American Culture Counter Culture Response
Post WWII “Baby Boom”
Influx of Disillusioned
Rise of TV and FM Radio
Assassination of JFK
Persistence of Racism and
Challenging of censorship; innovation in art
Paranoia and Skepticism about Government
Civil Rights Activism and
Date rage significance? He was alive for:
Nuclear Bomb and end of WWII (1945)
Vietnam War (1955-1975)
Assassination of Kennedy (1963)
Assassination of Martin Luther King (1968) e.
First Man on Moon (1969)
Tumultuous period in American history greatly influenced his art
Imagine Living Through Events We Only
Read About In History Books!
B. Ken Kesey was profoundly affected by the rise of hallucinogenic drugs.
1. 1959, participates in government-sponsored experiments with people on LSD
2. Experiments took place in a Veteran’s hospital, with often shell-shocked and mentally unstable participants
3. Experiences in this project go on to inspire composition of
C. Ken Kesey hosted “acid tests” for friends with “Merry
1. Traveling parties that advocated use of LSD in San Fran area; eventually became common part of hippie scene
2. Kesey believed LSD taught men to think in new ways
LSD is a highly dangerous narcotic that can cause permanent psychosis from even a single use. Mental instability, schizophrenia, and detachment from reality are common effects!
D. Liberal, anti-government, pacifist to the end
E. Continued to experiment with LSD and journey with “Merry
Pranksters” even into his 60’s.
F. Profoundly affected by 9/11, and blamed U.S. militaristic conservative government
G. Died from complications related to a liver tumor
Kesey’s Goal: present social evils symbolically as mental institution and its staff
Kesey aimed to attack the “uniform, unimaginative, overly conditioned mentality of corporate America.”
Kesey hoped to criticize societal pressures that hinder individuality
D. Title comes from a nursery rhyme Chief Bromden recalls
Three geese in a flock
One flew East
One flew West
And one flew over the cuckoo's nest
Cuckoo’s Nest = asylum (which symbolizes society)
To “Fly Over” = escape/depart/differ from
IV. Cuckoo’s Nest in Canon of
Widely considered a classic, Cuckoo’s Nest is, like most literature, a response to the literature that came before it.
Think about the major works we have read so far this year:
America is like a river : it is alive, constantly changing.
America is like a valley of ashes : dead, lifeless, empty
America is like a crucible : a hot, painful test of integrity and honesty
America is like an insane asylum ; society traps, restricts, and condemns those who are different or unique.
Farm machine: removes grains from the chaff of wheat and other crops.
Harvests what it wants, throws away what doesn’t belong as waste.
Why do you think this device is the primary symbol of a Modernist/Postmodernist work?
V. Elements of
A. Disjointed, dreamlike writing style is characteristic of postmodern literature
B. McMurphy and Bromden modernist heroes who rebel against a symbolic society
C. Patients are stripped of their individuality