Symbols and Symbolism in Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Symbols and Symbolism in Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Length: 520 words (1.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Symbolism in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Ken Kesey presents his masterpiece, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, with popular culture symbolism of the 1960s. This strategy helps paint a vivid picture in the reader's mind. Music and cartoons of the times are often referred to in the novel. These help to exaggerate the characters and the state of the mental institution.

Popular culture supplies the music which is used as a recurring theme in the novel. McMurphy dislikes the tape playing in the day room because it represents how the ward is run routinely and without change. McMurphy also uses music to obtain good relations with the patients. On his first morning in the hospital, McMurphy is heard singing several verses of "The Wagoner's Lad": "Hard livin's my pleasure, my money's my o-o-own, an' them that don't like me, they can leave me alone" (Kesey 93 ). In this scene, he sings to express his good spirits (Twayne). Later, in the hall, as one of the aides goes to talk to the angry Big Nurse, McMurphy whistles, with an illusion to the Globetrotters, "Sweet Georgia Brown" as " an amusing accompaniment to the aide's evasive shuffle" (Sherwood 399). After shocking Nurse Ratched with his whale shorts, he accompanies her retreat to the Nurses' Station with the song "The Roving Gambler" to establish his style, define his character, and show his indifference to policy: "She took me to her parlor, and coooo-ooled me with her fan'- I can hear the whack as he slaps his bare belly - whispered low in her mamma's ear, I lu-uhvve that gamblin' man" (Kesey 97).

The cartoon symbolism demonstrated in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest helps create dynamic features and traits in each character. Bromden indicates early that the ward is "Like a cartoon world, where the figures are flat and outlined in black, jerking through some kind of goofy story that might be real funny if it weren't for the cartoon figures being real guys..."( 31). Technicians in the hospital speak with voices that "are forced and too quick on the comeback to be real talk - more like cartoon comedy speech" (33). Kesey chooses to describe some of his characters as symbolic caricatures, and others as stock figures who outgrow their black outlines (Twayne). The Big Nurse remains a cartoon villain, funny in her excessive frustration and hateful in her manipulations towards the patients.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Symbols and Symbolism in Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." 28 Jan 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Essay

- Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey's use of symbolism in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest transforms the novel and the hospital within the novel a microcosm of society, a battle between the sane and insane, the conformist and the non-conformist. Randle McMurphy's arrival influenced the lives of almost every person, whether patient or employee. Whether or not his motives and actions were moral or good-hearted is difficult to conclude, however. On one hand, he undoubtedly saved the patients from losing their souls, so to speak, to Nurse Ratched and her ward....   [tags: Ken Kesey Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest Essays]

Research Papers
1163 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on Analysis of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

- Conformity has been the target of many works of literature even before Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye spewed angst about everyone around him being a “phony.” To many people, there are forces in the social order that shape others to fit a certain mold, and one who does not fit the mold will be considered an outcast by society. During the 1960’s, rebellion was a shared act among the majority, including authors and artists; this was due to the conflict in the East as well as the Civil Rights movement....   [tags: Social Issues, Insurgence, Conformity]

Research Papers
1082 words (3.1 pages)

Style and Setting in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Essay

- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest written by Ken Kesey in 1962. This novel is based on the experience Ken Kesey had during his time working in a mental institution as an orderly. Ken Kesey’s novel is a powerful critique of early 1960’s American society. The three main techniques that Kesey uses to create the Tragic form. In this novel Kesey has used the three main technique to create an inevitable conflict and outcomes that is similar to tragedy. The three main literary techniques that Ken Kesey uses are narrative structure, foreshadowing and symbolism....   [tags: literature, fiction, novel]

Research Papers
915 words (2.6 pages)

Ken Kesey 's One Flew Over The Cuckoo 's Nest Essay

- Since its first publication is 1962, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has endured both an extensive range and wide audience for criticism. Despite being published over 50 years ago, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has managed to maintain a firm readership due to its adjuration to both high and low literary audiences. While displaying a number of critical literary theories, this shows that Kesey’s novel remains open to a pop culture, yet at the same time provides sophisticated readers with a complex layer to dig beneath....   [tags: Literary criticism, Literary theory]

Research Papers
1240 words (3.5 pages)

Analysis Of John Kesey 's One Flew Over The Cuckoo 's Nest Essay

- ‘Compare the techniques that the authors of the two texts use to show disapproval of the society each presents.’ Ken Kesey and Arthur Miller illustrate an analytical opinion on their own society’s inconsistencies and inequality through their texts using various techniques inclusively symbolism, authorial voice, metaphors and points of view, which urges the reader to question their own society. Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a dramatic novel, which explores the confinements of a psychiatric ward in the 1950’s and the corruption within the system to express the discrimination and prejudice against individuals within the American society....   [tags: The Crucible, Salem witch trials]

Research Papers
1016 words (2.9 pages)

Metaphors of Society in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

- Metaphors of Society in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey's use of description and symbolism not only enhance the depth of the narrative, but they provide the reader with amazing insight into the character’s minds, hearts and souls. In fact, the characters themselves can be viewed as metaphors of society; not just the institution. R.P. McMurphy, for example represents the rebellious faction of society that was so loudly expressing itself during the sixties and seventies....   [tags: Reflective Observation]

Research Papers
757 words (2.2 pages)

Analysis Of ' The Blurry Truth ' Essay example

- The Blurry Truth Asylums hold the position of residency for all people that do not fit into the mold of “socially acceptable”. From birth one must abide by certain standards of dress and action in order to avoid a slot in the asylum of life. This set of guidelines impressed upon people by society at large does not frequently face challengers. Society prefers to reign without people astray—without people breaking out of their boxes. References to the structure of society are present in a large quantity of writing....   [tags: Randle McMurphy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest]

Research Papers
1382 words (3.9 pages)

Essay on Burning Issues in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

-   One of the central interpretations famously made in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is that of the division between 1950’s mainstream America and that of the emerging counter culture. The term ‘counterculture’ depicts cultural events and movements, mostly formed by the upcoming generation. This generation had grown up under the rule of conservative Governments and became restless and definite against the right wing governmental structure that had ruled with an iron fist. The formation of a ‘new wave’ culture incorporated all that was despised by mainstream society....   [tags: Literary Analysis ]

Research Papers
1344 words (3.8 pages)

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest Essay

- QUESTION Was Forman compelled to change the point of view in his adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. ANSWER Forman was compelled to change the point of view in adapting the book into a film. REASONING A. In the book Chief Bromden’s thoughts go from stark reality and understanding to dreams and visions which would be difficult for an audience to follow. B. The confusion created by the Chief’s switches from reality to fantasy is possible in literary form due to the amount of detail and analysis, which can be put down on paper....   [tags: essays research papers fc]

Free Essays
811 words (2.3 pages)

Inside the Cuckoo's Nest Essay

- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a film directed by Czech Milos Forman in 1975. Using potent elements of fiction--characters, conflict, and symbolism--Forman illustrates the counterculture of the 1960’s. This film depicts American society as an insane asylum that demands conformity from its citizens. The film begins with a conniving convict being assigned to the asylum. R. P. McMurphy is sent to the asylum to be evaluated by the doctors and to determine whether or not he is mentally ill. He is unaware that he will be supervised by an emasculating woman named Nurse Mildred Ratched who watches the patients’ every motion from her nurse’s station....   [tags: Film]

Research Papers
1351 words (3.9 pages)

Related Searches

She is never seen as a human; therefore she is never sympathized with.

In sharp contrast, McMurphy's character moves the opposite way. He goes from a caricature to credible, and finally, admirable human form. His status as a stock character of the west and defender of the weak ends at the ward party when Harding equates him with the Lone Ranger riding off into the sunset: "I'd like to stand there at the window with a silver bullet in my hand and ask Who wawz that'er masked man?'" (Kesey 295).

Popular culture symbolism provides a solid foundation for many of the characters and their actions in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. It also provides comic relief to the reader.
Return to