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Who Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

2955 words - 12 pages

In 1935, Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado. His parents were Frederick Kesey and Geneva Smith. In 1946, the family moved to Springfield, Oregon. In Springfield, Ken Kesey became a champion wrestler in high school and in college. While he was at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Kesey explored drama. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, he perused the career of acting for a year, then he realized that it was not his calling. Therefore, Kesey began writing. In 1956, Ken Kesey married his high school sweetheart, Kaye Haxy. Short of money, Ken Kesey became involved in CIA- sponsored research study at the Veterans Administration Hospital at Menlo Park. He then took a job as an aide at the Veterans Administration Hospital. His experiences in the hospital influenced the writing of the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The studies he was involved in included the drugs LSD and Mescaline. In 1962, Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The novel explored the struggle in Kesey’s personal life and how he used drugs to escape and find personal liberation. Ken Kesey was arrested in 1965 for drug possession. He then spent five months in jail and the San Mateo County Sherriff’s Honor Camp. He was released in 1967 and he moved back to Oregon. The novel also explored the struggle between conformity and freedom. Kesey portrayed in the novel the conflict between individuality and the modern industrial society. Kesey published One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1962. The novel explores the transition period between the Beatniks of the late 1950s and the 1960s counterculture. The Beatniks were people who used poetry, fashion, and music to express their dissatisfaction with the society that is conformist. “… the hippies of the 1960s, whose counterculture rebellion included free love and drug use,” (Telgen). Historically, insane asylums date back to the 1840s when asylums were first started by Dorothea Dix. Within the insane asylums, the patients are categorized into many different categories which would be treated in many different ways. Ken Kesey’s experimentation with various drugs such as LSD, Mescaline, and acid tests affected the way the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was written. Symbolically in the novel, the use of the word therapeutic and laughter was a way the inmates sparked defiance in the ward.
In the United States, before the 1840s, insane asylums did not exist. Insane or the mentally ill were often kept in prisons and unheated rooms. “In 1841, Dorothea Dix, an idealistic Unitarian schoolteacher was teaching a Sunday school class in a jail in East Cambridge, Massachusetts, and discovered insane people kept in an unheated room,” (Boyer 313). She then began investigating almshouses and jails. This led to Dorothea Dix proposing a memorial to the State Legislature in 1843. “With the support of Horace Man and Boston reformer Samuel G. Howe,” she described to the State legislature...

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