This essay is on Anti-Authoritarianism in Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Pinter’s Mountain Language. The novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and the play Mountain Language by Harold Pinter are two famous literary works of the previous century with a similar anti-authoritarian message. The essential element that unites these two works is a dislike of officially enforced social conformity. This message can be gauged from a biographical analysis of the lives of the authors, an overview of the plot of the two works and specific representations of authoritarian social orders in the two works.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Ken Kesey (1935 – 2001) was an important figure in the counterculture of the 1960’s. In the 1960’s the intellectual classes rebelled against the existing order and against the conformism that pervaded modern society out of a fear that the rising technology and corporate setup was gradually turning the citizens of the United States into automatons and nameless cogs in vast machinery. Through mass-marketing people now wore the same sorts of clothes, ate the same types of food, drove similar cars and did similar jobs. Kesey was one of the rebellious free spirits of the 1960’s who feared that people were losing their ‘soul’ due to the rising power of the government and corporate order (Vitkus).
One of the greatest expressions of governmental control was over the lives of those, the society had deemed to be insane. In mental hospitals, cruel and degrading treatment of inmates was common. Removal of the pre-frontal cortex of mental patients’ brain in order to calm them or render them docile was a common procedure. Kesey worked as a night ward attendant at the psychiatric ward of the Veteran’s hospital. Involved in government experiments with LSD, Kesey thought that there was not really much craziness in the patients admitted to the ward and a most of what they said or did made a lot of sense (Carnes).
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a story set in the wards of a mental hospital in Oregon. The story is recounted through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a Native American who has been having hallucinations since seeing the indignities suffered by his father, a Native American chief, at the hands of white people. Chief Bromden has been in the hospital for many decades and pretends to be deaf and mute in order to get by.
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