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Point of View in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Point of View in Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The choice that a novelist makes in deciding the point of view for a novel is hardly a minor one. Few authors make the decision to use first person narration by secondary character as Ken Kesey does in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By choosing Bromden as narrator instead of the central character of Randle Patrick McMurphy, Kesey gives us narration that is objective, that is to say from the outside of the central character, and also narration that is subjective and understandably unreliable. The paranoia and dementia that fill Bromden’s narration set a tone for the struggle for liberation that is the theme of the story. It is also this choice of narrator that leads the reader to wonder at the conclusion whether the story was actually that of McMurphy or Bromden. Kesey’s choice of narrative technique makes One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest a successful novel.

It would be hard to ignore biographical information when analyzing a work by Ken Kesey, because of both his involvement with the Beat writers and as an advocate for hallucinogenic drugs. In fact, it is said that Kesey created the narrator of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest during a peyote hallucination, when an Indian came to him (Tanner 21). While his choice of the Indian, a supposed deaf mute, as narrator seems out of the norm it is even more so when comparing Kesey to the other Beat writers. McMurphy can be compared closely to Dean Moriarty of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, but Bromden is nothing like Kerouac’s narrator, Sal Paradise. Certainly the loud and boisterous McMurphy would have made for an interesting narrator for this novel but this would have provided for a very different ending. Even the…

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…oo’s Nest. Ed. George J. Searles. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1992. 5-11.

Hunt, John W. “Flying the Cuckoo’s Nest: Kesey’s Narrator as Norm.” Lex et Scientia 13 (1977): 27-32. Rpt. in A Casebook on Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Ed. George J. Searles. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1992. 13-23.

Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. New York: Signet, 1962.

Martin, Terence. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the High Cost of Living.” Modern Fiction Studies. 19 (1973): 43-55. Rpt. in A Casebook on Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Ed. George J. Searles. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1992. 25-39.

Semino, Elena and Kate Swindlehurst. “Metaphor and mind style in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Style 30 (1996): 143-67.

Tanner, Stephen L. Ken Kesey. Boston: Twayne, 1983.

The Black and White World of Atwood’s Surfacing

The Black and White World of Atwood’s Surfacing

Many people elect to view the world and life as a series of paired opposites-love and hate, birth and death, right and wrong. As Anne Lamott said, “it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality” (104). This quote summarizes the thoughts of the narrator in Margaret Atwood’s novel Surfacing. The narrator, whose name is never mentioned, must confront a past that she has tried desperately to ignore (7). She sees herself and the world around her as either the innocent victim or the victimizer, never both. Atwoods use of opposing characters and themes throughout the novel serves to support the narrators view of life as “black and white,” things that she can categorize as either a victim or a victimizer. Critical moments in the novel work to reverse the assumed roles and, for the narrator, only after her submerged memory has surfaced can she begin to see the possibility of life as more than a binary reality.

Anna plays the role of the classic submissive female married to David’s classic chauvinist male. “Wanting to remain attractive to her husband, Anna attempts to conform to the eroticized and commodified images of women promulgated in the mass culture” (Bouson 44). Although the novel is set during the 1970″s, the decade of one of the great feminist movements in our history, Anna remains a woman who maintains herself for her husbands benefit. In a critical scene in the novel, the narrator sees Anna applying makeup. When she (the narrator) tells her that it is unnecessary where they are Anna says “He doesn’t like to see me without it,” and then quickly adds, “He doesn’t know I wear it” (41).

To the narrator, Anna is a victim. Although she allows he…

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…l E. “Margaret Atwood and the Poetics of Duplicity.” The Art of Margaret Atwood. Ed. Arnold E. Davidson. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1981.

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird. New York: Doubleday. 1994.

Lecker, Robert. “Janus Through the Looking Glass: Atwood’s First Three Novels.” The Art of Margaret Atwood. Ed. Arnold E. Davidson. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1981.

Shepherd, Valerie. “Narrative Survival: The power of personal narration, discussed through the personal story-telling of fictional characters, particularly those created by Margaret Atwood.” Language and Communication. 15.4 (1995): 355-373.

Most of the novels characters can be classified as either a victim or a victimizer, but none more so than David and Anna. A classic submissive female, Anna maintains her marriage to David, the classic chauvinist male.

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