Operation of Ideology in Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Sima Farshid, Shima Lotfi

Abstract


Considering Louis Althusser’s inquiries into the function of ideology in sustaining power, the writers of this article discuss the operation of ideological and repressive apparatuses in the asylum Ken Kesey portrays in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962). The novel recounts the story of a group of people contained in an institution that is supposed to treat their allegedly mental problems, whereas under the facade of psychiatric treatment lies a ruthless controlling system whose major purpose is to turn the inmates into obedient, submissive “subjects”. The agents of the institution preserve the patients’ docility through strict rules besides the so-called mental therapy that actually results in more confusion in inmates who consequently lose their self-consciousness and self-confidence. But since every ideological system, besides inducing docile “subjects,” raises a sort of resistance among them, gradually resisting forces are formed in the asylum of the novel by the coming of a new inmate who defies the dominant ideology of the institution. By his jovial, life-affirming ideology, he breathes new life into others, makes them think and believe in themselves and trust each other, and thereby acts as a source of inspiration for several inmates, specially the Indian American narrator of the novel that subsequently challenges his schizophrenia, and finally, when his friend is shocked by electrical devices as the result of which he totally loses his consciousness, smashes the control panel of the ward to escape from that penitentiary. 


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International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies

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