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Melisa Roberts Listener

Age: 34

Location: Austin, TX

 

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Paper|Cities Pro

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About

Fowler admits to being “an isolationist,” and it turns out that so is Pyle’s blue-blood Bostonian father. The irony is clear. Young America, which started out tending its own garden, has embraced global interventionism, while Old Europe, imperialist for centuries, has re-discovered the wisdom of tending one’s own garden and letting other nations work out their destinies in their own way. To make the novel deeper and more interesting, Kesey uses many metaphorical elements. The hospital is an authoritarian state that offers the inmates security and social welfare state at the cost of their freedom. The hospital, Dr. Spivey says, is like a real world. “Our intention,” the doctor says, “is to make this as much like your own democratic free neighborhoods as possible–a little world Inside that is a made-to-scale prototype of the big world Outside that you will one day be taking your place in again.” The doctor’s description of the community contradicts itself–what kind of “democratic free neighborhood” forces citizens to spy on each other? A psychiatric ward becomes a metaphor for the oppressive nature of American society. Kesey compels us to think about just how thin the line is that separates insanity from sanity, and treatment from control. Kesey’s disturbing insights also make us wonder whether certain types of mental disorders are not actually based on some sort of illness or disease, but on outside factors such as upbringing and social pressures. The manner in which the inmates are treated is reprehensible, yet it mirrors the way in which many less fortunate members of society are treated. Nurse Ratched is the ruler of the secure totalitarian world, since the security impulse is fundamentally female. McMurphy’s initials RPM (revolutions per minute) may stand for a character who represents revolution against authority and symbolizes the male fighting for freedom. The inmates represent the population ready to obey and follow voluntarily a totalitarian leader. They are willing participants of the degradation. They are sexless and spineless, but safe from the outside world. They have surrendered to the Big Nurse and the Combine Electro shock therapy. Billy Bibbitt symbolizes McMurphy’s Judas. He heals Billy hand makes him stop stuttering and procures a woman for him. However, Billy denounces McMurphy to Nurse Ratched and commits suicide afterwards. Kesey makes heroes names memorable by giving them special meaning and connotation. Nurse Ratched’s name resembles the words “wretched” and “hatchet”, both of which have very negative connotations. Nurse Ratched represents the establishment, and is described by Kesey as “enormous, capable of swelling up bigger and bigger to monstrous proportions. She is the ward superintendent, the ultimate authority demanding obedience and perfect order from everyone.” This is the author’s way of conveying that she is powerful like the establishment, and like the government, she makes and enforces the rules. The most significant religious image is that both McMurphy and Christ die to save others and give them hope. McMurphy saves the patients from the repressive society and teaches them to have hope in themselves. Christ saves mankind from sin and teaches them to have hope in a life eternal. There is also other Christian symbolism in the book. The comment “I wash my hands of the whole deal” is a direct allusion to Pontius Pilate, who made a similar comment upon ordering the crucifixion of Christ. McMurphy himself even realizes this comparison when he asks whether or not he gets a “crown of thorns,” another reference to the crucifixion. McMurphy’s laugh is the first real laugh the Chief has heard in years, a brave indication of strength and sanity. While the two patients await their turn at the Shock Shop, they hear a patient cry out, “It’s my cross, thank you Lord.” Before the treatment is administered to him, McMurphy “climbs on the table without any help and spreads his arms out to hit the shadow. A switch snaps the clasps on his wrists, ankles, clamping him into the shadow.” When the graphite salve is put on his temples and he is told that it is conductant, he says “Anointest my head with conductant. Do I get a crown of thorns?” They also give him a rubber hose to bite on, just as Christ was given a sponge soaked in vinegar to suck on. It is ironic that the novel about counterculture can be read and interpreted in this way. Nevertheless, the elements of the Cuckoo’s Nest have fundamental cultural meaning. They evoke associations within our minds and strike the touchstones of our shared understandings. As a result, a simple story about a convicted man becomes a book about the universal truths and our vision of the mankind. Graham Green also uses symbols and metaphors in The Quiet American to make his characters more interesting and memorable. The story is clearly an allegory about the passing away of the colonial way of life of the European empires, and the rise of the idealistic Neo-imperialism of the US. Fowler represents the painfully-learned wisdom of the colonials. His feeble and desperate, though ultimately “successful,” attempts to hold on to what he possesses are clearly seen as securing only a very temporary and costly “victory.” Pyle stands for the “can-do” spirit that frames the world in terms of “problems” and “solutions” and has arrogant confidence in its ability to impose its vision on the world. The main question the books raise through its symbols and themes archaeology of our entire mythos and the tale returns to the central dilemma of human existence, first presented in the Garden of Eden, should mankind choose security or freedom?

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