While working as a night attendant on the psychiatric ward of Menlo Park Veterans Hospital, Ken Kesey was stricken with an idea that would later turn into his first novel. That novel, entitled One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, went on to become his most famous work and a celebrated piece of modern American fiction (Lupack 566). One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest tells the story of a mental hospital which is running quite smoothly until a new patient enters the ward and sets chaos in motion. This new patient, McMurphy, disagrees with the rules of the ward’s authority figure, Nurse Ratched, and makes no attempt to hide it. Thus begins an all-out war between authority and the individual, leading to the suicides of several patients and even the eventual lobotomy and death of McMurphy himself when he crosses the final line (Kesey). In Ken Kesey’s novelOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest he employs the theme of sacrifice to reflect upon the counterculture struggle of the 1960s.
One way Kesey shows his theme of sacrifice is through the book's narrator, Chief Bromden. The Chief is a large, 6'8" Native American man who has been on the ward longer than anyone else but Nurse Ratched. He has gone through repeated electroshock therapy treatments to the extent of becoming deaf—or so everyone else thinks. In reality, he feigns deafness so that he will be left alone. The Chief explains this charade by saying, “ . . . it wasn't me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all” (Kesey 210). Bromden sacrifices his own ability for expression—his speech, his apparent ability to hear and comprehend—in order to live a "safe" life, sheltered from the Nurse and her orderlies by pass...
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