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One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

Ken Kesey

You have 15 minutes to answer the following questions.

Response Journal for Ch 1-4

Explain Keseys use of parenthesis in the first few chapters. Explain the symbolism of the fog. Discuss Bromden as a narrator: Is he reliable? What perspective can he give us?

Ken Kesey
1935-2001

Born in Oregon in 1935, Kesey grew up in Colorado; he married his high school sweetheart in 1956 and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1957. In graduate school the following year, Kesey met Vic Lovell, a psychology student who was doing experiments with psychomimetic drugs. Kesey agreed to be a paid subject in drug experimentation.

Ken Kesey
1935-2001

One of the drugs tested was LSD, under which Kesey wrote sections of Cuckoos Nest. Throughout the 1960s, Kesey sank deeper into the drug culture and developed into a leader of the counterculture hippie set. (Eventually, he was arrested for drugs and fled to Mexico to avoid prison; he later returned and served 6 months in jail.) Kesey formed the Merry Pranksters, a group of people who lived together and at one time traveled around the country on a painted bus they called Further.

Ken Kesey
1935-2001

The misdeeds of the Merry Pranksters were chronicled by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1967), as well as in poems by Allen Ginsberg. Other contemporaries include Timothy Leary, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Neal Cassady, and The Grateful Dead. Kesey remained in the public eye with articles in numerous magazines, such as Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Esquire, and High Times. At age 60, he appeared in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. In 1997, he reunited with the Merry Pranksters at a Phish concert, one of his last public performances.

I was too young to be a beatnik and too old to be a hippie (1999).

Kesey is often remembered as the link between the Beat generation of the 1950s and the Hippie generation of the 1960s. Kesey died in November of 2001, after an operation for liver cancer. Keseys beliefs continue to influence the next generation; he is memorialized in print as well as on the internet.

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest


Ken Kesey

While working in the mental institution, Kesey started formulating the plot for Cuckoos Nest. He decided many of the patients were nonconformists rather than insane. Many characters were based on actual patients and staff at the hospital. He wrote parts of the book while on acid, especially to create Chief Bromden. Cuckoos Nest was published in 1962. It has been adapted into a Broadway play and an Academy-award winning film and is taught regularly in college classrooms.

Preliminary research
Lysergic acid diethylamide. Generally, LSD causes expansion and altered experience of senses, emotions, memories, time, and awareness. It was introduced into the US in 1948 and marketed as a psychiatric cure-all, a remedy for everything from schizophrenia to criminal behavior, sexual perversions and alcoholism. LSD was the original centerpiece of the CIA's top secret MK-ULTRA project, an ambitious undertaking conducted from the 1950s-1970s designed to explore the possibilities of pharmaceutical mind control.

A type of psychosurgery performed to alleviate mental disturbances by severing the midbrain, which is associated with emotional arousal, from the frontal cortex, the seat of the higher mental processes. A psychiatric treatment method in which electricity is used to produce a generalized seizure; used to treat mania, major depression, and certain forms of schizophrenia

Major motifs
The dangers of dehumanization Good versus evil Individuality vs. conformity The corrupting nature of power Appearance versus reality Physical and moral courage Sanity versus insanity Biblical allegory Therapeutic role of nature and laughter Importance of sexuality

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest


Setting: a mental institution in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Oregon, in the 1950s Tone: critical and allegorical, with the authors attitudes depicted through Bromden and McMurphy Point of view: Chief Bromden narrates in first person, as events appear to him, compromised by paranoia and hallucinations and enhanced by the fact that he overhears staff conversations.

Major Characters