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

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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.
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