Cuckoos Nest Essay

1640 words - 7 pages

In what ways does the author of a novel you have studied make the reader aware of an important theme or themes? One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, by Ken Kesey, is a novel which explores many themes relating to human society, spirit and structure. It written in a unique style, that, in combination with strong symbolism and characterisation, successfully conveys these themes to the reader. The book is also backed up by a strong realism which Kesey managed to acquire from years serving on a mental ward and from his own explorations into mind-altering drugs. But probably the most important way in which Kesey communicates his themes with the reader is through the use of third person narration. Kesey chooses one of the patients, Chief Bromden, as the narrator of the novel. The world which Bromden describes is a hazy, transparent realm, where the borders between insanity and sanity are unclear. "There's long spells -three days, years- when you can't see a thing, know where you are only by the speaker sounding overhead like a bell clanging in the fog (94)" Bromden's view is omniscient. Although he poses to the ward staff as a deaf-mute, he actually hears and comprehends all that happens within the hospital. The Chief was able play the part of a passive observer, stationing himself in important meetings and able to see and hear things which are concealed from other inmates. This insight into what is happening around the ward is vital to the way in which Kesey's themes are brought to the readers awareness. We are able to understand not only Bromdens delusions but also his perceptions into the way the ward and society work. Although Bromden does not always see everything as it literally happens. He hallucinates often, seeing things in terms of machinery, 'She's carrying a woven wicker bag ... I can see inside it; there's no compact or lipstick or woman stuff, she's got that bag full of a thousand parts she aims to use in her duties today - wheels and gears, cogs polished to a hard glitter, tiny pills, needles, forceps, watchmakers' pliers, rolls of copper wire ...' (10). Kesey uses the Chiefs distorted subconscious ramblings and perceptions to give the reader the true subjective account of the action, summed up by the phrase: "It's the truth even if it didn't happen". For instance the Chief's dream/vision of the mechanised butcher shop. The Chief's phobia and paranoia about machines and power are focussed in this passage, where human corpses, one being Old Blastics, are being moved around on mechanical meathooks. But the vision is not just another delusion, as the Chief awakes the next day to find Old Blastic has died during the night. This shows the Chiefs 'truth' is symbolic of what is happening in reality. The Chiefs images and fascinations become central symbols of the book. The constant associations with machinery and the 'Combine' which he describes as being a "huge organisation that aims to adjust the Outside as well as she...

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