One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Clockwork Orange
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Published: Thu, 14 Dec 2017
In both Burgess and Kesey books we are hosted by characters that are rejected by society. Society which has impacted them so greatly, that it has caused them to make decisions that have affected the outcome of each of these brilliant novels. In the Clockwork Orange we are introduced to the character Alex. Alex in this novel can be viewed as the unreliable narrator, due to the fact that it is almost impossible to pick out what will be his next move in the novel, this creates an element of suspense. As we know the book is set in futuristic Britain and the way in which so called “Futuristic Britain” is laid out perhaps plays a big part in the behaviour of Alex. In One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey the narrator the Chief who is a half Indian man assumes the position of a half deaf, half dumb individual. Though his stance in the book shows his true position as through his eyes we see vividly what the other characters are like especially R.P McMurphy, we also throughout the book see him as a reliable narrator. Though we wonder when reading one who flew over the Cuckoo’s nest, if the narrator should off in fact been R.P Mc Murphy. I say this because the majority of the novel is about him and his time in the insane ward, though we can firmly understand why he would not be suitable narrator because he would feel empowered to control the flow of the narration. However in Chief Bromden’s case, he has not been lobotomized but freed and he is the one who tells the story of McMurphy and becomes an individual who we can trust to deliver the story accurately. The Chief tells us his story through memory and sometimes perhaps when he is sees a certain object he breaks down for example the fog. The Function of both narrators is to dictate the story and explore the faults in society. Through the psychological deterioration of McMurphy the Chief comments on how society has somewhat contributed to the downfall of R.P McMurphy.
When we are first introduced to Alex we automatically as readers dislike him for the fact that he participates in ultraviolent activities and conforms to way of living which consists of going to milk bar, getting drugged up and beating someone up. However when look at Alex’s we see an alternate view of society and somewhat we feel sympathetic about the way he behaves as he does not know any better, the writers in terms of both narrators forces the reader to consider what it would be like to live in their shoes of as well as highlighting the function each narrator holds. Based in an asylum in Oregon, One who flew over the Cuckoo’s nest uses the theme of Society’s destruction of humans, the main protagonist succumbs to the machine and the machine suppresses him and his uniqueness. Here we see the main function of Chief Broomden as the narrator, we learn one of the many horrible truths about this hospital; he reveals that the hospital has not only destroyed his life but his compassion as well. The knowledge that we learn from Chief Broomden shows the sad life that the inmates live and how the machine is slowly tearing their humanity from them. The Chief begins by telling us what the insane asylum is like and in the opening sentence we hear him saying, “Black boys commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them”. This quote you can use in order to compare to the lifestyle of the inmates, they are individuals who have no future and have been mopped up by society and discarded. However in relation to this quote we cannot really put our full trust in The Chief as he proves that his memory is perhaps a little disjointed and his recollection of events are not exactly true. However The Chiefs character plays an important part in the way we are portrayed the story as his stance as a deaf and dumb person has allowed him to eavesdrop conversations which provide a sense of accuracy when they are conveyed towards the readers. The Chiefs character plays on the theme of Invisibility, the Chief throughout the book is in the background though his assumption that there are so called “hidden machines” contributes to his paranoia. The quote, “I been silent so long now it’s gonna roar out of me like floodwaters and you think the guy telling this is ranting and raving my God; you think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But, please. It’s still hard for me to have clear mind thinking on it. But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen”. Is just an example of Chief Broomden mental state, this is taken from part one of One who flew over the cuckoo’s nest. Another example of the Chiefs character is where he is being taken in to be shaven he uses “Air raids” to describe what it feels like; however at this point from the story he has still not addressed the readers though the readers now have access to his thoughts. Kesey does this because he wants to get the readers familiar to the Chief and not discard the Chief just how society has discarded the Chief. In terms of the function of the narrator, one of Chief Broomden functions is to show what sort of hell patients of insane asylums go though just because they have been discarded by society. If we look at the last line of this quote we see Bromden’s hallucinations are not just insane hallucinations but they provide a metaphorical perspective. In terms of the of the quote the metaphorical perspective is the fact that Broomden throughout this story regains some of his humanity back, he still sees the gruelling everyday life of the insane asylum. Even though the Chief is liable to hallucinations we have to trust the Chief to deliver the story of R.P McMurphy due to the fact that the Chief is our messenger. The Chief also assumes that the patients are controlled, by tiny machines who tell them what to do from the inside. However when R.P McMurphy is around he shows the patients by smashing the glass window that even if we cannot see that we are being controlled, he makes them remember that Society and especially Mrs Ratched are manipulating them.
This occurs in the Clockwork Orange, as we see the story through the main protagonist Alex. Similarly in the Clockwork Orange Alex is subject to an experimentation which can also be interpreted as a way of tearing Alex’s humanity away from him. He is subjected to the “The Ludovico technique” which makes him feel ill by thought and the viewing of violence. This quote represents Alex’s lifestyle as he isn’t like our other fellow narrator the Chief, “The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence.” We can tell for this quote that Alex lives in a world were sex, drugs and violence dominate. With Alex the way he talks symbolizes the fact that he is immature. He unlike the Chief is consistently uses slang vocabulary throughout the novel, the type of language that Alex uses is nadsat. Nadsat representing the Russian influence and socialist views that are presented in Burgess’s Clockwork Orange. Burgess has cleverly implemented nadsat into this story as certain words have a hidden meaning. This in terms of our narrator provides a depth and deeper understanding of our main protagonist. For example in Alex’s case the fact that Alex nicknames egg (eggiweg) and milk (moloko) gives us the image of a small baby who cannot fully pronounce a word. However it is clear that both egg and milk represent birth and youth.
However the impact of Christ like figure in both novellas adds a religious aspect to the story. Both narrators acknowledge this, however in one who flew over the Cuckoo’s nest the Chief is more like the angel Gabriel and Mc Murphy is viewed more like Christ. In the Clockwork orange our narrator Alex can be interpreted as a Christ like figure. Alex in Clockwork orange serves two functions first as narrator and secondly as martyr figure. In terms of the martyr figure, Alex is seen to give who he is in order to conform to the system. The fact that Alex attempts to kill himself in the last part of the story shows how society can repress you that much that the only option is to take you own life. Alex’s narration is similar to that of Christ’s final three days, as we know from the bible Jesus dies, buried and comes back to life. This is similar to Alex, Alex is caught by the police, thrown in prison and “comes back to normal”. Also in part two Alex makes a few comparisons to that of Christ, “by turning the other cheek” after being hit in the face.
In relation to structure, when looking at “A Clockwork Orange” we can say that the novel is structured like that of a musical composition. The novel is structured in 3 parts, 7 chapters and each chapter conforms to an ABA pattern. When looking at part 1 we can see the similarity in part 3 as it mirrors each other. However part 2 is very different from both part 1 and 3. Both chapter 1 and 3 take are situated around Alex’s home or area, however part 2 is taking place when Alex is in prison. When looking at Part 1 we see Alex saying “What’s it going to be then, eh?”, the same question is asked by the Prison guard in Part 2. When looking at the structure of the plot we see that the plot itself contains inversions. For example if we look back at Part one we see that Alex preys on other characters, however if we look at Part 3 Alex is the one who is getting preyed upon. When comparing the structure of “A Clockwork Orange” to “One who flew over the cuckoo’s nest” we see that that the book is seen to be a work of social criticism. This meaning that this book in a sense can be viewed as record book, as throughout the novel us as the audience develop our knowledge on each of these characters. When looking at individual chapters in the book Chapters 12 to 14 stands out as both of them start and end up quickly. The reason for this is perhaps to show how our narrator Chief Bromden’s incoherent interpretation of the world around him. Our narrator throughout these two chapters in particular but also in most of the book presents only very short accounts of what is happening in the insane asylum. However when looking at Chief Broomden narrations in the relation to the structure he doesn’t focus on what is around him, for example when the character Old Rawler commits suicide the details provided by the Chief are not clear at all. The Chief hardly ever in the story goes into detail what is around him, only when the fog is around he goes into description about the fog and how it affects him and the other patients on the ward. Bromden then in Chapter 15 compares the so called “fog machine” that the mental institution apparently have to the fog that he witnessed during the War. The story spoken by the Chief suggests to us that perhaps the reason why the Chief does not describe what he sees in full is perhaps due to an incident that happened in the war.
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