Introduction to one flew over the cuckoo s nest
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Introduction to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Mr. Bailey Winter 2012. Stereotype vs. Reality. VS. I. 1960’s Counter Culture (AKA Hippies). American Culture. Counter Culture Response. Influx of Disillusioned Affluent Adolescents. Post WWII “Baby Boom”. Vietnam War. Pacifism.

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Introduction to one flew over the cuckoo s nest

Introduction to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Mr. Bailey

Winter 2012

I 1960 s counter culture aka hippies
I. 1960’s Counter Culture (AKA Hippies)

American Culture

Counter Culture Response

Influx of Disillusioned Affluent Adolescents

  • Post WWII “Baby Boom”

  • Vietnam War

  • Pacifism

  • Rise of TV and FM Radio

  • Challenging of censorship; innovation in art

  • Assassination of JFK

  • Paranoia and Skepticism about Government

  • Persistence of Racism and Segregation

  • Civil Rights Activism and Protest

Popular 1960 s american music

Popular 1960’s American Music

Counter culture 1960 s american music

Counter Culture 1960’s American Music

Popular concerns

Popular Concerns

Counterculture concerns

Counterculture Concerns

Ken kesey

Ken Kesey

Ii ken kesey
II. Ken Kesey

  • 1935-2001

    • Date rage significance? He was alive for:

      • Nuclear Bomb and end of WWII (1945)

      • Vietnam War (1955-1975)

      • Assassination of Kennedy (1963)

      • Assassination of Martin Luther King (1968)

      • First Man on Moon (1969)

    • Tumultuous period in American history greatly influenced his art

      Imagine Living Through Events We Only Read About In History Books!

Ii ken kesey cont
II. Ken Kesey (cont.)

B. Ken Kesey was profoundly affected by the rise of hallucinogenic drugs.

1. 1959, participates in government-sponsored experiments with people on LSD

2. Experiments took place in a Veteran’s hospital, with often shell-shocked and mentally unstable participants

3. Experiences in this project go on to inspire composition of Cuckoo’s Nest

Ii ken kesey cont1
II. Ken Kesey (cont.)

C. Ken Kesey hosted “acid tests” for friends with “Merry Pranksters”

1. Traveling parties that advocated use of LSD in San Fran area; eventually became common part of hippie scene

2. Kesey believed LSD taught mento think in new ways

Kesey on acid from the beyond within the rise and fall of lsd 1987

Kesey on Acid:(from"The Beyond Within: The Rise and Fall of LSD," 1987)

I believe that with the advent of acid, we discovered a new way to think, and it has to do with piecing together new thoughts in your mind. Why is it that people think it's so evil? What is it about it that scares people so deeply? Because they're afraid that there's more to reality than they have confronted. That there are doors that they're afraid to go in, and they don't want us to go in there either, because if we go in we might learn something that they don't know. And that makes us a little out of their control.

Catholic school disclaimer
Catholic School Disclaimer:

LSD is a highly dangerous narcotic that can cause permanent psychosis from even a single use. Mental instability, schizophrenia, and detachment from reality are common effects!

Ii ken kesey concluded
II. Ken Kesey (concluded)

D. Liberal, anti-government, pacifist to the end

E. Continued to experiment with LSD and journey with “Merry Pranksters” even into his 60’s.

F. Profoundly affected by 9/11, and blamed U.S. militaristic conservative government

G. Died from complications related to a liver tumor

Iii origins of cuckoo s nest
III. Origins of Cuckoo’s Nest

  • Kesey’s Goal: present social evils symbolically as mental institution and its staff

  • Kesey aimed to attack the “uniform, unimaginative, overly conditioned mentality of corporate America.”

  • Kesey hoped to criticize societal pressures that hinder individuality

Iii origins of cuckoo s nest1
III. Origins of Cuckoo’s Nest

D. Title comes from a nursery rhyme Chief Bromden recalls

Three geese in a flock

One flew East

One flew West

And one flew over the cuckoo's nest

Cuckoo’s Nest = asylum (which symbolizes society)

To “Fly Over” = escape/depart/differ from

Iv cuckoo s nest in canon of american literature
IV. Cuckoo’s Nest in Canon of American Literature

  • Widely considered a classic, Cuckoo’s Nest is, like most literature, a response to the literature that came before it.

    Think about the major works we have read so far this year:

Huckleberry finn
Huckleberry Finn

  • America is like a river: it is alive, constantly changing.

The great gatsby
The Great Gatsby

  • America is like a valley of ashes: dead, lifeless, empty

The crucible
The Crucible

  • America is like a crucible: a hot, painful test of integrity and honesty

Cuckoo s nest
Cuckoo’s Nest

  • America is like an insane asylum; society traps, restricts, and condemns those who are different or unique.


Farm machine: removes grains from the chaff of wheat and other crops.

Harvests what it wants, throws away what doesn’t belong as waste.

Why do you think this device is the primary symbol of a Modernist/Postmodernist work?

A puritanism
A. Puritanism

Kesey rejects conservative, outdated beliefs about sexuality and sin

Nurse Ratched exemplifies Puritan values

“Hidden” breasts

Torment of Billy Bibbet

B age of reason
B. Age of Reason

Kesey believed logic could not explain all of human nature

LSD was means of rejecting logic and exploring subconscious

C romanticism
C. Romanticism

Closest representation of Kesey’s beliefs

Rich in symbolism

Exploration of imagination and subconscious

D realists
D. Realists

Kesey, and most hippies, agreed that life was grim, but refused to accept that it needed to stay that way

Emphasis on hope and change breaks Kesey from Realist tradition

E modernism postmodernism
E. Modernism/Postmodernism

Disjointed, dreamlike writing style is characteristic of postmodern literature

McMurphy and Bromden rebel against a symbolic society

Patients are stripped of their individuality



Kesey’s Cuckoo’s Nest symbolically depicts counterculture opposition to society’s constraints. Highly influenced by 60’s drug culture, Kesey rejects previous literary eras in favor of a new approach to writing about the human experience.