What are some historical events that can be related to Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?What are some historical events that can be related to Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It seems to me that Kesey's work is challenging the overall historical condition of the 1950s.  The fear of "the other" is something that manifests itself in different ways during the time period.  "The other" is defined as something opposite of the norm, the tendency of something to be non- conformist.  The result of this fear is to want to appropriate or control that which lies outside its domain.  For example, the 1950s fear of Communists did not present itself as a "live and let live" philosophy, but rather that the "threat" of Communism had to be "neutralized" or "eliminated."  Another example is seen in the parent/ child dynamic, one in which the former controls the latter.  The relationship between White society and Black society, for the most part, followed this same dynamic in that the former felt the need to control or subjugate the latter through social, legal, and political means.  In terms of how the 1950s viewed "the other," there was hostility evident and the desire to subjugate it.  Kesey constructs the relationship between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy in much the same way as the norm faced "the other" in the historical context of the novel.

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