The 1950's as the "Cuckoo's Nest"

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The 1950’s as the “Cuckoo’s Nest”: Either way, everyone is beat The government of the 1950’s attempted to control, conform, and instill fear into the American people. They often succeeded. Of all the influential social movements of the twentieth century, the “Beat Movement” was prominent. Within the 1950’s, the men and women involved in the “Beat Movement” pushed to fight the conformity and rules that the government thrust upon the society of the era. In Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, we see a similar situation. Instead of a large group of people fighting an enormous government, we see a seemingly insignificant group of mentally ill patients. They are led by the protagonist Randall P. McMurphy and they struggle against the procedures and conformity of a small mental institution. Within this timeless classic, one can dig not too deeply and find all the makings of the controversial fifties. By analyzing the different characteristics of the book, one can see the parallels between the world of the 1950’s and the world within the ward. When introduced to the mental ward of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, it is very clear to see how it mirrors the society of the 1950’s. One is completely immersed into a world trying to accomplish “precision efficiency and tidiness” (Kesey 27). The walls are “white…polished clean as a refrigerator door” and the patients are put to work every morning “buffing the floor, emptying ash trays, and polishing scratch marks off the walls” (Kesey 29). The pressure to achieve perfection in appearance is similar to the government of the 1950’s push to make society seem flawless. The patients are men that have somewhat lost their status of manhood. The men are divided into two categories; one category is known as the Acutes, because the “doctors figure them still sick enough to be fixed” (Kesey 13). The other category is the
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