship to creative writing program at Stanford

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one flew over the cuckoo s nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Introduction to Politics and Political Analysis


one flew over the cuckoo s nest2
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Written by Ken Kesey
  • Grew up in Oregon, Most likely to succeed
  • Won fellowship to creative writing program at Stanford
  • Became a volunteer to test new drugs at the local VA hospital
  • Discovered LSD and became interested in alternative methods of perception
  • Worked in a mental institution and spoke extensively with the patients
one flew over the cuckoo s nest3
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • OFOCN explored themes of individuality and rebellion against conformity
  • Common themes at a time when U.S. was actively committed to opposing communism and totalitarian regimes
  • But Kesey directed criticism at American institutions themselves
  • Revolutionary approach that would find greater expression during the 1960s
  • Novel was published in 1962 and was an immediate success
  • Started a commune in CA and became an LSD guru
  • Led the Merry Pranksters on a road trip across the U.S. with numerous subversive adventures
  • Movie was released in 1975 without Kesey’s permission
  • Nominated for 9 academy awards and swept the 5 major categories
  • This film is an allegory
  • Everything in this film is symbolic of some aspect of society
  • What is the major conflict?
  • What are the major political symbols?
  • What does Nurse Ratched represent?
  • The psychiatrists and administrators?
  • What about McMurphy?
  • The Patients?
  • The Chief?
nurse ratched
Nurse Ratched
  • What does she symbolize?
  • How does she maintain order on the ward?
  • How does she get people to her desired outcomes?
  • Does she solely rely on physical force?
  • Why do the orderlies follow her?
  • Is she dishonest?
  • What is your opinion of her?
  • Does she have to maintain order?
  • Would you like to go to her job every day?
randall mcmurphy
Randall McMurphy
  • What does he symbolize?
  • Is he a threat to the order of the ward?
  • Is he dangerous?
  • Is he crazy? What is crazy? Who decides?
  • Does he know what he is up against?
  • What happens to him in the end?
freedom liberty
  • Why the basketball game/fishing trip/betting/drinking/sex?
  • Why too much f***ing and fighting?
  • Why is it important that McMurphy “tries”?
  • Does McMurphy want to tear down a system or build a better one for the patients?
the chief
The Chief
  • What does he symbolize?
  • Why the big man/small man language?
  • What happened to his father?
  • What is Kesey trying to say about the modern society?
the patients
The Patients
  • What do they symbolize?
  • Do you feel sorry for them?
  • Do they take responsibility for themselves?
  • Do they have power?
  • Why don’t they leave?
  • What empowers them and what emasculates them?
  • Have they really changed at the end?
power order security conformity
  • Where do the nurse and McMurphy get their power?
  • Do people crave order and conformity and security?
  • Can order lead to oppression?
  • What about critical thought?
  • What does this say about democracy?
  • If we are to avoid oppression, we must remain active and vigilant
braunwarth s participatory democracy
Braunwarth’s Participatory Democracy
  • What is the advantage of participatory democracy?
  • What is Mill’s argument regarding the liberty of tastes and opinions?
  • Do we see this occurring in OFOCN?
  • How does Nurse Ratched encourage or discourage this behavior? Why?
  • How do the goals of order and freedom come into conflict here?
  • At what level of moral development are the patients at?
  • Is this true for society at large?
  • How can/does power command obedience in society?
  • What is the peril of obedience?
  • Why do people obey the scientist?
  • Would you follow through to the end?
  • Thoreau has a low opinion of the common man who needs to create a government to tell him what to do even when he knows such actions to be unjust
  • How is this situation similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?
  • Thoreau feels we have an obligation to disobey such directives from such governments. Do you agree with both his assessment of the common man and the government created by such men?
  • He feels that working within the system only perpetuates a system that tries to keep citizens fearful and insecure thus inhibiting their ability to gain the strength and wisdom necessary for the challenges of liberty
  • Have you ever felt your government acted unjustly? How did you respond?
  • What would you have done if you lived in Concord during Thoreau’s time?
  • Thoreau maintains that once individuals are ready to act according to their conscience they will no longer need or want government
  • Assuming we have not reached that point yet, how are Thoreau’s ideas relevant to contemporary democratic action?
  • Thoreau can also be read as a lesson for necessity of citizens to be active and vigilant to protect their freedom from the encroachment of government power
  • How is this similar to the situation on the Ward?