Ken Kesey: Contribution as American Novelist

Also Read

      Ken Kesey (1935-2001) born in Colorado and brought up in Oregon, Kesey worked for while, as a ward attendant in a mental hospital. This experience provided him with the material for his first and finest novel One Flew Over Cuckoos Nest (1962). It is set in a psychiatric ward that is dominated by a character called Big Nurse, who appears to have limitless power over the inmates. Controlling her charges by subtle pressures and, wherever necessary, more aggressive measures such as electric shock treatment, she embodies the principles of behaviorism. Forcing them to adjust to a prescribed norm, she also suggests forces at work in society generally. For, she is constantly referred to by the narrative as an agent of The Combine. Society is run by secret force, the implication is, which tries to manipulate all its members. And of that force, the Big Nurse is servant and a symptom, although by no means only one. Into the ward comes as an authentic American rebel Randle Me Murphy who offers inmates the example and chance of the independence.

      After various acts of rebellion, McMurphy is subjected to a lobotomy operation which reduces him to a vegetable, passive and compliant. Being unwilling to see himself as like this, his best friend, an ex-reservation Indian named Bromden, smothers McMurphy and takes his life. The smothering is described, in sexual terms, because it is an act of love. It is an act of devotion by a disciple. For, like some of the inmates, Bromden has grown immeasurably under the influence of McMurphy. So much so that, after killing his mentor, Bromden breaks out of the mental institution to go on the road and may be a return to his tribe. McMurphy may be dead but evidently, the spirit of rebellion that he embodied still survives.

Previous Post Next Post