Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Kesey has stated that his concerns in the novel were to portray “a man, a family, a town, a country, and a time”—a comment which indicates the ambitious scope of the work. His success in achieving this scope rests on his technical abilities as a novelist—in particular, on his splendid manipulation of point of view. Various first-person narrators and various third-person centers of consciousness, which brilliantly render the vernacular speech of the region, as well as an omniscient narrator whose voice varies from factually realistic to lyric, enable Kesey to create a community and its values while portraying the actions of complex characters.

The great independence of the wildcat gyppo—a logger who is paid not an hourly wage, but in direct proportion to the amount of work that he accomplishes, to the amount of logs he “rolls in” to the sawmill—is portrayed in the novel as a value which has developed from the difficult and dangerous demands of this profession, of this way of life. This value—with its roots in the traditional American heritage of self-reliance—is finally ambiguous, for the fierce individualism which it fosters often is in conflict with a competing value: the need for joint action to ensure survival for the members of the community. So on the one hand, Hank’s independent actions—his refusal to participate in the strike, his attempt to fulfill the conditions of his own private contract—represent the admirable virtue...

(The entire section is 481 words.)

Sometimes a Great Notion Themes

Like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), Sometimes a Great Notion examines the individual's battle against repressive...

(The entire section is 540 words.)