Ken Kesey Essay

Published: 2021-07-30 15:55:08
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Category: Culture

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During the course of the last fifty years, society has changed significantly. Inmodern society a great emphasis is placed on individualism and diversity withina society.
It is rare that an individual would be ridiculed or forced to changesimply for not complying with what society views as “normal”. This hasnot always been the case though. The nineteen fifties were much different. Thiswas an era of social conformity. The members of society who were intent onmaintaining this social state ostracized individuals who were considered”abnormal”. Such “abnormal” individuals just simply acceptedthe fact that they were not part of this normal society.
Because of society’sinfluence, these people sought help in psychiatric wards in attempts to betterthemselves and thus fit into society. By doing so, they let society conform andmold them into what was thought as “normal”. Ken Kesey was a man inthis era that did not believe in social conformity. Kesey, along with hisfollowers set off on a mission to open the minds of people who were focused onmaintaining this status quo.
Ken Kesey’s journey led him to write One Flew OverThe Cuckoo’s Nest. This novel focuses on the struggle between individuals whoare intent on keeping things the same with those who are considered”different”. Harding is a character in the novel that is limited byopposing forces of society and who in turn, seeks refuge in hopes to beaccepted. With the influence of McMurphy, Harding changes from an apprehensive”rabbit” to a self-assured man.
This change illustrates Kesey’s viewthat an individual can realize the worth of their life through self-acceptanceand reliance on ones self rather than conforming to social norms. Harding admitshimself in the psychiatric hospital because he is “abnormal” in asociety that highly values normality. “ discovered at an early age that was. .
. different? . . .
indulged in certain practices that. . . societyregards as shameful”(pg.
294). Admitting himself in the hospital isHarding’s way of succumbing to the forces of society. He simply accepts the factthat without help he will never fit in the “real world”. Harding knowsthat “This world belongs to the strong. .
. “(pg. 62). For this reason hefelt that is why he belonged in the hospital. The hospital is a place where” good strong wolf like the Nurse teach place”(pg. 62).
Initially with no self-esteem, Harding lets the Nurse andthe other hospital staff tell him how to live. When initially questioned of hisabnormal life by the other patients and the staff, “Harding his thinshoulders folded nearly together around himself. . .
his hands trapped between hisknees. . . trying to look calm-but he’s chewing his cheeks.
. . not calm at all”(pg. 54). Harding is a nervous man who finds it difficult to deal with hisdifferences and simply follows society’s commands in order to keep things easy. Harding’s views and behaviors start to change slowly as he associates more withRandle McMurphy.
McMurphy enters the ward involuntarily and has a much differentoutlook on life than the other patients. McMurphy places a great influence onbeing an individual and goes to great extents to be just that. He is a leaderand not a follower. His straightforward tactics and self-confidence allow him tofreely express his values. Along with these attributes, McMurphy also treats theother patients normal and does not treat them how society does.
By treating themas equals and by instilling into them his views and ethics, they are able to seethe world differently. McMurphy’s concern with the music that “dulls thesenses” shows another side of him as well. It shows his concern andconsideration for his peers. A more important feature of McMurphy is that heshows no shame.
This shows the patients, including Harding, that there is noneed to fell shame for being who they are. Amongst these things, McMurphyteaches the patients the power of trying and believing in ones self. McMurphyattempts to lift the panel in order to try to escape and he fails. Even thoughhe failed in the end, he still had enough confidence to try.
The lesson islearnt that it is far better to try and fail than to never even try. Looking atMcMurphy’s actions and values shows that he is perceptive and sensitive toothers. He is able to see the men’s weaknesses and attempts to build them up. Hehopes that in the end they will see Big Nurse’s strategy and be able to stand ontheir own feet and fight her ways. It is with McMurphys lead and stronginfluence that Harding is able to see that there is nothing to be afraid of.
Harding slowly learns from McMurphy and makes realizations about himself. Fromthese realizations he starts to change his ways and fight the powers of society. When the patients are told by Big Nurse that they can’t watch the baseball game”Harding shuts off the buffer. . . .
and goes pulls him a chair up alongsideMcMurphy. . . “(pg. 138). Instead of obeying the Nurse as usual, Harding beginsto think and act for himself.
When McMurphy arranges a fishing trip Harding iseager to go along. His nervous and apprehensive ways have begun to change. Thefishing trip is significant because it shows Harding’s independence and hisinitial ability to act without McMurphy. When the boy’s fish are biting Hardingtakes charge for the first time. “Harding finally saw that McMurphy wasn’tgoing to do anything, he got the gaff and jerked fish into the boat with aclean, graceful motion like he’s been boating all his life”(pg. 236).
Forthe first time without McMurphy by his side, Harding sees that he is able todepend on himself in the real world. When Harding returns from the fishing tripthings begin to change even more. Candy and Sandra sneak into the ward and theyall have a party. Harding knows the consequences of the party will be great andhe begins to make plans as to what must be done. He makes plans for McMurphysescape and thinks of every aspect of what must be said and done.
Harding wouldnever have thought of this type of action before McMurphy came along. Harding’sintricate plans and clever defense of McMurphy show that he is no longer afollower. His confidence and new outlook on life have changed his waysdrastically. Once a timid nervous man, who simply accepted his so-calledabnormality, Harding is now able to depend on himself and accept who he is. Oncethought of by Harding as “the strong wolf”, he now sees the Nurse asnothing more than “. .
. . full of so much bull*censored*”(pg. 307). Harding fought against the Nurse and left the hospital with his wife afterMcMurphy opened his eyes as to what life was about.
For the first time in hislife Harding rejected the status quo. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is apowerful novel that has a deep meaning. It does not simply tell the story of apsychiatric ward. The novel goes further to explore the importance ofself-esteem and self-reliance.
It focuses on the power of individualism in anera when such a thing was shunned. The changes in Harding’s attitude reflectKesey’s personal rebellion against social conformity.

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