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Technique as meaning : language, perception and time in "One flew over the cuckoo’s nest" and "Sometimes… Segal, Judith 1975

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TECHNIQUE AS MEANING: LANGUAGE, PERCEPTION AND TIME IN ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST AND' SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by J u d i t h Segal B.A., M c G l l l U n i v e r s i t y , 1969 A t h e s i s submitted i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements f o r the degree of Master of A r t s i n the Department of E n g l i s h We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the r e q u i r e d standard The U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia August, 1975 In presenting th i s thes is in pa r t i a l fu l f i lment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the Un ivers i ty of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the L ibrary sha l l make it f ree ly ava i l ab le for reference and study. I fur ther agree that permission for extensive copying of th i s thes is for scho lar ly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representat ives. It is understood that copying or publicati< of th is thes is for f i nanc ia l gain sha l l not be allowed without my wr i t ten permiss ion. i on Department of English The Univers i ty of B r i t i s h Columbia 2075 Wesbrook Place Vancouver, Canada V6T 1WS Date October 3, 1975 i i ABSTRACT Both One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion are e s s e n t i a l l y about c o n f l i c t , and the thematic r e s o l u t i o n of both novels i n v o l v e s the a f f i r m a t i o n of the d i g n i t y of the i n d i v i d u a l . While Kesey's theme i s not unusual, h i s method of a r t i c u l a t i n g theme i s worthy of study. C o n f l i c t i s acted out s t r u c t u r a l l y i n each t e x t . P o i n t of view i s the primary element to consider. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, there i s a s i n g l e f i r s t person n a r r a t o r who i s c l e a r l y p s y c h o t i c and only i n t u i t i v e l y r e l i a b l e . In Sometimes a Great Notion, there are a s e r i e s of f i r s t person n a r r a t o r s as w e l l as a t h i r d person n a r r a t o r and the c o n t r a d i c t i o n s i n accounts of events and thoughts throw the whole nature of t r u t h i n t o doubt. The novels focus our a t t e n t i o n on p e r c e p t i o n . A t t e n t i o n to p e r c e p t i o n c a r r i e s us to an awareness of the s t r u c t u r a l and contextual i m p l i c a t i o n s of language and time. Language shapes, records and transmits perceptions; time i s experienced as a s u b j e c t i v e phenomenon and i s t h e r e f o r e a f u n c t i o n of p e r c e p t i o n . Reading the novels i n terms of p e r c e p t i o n , language and time leads to a r e c o g n i t i o n of the complexity of Kesey's work and to a s e r i e s of conclusions about the i n t r i c a c y of the thematic patterns which Kesey forms. The q u a l i t y of c o n f l i c t i s such that there are never absolute winners or absolute l o s e r s ; rather there are moments of ambiguous v i c t o r i e s and defeats. Both novels endorse a v i s i o n of l i f e as a c y c l i c a l process and any k i n d of f i n a l i t y (except f o r the f i n a l i t y of death) i m p l i c i t l y becomes questionable. P e r c e p t i o n , language and time are themselves arenas f o r c o n f l i c t i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; but i n Sometimes a Great Notion, Kesey transcends open c o n f r o n t a t i o n i n these areas and goes on to explore i i i the f u r t h e r r a m i f i c a t i o n s of p e r c e p t i o n , language and time. The more su b t l e dynamics of Sometimes a Great Notion r e s u l t from the e v o l u t i o n of a r e a l union of method and meaning i n Kesey's w r i t i n g . In h i s f i r s t n o v e l , Kesey i s trapped by l i m i t a t i o n s of sequence, chronology and-p o i n t of view, and he w r i t e s through the c o n t r a d i c t i o n of conveying a c y c l i c a l v i s i o n i n a . l i n e a r form. His second novel i s more s o p h i s t i c a t e d and more i n t e g r a t e d . Sometimes a Great Notion i s s t r u c t u r a l l y , not j u s t t h e m a t i c a l l y , c y c l i c a l . Yet i n both n o v e l s , e i t h e r through c o n t r i v e d or n a t u r a l momentum, a sense of c y c l e s i s p r o j e c t e d . The theme of i n d i v i d u a l d i g n i t y i s r e i n f o r c e d by the p e c u l i a r s t r u c t u r a l c o n t o r t i o n s of each novel. . L i n e s give way to fragmentation or c i r c l e s g i v e way to c e n t r i f u g e and then to entropy, vbut i n each case, the r e s u l t i s the d i s p e r s i o n of c h a r a c t e r s . In both no v e l s , p r o t a g o n i s t s e i t h e r d i e or s p i n o f f , not even to an.ambiguous end, but to the next phase of an ambiguous process. In focusing on p e r c e p t i o n , language and time i n both novels, we are focusing u l t i m a t e l y on Kesey's concept of r e a l i t y as perpetual flow. i v TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . 1 CHAPTER I I : ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST 10 CHAPTER I I I : SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION 45 CHAPTER IV: CONCLUSION 87 BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 -1-CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION I d i d not go to Chuck Kesey's d a i r y farm to i n t e r r o g a t e brother Ken on the r e a l purpose and meaning of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. I r e s o l v e d to keep distance between t h i s paper and Kesey, the Merry P r a n k s t e r , the c u l t - h e r o of the 1960's, the f u g i t i v e f r om the law, the preacher of "Acid Graduation," the author of ,!The F r i e d Ice Cream Papers," the m i l k e r of cows. My concern i s not w i t h the Kesey mystique or the Kesey aura, but w i t h the Kesey novels. My approach to h i s t e x t s i s e s s e n t i a l l y "new c r i t i c a l " ; my premise i s that the novels speak f o r themselves, and eloquently. My p o i n t of departure i s the r e c o g n i t i o n that Kesey's themes are not remarkably new. Their attachment to c l a s s i c a l myth, to American myth, to comic book cosmology has prompted a s e r i e s of c r i t i c a l a r t i c l e s and 1 essays that t e s t i f y to t h e i r l a c k of newness. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s , on one l e v e l , a line-drawing of a microcosmic community. I t p i t s characters whom we are schooled to love against characters whom we are schooled to hate, and i t evolves a p l o t out of the i n e v i t a b l e b a t t l e s between them. The b a t t l e s produce no absolute winners and no absolute l o s e r s . Yet the novel d e l i n e a t e s moments of winning and moments of l o s i n g and a f f i r m s one v a l u e — t h e value of i n d i v i d u a l d i g n i t y . There are, to date, no complete books of Kesey c r i t i c i s m . Most of the e x i s t i n g c r i t i c a l essays are concerned w i t h One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and many of these tend to be r e d u c t i v e and even s i m p l i s t i c . The most i n s i g h t f u l c r i t i c a l pieces I have read are those of Tony Tanner i n C i t y of Words: American Fiction 1950-1970 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1971), and Raymond R. Olderman i n Beyond the Waste Land (New Haven: Yale U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1972). -2-Sometimes a Great Notion draws a more complex p i c t u r e of a more i n t r i c a t e l y dynamic s o c i e t y . I t p i t s three-dimensional characters against other three-dimensional characters and p i t s them against other f o r c e s and against themselves. C o n f l i c t i s the substance of the novel. Again, there are no absolute winners and no absolute l o s e r s , and again, there i s d e l i n e a t i o n of moments of winning and moments of l o s i n g and a f f i r m a t i o n of the value of i n d i v i d u a l d i g n i t y . Kesey's c e n t r a l theme and many of h i s i n s i g h t s are not new. But throughout h i s novels l i n g e r s the suggestion that Kesey knows t h a t , i f not nothing, then l i t t l e i s new under the sun. This knowledge permeates both novels and imparts to them another l a y e r of meaning. Images of c i r c l e s and c y c l e s recur i n the t e x t s and confirm the n o t i o n that newness i s an i l l u s i o n . The i m p l i c a t i o n i s that newness isn't the p o i n t of the novels, and that l a c k of newness is. As he n a r r a t e s One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Chief Broom reminds us t h a t , d e s p i t e the appearance of a sometimes equal s t r u g g l e between the i n d i v i d u a l and the Combine, the r e a l i t y i s the existence of a c y c l e which i s kept i n motion by the Combine and assures i t s v i c t o r y . The novel may c l o s e w i t h the escape of the characters we l o v e , but i t i s c l e a r that there w i l l be other p r o t a g o n i s t s i n ba t t l e s - yet to come, and we must wonder where our f r i e n d s escape to when they f l e e . Big Nurse w i l l "go on winning, j u s t l i k e the Combine . . . she don't l o s e on 2 her l o s s e s , but she wins on ours." So v i c t o r i e s f o r "our s i d e " can Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (New York: The V i k i n g P r e s s , 1962), p. 109. Further c i t a t i o n s w i l l be to t h i s e d i t i o n . -3-never be complete: they belong to a never-ending cycle. Moreover, the Combine extends i t s power beyond the ward. The mental hospital i s l i k e the point from which concentric c i r c l e s of malevolence emanate. The mark of the most brutalized victims of the Combine i s the purple c i r c l e s around t h e i r eyes, the soft scars of f r o n t a l lobotomy. The novel takes this fact and turns i t into a question: whence the rim of purple on Doctor Spivey's nose? Whence the purple under the eyes of the workers on the f i s h i n g dock? The cycle dictates that while inmates may escape, the Combine w i l l p r e v a i l ; while Broom may be free and his friends too, McMurphy i s dead and Miss Ratched's time w i l l come around again. Out near the Wakonda Auga River, i n the setting of Sometimes a Great Notion, the Combine i s less v i s i b l e , the battles are less s i m p l i s t i c and the cycles are of a different order and even more pronounced. Cycles of nature and human l i f e take over the content of the novel, while cycles of time take over the structure. The nature of cycles defies newness, and defies purity of beginnings and endings, v i c t o r i e s and defeats. Cycles just keep spinning. In both novels, characters either spin th e i r way to death (as Cheswick, Bibbit and McMurphy do i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; as Joe Ben and Henry do i n Sometimes a Great Notion) or remain to spin o f f , not even to an ambiguous end, but to the next phase of an ambiguous, c y c l i c a l process. If themes are not new, i f lack of newness even s t r u c t u r a l l y informs the novels, then what can be said (that i s new) about Kesey's work? The answer i s i m p l i c i t i n the question: we may examine the relationship -4-between what Kesey says and the way i n which he says i t . The r e l a t i o n s h i p between meaning and form operates not only i n a negative sense (that i s , i n l a c k of newness a r t i c u l a t e d i n c y c l i c a l p a t t e r n s ) , but a l s o i n a p o s i t i v e sense: the c e n t r a l theme of the n o v e l s — t h e theme of the primacy of i n d i v i d u a l d i g n i t y — i s g iven through, and underlined by, technique. Technique as meaning i s manifested on three l e v e l s and i n three arenas i n the novels. These are: - perception ( i n c l u d i n g ways of p e r c e i v i n g , p o i n t of view, and i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of what i s p e r c e i v e d ) , - language ( i n c l u d i n g i n t e r n a l , o r a l , w r i t t e n and non-verbal e x p r e s s i o n ) , and - time ( i n c l u d i n g i n d i v i d u a l . r e l a t i o n s h i p s to h i s t o r y , sequence and pace). These three m a n i f e s t a t i o n s of technique as meaning are not a r b i t r a r i l y chosen. Rather, they emerge, interconnected, from a c l o s e reading of the t e x t s . The i n t e r p l a y among them evokes a f u r t h e r dimension of theme i n the n o v e l s , and b r i n g s f o r t h the acknowledgement that r e a l i t y i s not a constant, but a. moveable base. Pe r c e p t i o n i s i n v o l v e d w i t h the s u b j e c t i v e experience of time, and language i s the medium through . which perceptions and i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of r e a l i t y are shaped and recorded. In the next two chapters, I w i l l be e x p l o r i n g the i m p l i c a t i o n s of p e r c e p t i o n , language and time as they p e r t a i n to meaning i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. The three elements that w i l l be under d i s c u s s i o n are c e n t r a l to both novels, but they f u n c t i o n d i f f e r e n t l y , and are t r e a t e d from d i f f e r e n t p e r s p e c t i v e s i n each. -5-One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest treats perception, language and time as arenas for conflict. The novel establishes that there are contrary ways of perceiving, of communicating and of relating to time. And the personal choices or predispositions which determine these ways of experiencing and sharing the universe serve to define people and subsequently separate or join them. As perception, language and time become (sometimes subliminal) centres of conflict in the novel, we learn where Kesey's allegiances are: he describes variations and he judges what he describes. Sometimes a Great Notion carries perception, language and time to another level of meaning in order to attend to another level of conflict. It presupposes indigenous discrepancies in a l l of these areas, begins from the point at which battles have either been resolved or transcended, and goes on to raise a different set of questions. Even i f every character receives the world through the same senses, how are perceptions evaluated or brought to represent a common reality? Even i f every character uses the same language system* or even i f disparities exist but are obvious and acceptable, what is the truth or purpose of any form of communication? Even i f every character agrees that time is a subjective phenomenon, how does each find his/her place in the temporal world? The different meanings of perception, language and time in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion determine the order in which these elements are dealt with in the ensuing chapters of this paper. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is characterized by conflict in three interrelated arenas. Conflict in language systems is effectively the most dramatic of the three, and an understanding of conflict in -6-languages provides a working base for an understanding of c o n f l i c t i n modes of perception and relationships to time. Time i s necessarily the la s t element to be discussed because i t i s approached as a function of perception. The same method of organization i s untenable i n writing about Sometimes a Great Notion. The novel i s gargantuan and a n t i - l i n e a r and dictates i t s own p r i o r i t i e s . An understanding of the complexity of a l l that i s meant by "perception" i s a precondition to an understanding of the novel as a whole. The chapter on Sometimes a Great Notion therefore begins with a comprehensive analysis of the myriad implications of perception, and moves from there to a more s p e c i f i c treatment of perception, language and time as they define themselves i n the novel and as they compare to, and move beyond, t h e i r respective meanings i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The discussion of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest precedes the discussion of Sometimes a Great Notion. The ordering of chapters i s not based solely, on chronology (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was published i n 1962 and Sometimes a Great Notion was published i n 1964), but on the b e l i e f that an interpretation of the f i r s t novel establishes the frames of reference for an interpretation of the second novel. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest draws attention to perception, language and time; i t points to them, indicates the i r thematic importance through technique. Sometimes a Great Notion complicates and actualizes the precepts which One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest indicates. The f i r s t novel points to variations i n language systems; the second novel moves f l u i d l y among a -7-multitude of languages. The f i r s t novel points to variations i n modes of perception; the second novel i s organized as a montage of c o n f l i c t i n g perceptions. The f i r s t novel points to variations i n methods of r e l a t i n g to time; the second novel s h i f t s between time sequences with regular i r r e g u l a r i t y . One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest prepares us for reading Sometimes a Great Notion by drawing attention to those elements which act together to form the whole meaning of the second novel. This process of preparation i s especially interesting with respect to the manipulation of time i n the novels. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey reveals a certain contradiction i n relationship to time. The novel thematically supports a non-linear model of experiencing time; yet Kesey seems trapped by the li n e a r nature of print and i n d i r e c t l y undercuts his professed sense of time by creating a novel that i s b a s i c a l l y l i n e a r i n form. He focuses on one consciousness and that consciousness adheres to plot line. He uses flashbacks, but these tend to be regressions on a single temporal plane. Kesey resolves the contradiction when he writes Sometimes a Great Notion. Using a m u l t i p l i c i t y of perspectives, he controls his narrative so we l l that he fosters the impression that he i s exerting no control at a l l . As we enter each narrator's mind, we are absorbed into that narrator's relationship to time, and so we are shuttled between a long series of nows and a longer series of thens i n an unpredictable temporal flow. Kesey breaks further from the constraints of li n e a r reporting by reminding us sporadically of the simultaneous nature of experience. Encounter, by d e f i n i t i o n , implicates more than one person, and each moment i n time - 8 -i s e x p e r i e n c e d b y e v e r y c h a r a c t e r i n t h e n o v e l . No l o n g e r c o n s t r i c t e d b y t h e a p p a r e n t l i m i t a t i o n s o f l i n e a r p r o g r e s s i o n , K e s e y d e v e l o p s a f o r m t h a t more a c c u r a t e l y b e s p e a k s t h e m e . K e s e y ' s t h i r d m a j o r p u b l i c a t i o n c a r r i e s t h e p r o c e s s b e g u n i n Sometimes a Great Notion t o i t s l o g i c a l e x t r e m e . L i n e a r i t y i s r e n o u n c e d i n p r i n c i p l e , a n d p r i n t i s t h r o w n i n t o r e l i e f . Kesey's Garage Sale i s a c o n g l o m e r a t i o n o f a r t i c l e s , l e t t e r s , i n t e r v i e w s a n d a d v e r t i s e m e n t s , a n d e v e n i n c l u d e s a f u l l - l e n g t h p l a y . The b o o k i s r e p l e t e w i t h i l l u s t r a t i o n s a n d g r a p h i c s w h i c h a r e i n t e r s p e r s e d t h r o u g h t h e w r i t i n g , l a i d o v e r , u n d e r a n d a r o u n d t h e p r i n t e d w o r d s . T h e o s t e n s i b l e e d i t o r o f Kesey's Garage Sale a p p e a r s i n t e r m i t t e n t l y t h r o u g h t h e t e x t , g u i d i n g a n d g r o u n d i n g t h e r e a d e r , p r e t e n d i n g t o p r e t e n d n o t h i n g ( a n d e v e r y t h i n g ) . The r e s u l t i s a b o o k l i k e p u r e p r o c e s s , b o u n d b y i t s c o v e r s a n d n o t b y a n y s e n s e o f b e i n g a c o h e s i v e p r o d u c t . Kesey's Garage Sale was p u b l i s h e d i n 1 9 7 3 . I m e n t i o n i t h e r e b e c a u s e i t r e p r e s e n t s t h e e x t e n s i o n o f t h e p r o c e s s t h r o u g h w h i c h t h e w r i t i n g o f n o v e l s f i n a l l y became an a n o m a l y f o r K e s e y . I n 1 9 6 6 , a f t e r t h e p u b l i c a t i o n o f One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest a n d Sometimes a Great Notion, K e s e y a n n o u n c e d t h a t h e d i d n o t i n t e n d t o do a n y more w r i t i n g : " I ' d r a t h e r b e a l i g h t n i n g r o d t h a n a s e i s m o g r a p h , " h e s a i d . K e s e y ' s l i g h t n i n g r o d s t a t u s , b o l s t e r e d b y e v e r y t h i n g f r o m h i s d a y s a s a M e r r y P r a n k s t e r t o h i s r e t u r n - t o - t h e - d a i r y - f a r m , h a s made h i m n o t o r i o u s . H i s a t t e m p t s t o c o m b i n e h i s l i g h t n i n g r o d i d e n t i t y w i t h h i s s e i s m o g r a p h i c t a l e n t h a v e p r o d u c e d s u c h i n t e r e s t i n g a n d s u c h u n s p e c t a c u l a r p i e c e s a s Tom W o l f e , The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (New Y o r k : F a r r a r , S t r a u s a n d G i r o u x , 1 9 6 8 ) , p . 1 0 . -9-Kesey's Garage Sale and contributions to Rolling Stone Magazine and The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalogue. But I end t h i s beginning with a t r i b u t e to the art and c r a f t of Kesey's pure seismography and proceed now to examine his novels. -10-CHAPTER I I ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest explores the perceptions of a p s y c h o t i c n a r r a t o r to r e c r e a t e , i n new f i c t i o n a l . p e r s p e c t i v e , the time-honoured s t r u g g l e between the i n d i v i d u a l and the e s t a b l i s h e d power s t r u c t u r e . Kesey's v e r s i o n of the s t r u g g l e i s p a r t i c u l a r l y American and p a r t i c u l a r l y contemporary. Randle P a t r i c k McMurphy i s a descendent of Natty Bumppo—rrugged, r e s i l i e n t , r e s o l v e d , and shadowed on one s i d e by h i s own "good In d i a n . " He f i g h t s a power s t r u c t u r e that has a l l the technology of the 1960's i n i t s a r s e n a l . One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s a novel about c o n f l i c t . McMurphy i s the c e n t r a l p r o t a g o n i s t , described by Chief Broom as a man who would not " l e t the Combine m i l l him i n t o f i t t i n g where they wanted him to f i t " (153), "a gi a n t come out of the sky to save us from the Combine" (255). Miss Ratched i s the c e n t r a l a n t a g o n i s t , thus named p a r t l y because she i s so p e r s o n a l l y adept at p e r p e t r a t i n g a t r o c i t i e s on the ward, and p a r t l y because she i s an agent of the Establishment, w i t h " a l l the power of the Combine behind her" (109). The thematic d i r e c t i o n which combat takes i n the novel i s toward the a f f i r m a t i o n of i n d i v i d u a l d i g n i t y . A man without d i g n i t y i s not a man, but a r a b b i t : t h i s i s proclaimed. A man who i s separated from h i s d i g n i t y (as McMurphy - I l -l s s u r g i c a l l y separated from his) i s a good subject for righteous euthanasia. Within t h i s thematic context, McMurphy emerges as both a winner and a loser i n h i s b a t t l e with Big Nurse. His act of transforming the ward rabbits into men constitutes a major v i c t o r y . His defeat by the machinery of the Combine i s mitigated, rather than confirmed, by his death. Because the b a t t l e on Miss Ratched's ward i s framed i n hyperboles, because the people who engage i n c o n f l i c t are so black or so white (grey people i n the novel—Doctor Spivey, the nurse on the Disturbed Ward—are emphatically i n e f f e c t u a l ) , i t i s tempting to see the dramatic action i n the novel as allegory, and the characters i n c o n f l i c t as stock figu r e s . In f a c t , the novel i s more sophisticated and i n t r i c a t e than i t may at f i r s t appear to be. For even i f we look at the e x i s t i n g l e v e l s of allegory i n the text, we f i n d that there are so many a l l e g o r i c a l patterns operating simultaneously that s i m p l i c i t y gives way to complexity by v i r t u e of sheer laye r i n g . The novel seems to manipulate mythologies, tossing about a l l u s i o n s that allow the reader to grab on to workable r u b r i c s . Every reduction of the text has i t s own t r u t h . Yet any reading of the novel that i s bound by reference to a s i n g l e mythology i s too narrow; any reading that attaches importance to contextual connections, while ignoring technique, i s inadequate. Before discussing technique as meaning i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, we may take a look at some of the possible reductive i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of the text. Each of these has some v a l i d i t y , but each alone i s i n s u f f i c i e n t . These i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s should not be discarded, but aggregated and subsumed i n a more s t r u c t u r a l approach to the novel. -12-One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has many of the components of a medieval morality play, only modified to conform to the quality of struggle popularized through the t e l e v i s i o n Western and the comic book s e r i a l . McMurphy i s Good; Big Nurse i s E v i l . The other characters are the ( i r o n i c a l l y ) non-committed, who must be claimed by one side or the other by the end of the Romance. That i s , the inmates on the ward constitute the Everyrabbit figure, o s c i l l a t i n g between false complacency and t e r r i f y i n g insubordination. As the personification of Good, McMurphy i s compared to the Lone Ranger. Harding confesses that he wants to r o l l a s i l v e r b u l l e t along his palm and watch the Great One ride off when his deed of salvation i s done—watch him and say, "Who wawz that'er masked man?" (295). McMurphy i s also compared to Captain Marvel, archetypal hero of comic book lore who moves, unscathed, through a "cartoon world, where the figures are f l a t and outlined i n black" (31). The novel supplies and supports p a r a l l e l s to t h i s kind of myth. McMurphy i s presented as a composite hero and Big Nurse as a composite v i l l a i n . The ward i s portrayed as a microcosm, and not even a covert microcosm. Doctor Spivey describes his work-nest as a " l i t t l e world Inside that i s a made-to-scale prototype of the big world Outside" (47). Yet we should not take hold of the clues which Kesey drops so casually, and say of the novel, Colonel Matterson s t y l e , "The novel i s . . . the TV Western. The novel i s . . . the comic book." Despite the fact that such c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s work, they represent an underestimation of the complexity of the text. -13-The novel f u n c t i o n s on another l e v e l of meaning as w e l l : i t cogently s u s t a i n s a C h r i s t a l l e g o r y . We are t o l d that the EST t a b l e i s shaped l i k e a cross. McMurphy submits himself to s a c r i f i c e by wires and e l e c t r o d e s , i n t o n i n g , "Anointest my head w i t h conductant. Do I get a crown of thorns?" (270). Big Mack leads h i s twelve d i s c i p l e s to the water and gives them stre n g t h . He f i n a l l y dies f o r t h e i r s i n s . McMurphy's gospel i s c a r r i e d forward by Saint Broom; the book i n our hands i s the b i b l e . The m i r a c l e - h e a l e r l i b e r a t e s the v o i c e of a preacher i n order that h i s " t r u t h " may be c a r r i e d to the oppressed masses, the psycho-rproles of the Combine. The C h r i s t parable i s so obvious that i t suggest parody. We must recognize that the analogy e x i s t s ; but i t i s i r r e s p o n s i b l e f o r us as readers to r i f l e through the pages of the n o v e l , searching out c l u e s , construing patterns., " j e r k i n g " from s i g n i f i c a n t page to s i g n i f i c a n t page, l e a v i n g out everything i n between. Kesey e x p l o i t s many myths.at once, bending, f o l d i n g and.mutilating them.for.his own purposes. McMurphy i s Natty Bumppo; McMurphy i s the Lone Ranger; McMurphy i s Captain Marvel; McMurphy i s C h r i s t ; McMurphy i s the G r a i l Knight, come to r e s t o r e the F i s h e r King ("fisher i n j u n " ) and 4 b r i n g r a i n to the Waste Land. .McMurphy i s , a c t u a l l y , the embodiment of elements of a l l these m y t h i c a l heroes, and he i s more than the sum of them and he i s much l e s s . McMurphy i s brought, i n t o a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h men of g l o r y and d i s t i n c t i o n because, fundamentally, h i s r o l e i n the novel i s t o . l i v e and d i e i n the name of i n d i v i d u a l d i g n i t y . He must e i t h e r be i t or t r a n s f u s e i t i n t o For an i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of McMurphy as G r a i l Knight, see Olderman, pp. 35-50. -14-the rabbit-men who queue up behind him to catch and r e f l e c t some of his radiance. But the fac t i s that i n d i v i d u a l d i g n i t y i s not affirmed i n the novel through triumph of the hero, defeat of the Combine, or even the storming of a path to freedom. Individual d i g n i t y i s rather affirmed i m p l i c i t l y through the evolution of characters as they i n s t i g a t e terminal revolution on the ward. Kesey's novel i s more complex and ambiguous than i t seems. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s episodic. Its p l o t i s pasted together as a serie s of b a t t l e s . The confrontations that comprise the action of the novel are b a t t l e s and rounds i n a war that w i l l never be won or l o s t . The Combine cannot be annihilated and the war won because the Combine i s an indefatigable mega-force, defying destruction. And somehow, the war can never be l o s t e i t h e r — s i m p l y because i t w i l l never end. The suggestion throughout the novel that the Combine extends i t s power f a r i n every d i r e c t i o n i n s p i r e s the fear that escaping from the Combine i s as hopeless as defeating i t . The novel concludes with the escape of Broom and some of h i s comrades; but escape i s q u a l i f i e d as being a moment, j u s t as McMurphy's conquests over Big Nurse are q u a l i f i e d as being a c o l l e c t i o n of moments of v i c t o r y . One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest makes i t c l e a r only that moments are precious and b a t t l e s must be fought, because l i v i n g i s a matter of dealing with di g n i t y i n transient r e a l i t i e s , while time i s i n f i n i t e and so i s the war. The ambiguity of the conclusion (and the beginning and the middle) of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s only one facet of the unknowable i n the novel. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s narrated by a "cagey" Indian who i s s u s c e p t i b l e to paranoid delusions and h a l l u c i n a t o r y v i s i o n s . The novel, allows us as readers to become i n t u i t i v e l y attuned to Broom's perc e p t i o n s , to make adjustments as we go to compensate f o r our n a r r a t o r ' s obvious.psychosis. This means that we may not b e l i e v e i n the e m p i r i c a l existence of the fog machine, but we do grasp the metaphorical r a m i f i c a t i o n s of Broom's acceptance of i t . We may not b e l i e v e that Big Nurse communicates w i t h her aides through ultra-high—frequency message systems, but we do t r u s t that b l a c k misanthropes i n white uniforms converge on. the ward d a i l y to do Miss Ratched's b i d d i n g . In f a c t , we do not always know what to b e l i e v e ; but as we penetrate the n o v e l , we begin to r e l y on our own s e n s i b i l i t i e s to make l e g i t i m a t e judgments. And, i n a sense, we are i n the same p o s i t i o n w i t h respect to u n r a v e l l i n g r e a l i t y as the Chief i s . We simply have more evidence to work with (because we are not crazy), and l e s s evidence to work w i t h (because we know only what our n a r r a t o r t e l l s u s ) . Chief Broom says, at one p o i n t , scanning the pages of a textbook, that, "drawings and equations and t h e o r i e s [are] hard, sure, safe t h i n g s " (171) • The implication.^ a f o r the Chief and f o r the reader, i s that nothing e l s e i s c e r t a i n . Broom puts a d i s c l a i m e r at the beginning of h i s s t o r y , . s a y i n g that what he i s about to recount i s "the t r u t h even i f i t didn't happen" ( 8 ) . His statement becomes more than a d i s c l a i m e r as we experience the n o v e l : i t becomes pa r t of a r e a l i z a t i o n that there i s no c l e a r r e l a t i o n s h i p between f a c t and t r u t h . And as we read the n o v e l , we are continuously thrown back to our i n t u i t i o n s and i n s t i n c t s , e x e r c i s i n g our o p t i o n to f e e l Broom's r e p o r t i n g as true or as f a l s e . -16-One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s complex because i t s hero i s a composition of myths, because i t focuses on a phase i n a c y c l i c a l process, because i t documents b a t t l e s that occur i r r e s p e c t i v e of the f u t i l i t y of the war, because i t o f f e r s no winners, no l o s e r s , no f a c t u a l base, no f i c t i o n a l sanctuary. Of course, the novel i s impossible to l a b e l . We would l i k e to c a l l i t comedy, and see B i l l y B i b b i t ' s deflowering party as a k i n d of Dionysian f e a s t , and the death embrace of McMurphy and Broom as a kin d of b i z a r r e marriage i n a perverse comic v i s i o n . Or we would l i k e to c a l l the novel tragedy, and see the death of the l a r g e r - t h a n - l i f e hero preceded by a general a c q u i s i t i o n of knowledge. But we cannot say the novel i s comic or t r a g i c — b e c a u s e i t has a c o n c l u s i o n , but not a r e a l ending. The b a t t l e s fought are p a r t of a c y c l e . The novel i t s e l f i s a m a g n i f i c a t i o n of a moment i n a greater s t r u g g l e ; and i t refuses to be comic and i t refuses not to be comic; i t refuses to " l e t the humor b l o t out the p a i n " or "the p a i n b l o t out the humor" (238). I introduced t h i s paper by saying that Kesey's themes were not p a r t i c u l a r l y new. And i t i s perhaps because i t s themes are so o l d that One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s so amenable to r e d u c t i v e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s . The l a s t s e v e r a l pages have h o p e f u l l y exploded the no t i o n that Kesey's no v e l can be t r e a t e d i n gross thematic terms and diminished t o , or schematized i n , a l l e g o r y or myth. The r e a l o r i g i n a l i t y the novel c o n s i s t s i n i t s ambiguity and i n the f a c t that i t s b a t t l e s are e l u c i d a t e d on the l e v e l of technique. The newness of the b a t t l e s i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s that they take place i n the arenas of language, p e r c e p t i o n and time. To study c o n f l i c t i n terms of t h i s -17-s t r u c t u r a l t r i n i t y i s to r e v e a l the s o p h i s t i c a t i o n and i n t r i c a c y of Kesey's f i r s t novel. Language, per c e p t i o n and time operate simultaneously, connect v a r i o u s l y , and act together to shape One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Language (both v e r b a l and non-verbal) i s cause and e f f e c t of pe r c e p t i o n . Each charact er i n the novel becomes i d e n t i f i e d w i t h h i s / h e r own language system. And each system at once expresses and d i c t a t e s how that character perceives r e a l i t y . So there i s no one r e a l i t y described i n the n o v e l , but a s e r i e s of c o n f l i c t i n g r e a l i t i e s , a r t i c u l a t e d through technique. Time, l i k e language, i s a f u n c t i o n of perception. The characters i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest perceive time s u b j e c t i v e l y . B i g Nurse imposes c l o c k time on the ward, and her watch i s understood to be a piece of machinery, p a r t of the weaponry of the Combine; i t i s a metaphor f o r e f f i c i e n c y and a ta r g e t i n the s t r u g g l e . A d i s c u s s i o n of c o n f l i c t i n g perceptions of time i n the novel w i l l l e a d to an observation of Kesey's own manipulation of time and pace: an observation of Kesey as choreographer i n p r i n t . L e s l i e F i e d l e r has noted that Kesey's second n o v e l , Sometimes a Great Notion, has the q u a l i t i e s of a f i r s t work and may, i n f a c t , have been w r i t t e n b e f o r e , and only published a f t e r , One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.^ An examination of Kesey's use of time i n both novels w i l l r e v e a l that F i e d l e r ' s c l a i m i s wrong. As we study the novels i n t u r n , we w i l l see a progression i n technique that i s , by extens i o n , a progression i n meaning. Language, p e r c e p t i o n and time are a l l arenas f o r c o n f l i c t i n One Flew L e s l i e A. F i e d l e r , The Return of the Vanishing American (New York: S t e i n and Day, 1968), p. 183. -18-Over the Cuckoo's Nest. C o n f l i c t i n language systems i s probably the most apparent of the three. Each language system i n the novel i s d i s c r e t e , and each i s c a r e f u l l y reproduced by Chief Broom. The novel i m p l i c i t l y renders h i s r e p l i c a t i o n , and even h i s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n , of languages as tr u e . When Broom focuses a t t e n t i o n on v i s u a l cues, he almost admittedly d i s t o r t s : he may under-see, over-see, mis^see, not see. But Broom hears w i t h more-than-sane s e n s i t i v i t y . I f ever he i s not completely accurate, i t i s because he goes beyond simple accuracy toward accurate i n s i g h t . I t i s i r o n i c that the Chief pretends to be deaf: he becomes the b l i n d seer of the world of sound. Through Chief Broom, we l e a r n that each character i n h a b i t s h i s / h e r own l i n g u i s t i c universe. And as the ward i s d i v i d e d i n t o Chronics and Acutes, language systems are d i v i d e d i n t o "Chronic" and "Acute" p a t t e r n s . The Chronics (those that s t i l l speak) do not use complex s t y l e s of disc o u r s e . Rather, they are i d e n t i f i e d by t h e i r r e f r a i n s . The r e f r a i n s are more or l e s s l i k e Dickensian signatures and, i n memory, they become interchangeable w i t h the characters they represent. But each r e f r a i n s u c c i n c t l y r e f l e c t s a v i s i o n of r e a l i t y . We hear Ruckley p e r p e t u a l l y chanting, " F f f f u c k da w i f e . " We hear B a n c i n i i n t e r m i t t e n t l y p r o v i d i n g a chorus of "I'm awful t i r e d . " We hear the h i e r o g l y p h i c mutterings of Colonel Matterson, who a l t e r s the content, but never the form, of what he says: "The f l a g i s . . . Ah-mer-ica. America i s . . . the plum. The cross i s . . . Mex-i-co. Mexico i s . . . the wal-nut." Rub-a-dub George appears as one of the more d i v e r s i f i e d of the Chronics, but h i s message seldom v a r i e s : "I'm d i r t y , he's d i r t y , i t ' s d i r t y . . . " — a conjugation of f i l t h . -19-One of the extraordinary aspects of Chief Broom's narration i s that he can feel what each refrain means; His eyes may deceive him when he tries to see through them, but when he hears through his eyes, they are i n f a l l i b l e : "Yes, I see: Mexico is like the walnut; i t ' s brown and hard and you feel i t with your eye and i t feels like the walnut" (129). Discussing Bancini, the Chief explains, "He t e l l s me once about how tired he i s , and just his saying i t makes me see his whole l i f e on the railroad" (130). Through the medium of Chief Broom, the cacophony of voices in the novel becomes separated out into meaningful, albeit cryptic, messages: "It's lik e each face was a sign like one of those 'I'm blind' signs . . . only these signs say 'I'm tired' or 'I'm scared' or 'I'm dying of a bum l i v e r ' or 'I'm a l l bound up with machinery and people pushing me a l i a time.' I can read a l l the signs, i t don't make any difference how l i t t l e the print gets" (131). Broom is no less astute when reproducing the languages of the Acutes. B i l l y Bibbit is identified with his stutter, and Cheswick with his protestations. Harding's flowery language is waved around like his delicate white hands. We know them by the way they speak, and their speech patterns are more important than what they say. We know that Billy's night with Candy in the Seclusion Room has made him strong, not because of what he says, but because he says i t without stuttering. We know that Cheswick is ready to die before we know that he has drowned—we know i t when he stops protesting: "I want something done! Something! Something! Some--." His language dies on page 164 and Cheswick dies on page 166. We know by the end of the novel that Harding is ready to leave the ward, not because the plot has turned in his -20-favour, but because when McMurphy asks him to e x p l a i n what i t i s t h a t happens, Harding shakes h i s head and says, " I don't t h i n k I can give you an answer. Oh, I could give you Freudian reasons w i t h fancy t a l k . . . but what you want are the reasons f o r the reasons, and I'm not able to give you those" (294). In the Tower of Babel that i s the n o v e l , the ward i t s e l f becomes a character w i t h a language of i t s own. Ward language i s comprised of i n s t i t u t i o n a l terminology and p s y c h i a t r i c jargon. I t i s a language that McMurphy i s taught through the course of the novel. His fl u e n c y w i t h the language becomes a measuring device t h a t i n d i c a t e s h i s s t a t e of immersion i n ward p o l i t i c s . Phrases l i k e "Therapeutic Community," "ward p o l i c y , " "Order D a i l y Cards" and "Up to Disturbed" are a l l part of the i n s t i t u t i o n a l language of the ward. Word chains l i k e " P o t e n t i a l A s s a u l t i v e , " "Negative Oedipal" and "Latent Homosexual w i t h Reaction Formation" belong to the l e x i c o n of the p s y c h i a t r i s t s who whisper diagnoses behind closed doors. "EST" and " f r o n t a l lobe c a s t r a t i o n " are the l o c a l p r o f a n i t i e s . When he i s f i r s t l e a r n i n g the language of the ward, McMurphy must be i n s t r u c t e d c a r e f u l l y . A f t e r a few days i n the h o s p i t a l , he i s moved to brush h i s t e e t h o f f schedule and f i n d s out that the toothpaste i s kept locked up. He i s advised: " I t ' s ward p o l i c y , Mr. McMurphy, tha's the reason. . . . What you s'pose i t ' d be l i k e i f evahbody was to brush t h e i r t e e t h whenever they took a n o t i o n to brush?" (90). But he learns q u i c k l y . S h o r t l y a f t e r , when he generously o f f e r s to p i l f e r some food f o r an aide and f i n d s out that " i t a i n ' t allowed f o r the help to eat w i t h the p a t i e n t s , " McMurphy ingenuously r e t o r t s , "Against ward p o l i c y ? " — -21-"Tha's r i g h t " (99). E a r l y i n h i s stay on the ward, McMurphy i s exposed to mention of the "Shock Shop" ("jargon f o r the EST machine"), and he informs us, "Damn i t . . . I'm not up on t h i s t a l k " (66). A few weeks of i n t e n s i v e i n s t r u c t i o n leave McMurphy knowing t h a t EST i s " e l e c t r i c i t y through the head" (179), and able to r e c i t e , "Now lobotomy, t h a t ' s chopping away pa r t of the b r a i n " (180). By the time McMurphy understands the words, he i s w e l l on h i s way to being destroyed by t h e i r r e f e r e n t s . Every language system i n the novel describes a separate r e a l i t y . But the most important language systems and the most important r e a l i t i e s are those that belong to B i g Nurse and to McMurphy. They are important because they are poised i n d i r e c t o p p o s i t i o n to each other, and i t i s i n the war between t h e i r languages that the c e n t r a l c o n f l i c t of the novel i s acted out. Big Nurse s u s t a i n s her power on the ward by the c o n t r o l l e d use of innuendo. The p a t i e n t s admit that they are made impotent, powerless to defend themselves, not by v i r t u e of what she says, but by v i r t u e of the way she speaks: She doesn't accuse. She merely needs to i n s i n u a t e , i n s i n u a t e anything . . . . S h e ' l l c a l l a man to the door of the Nurses' S t a t i o n and stand there and ask him about a Kleenex found under h i s bed. No more, j u s t ask. And h e ' l l f e e l l i k e he's l y i n g to her, whatever answer he g i v e s . I f he says he was c l e a n i n g a pen w i t h i t , s h e ' l l say, 'I see, a pen,' or i f he says he has a c o l d i n h i s nose, s h e ' l l say, 'I see, a c o l d , ' and s h e ' l l nod her neat l i t t l e gray c o i f f u r e and smile her neat l i t t l e smile and turn and go back i n t o the Nurses' S t a t i o n , leave him standing there wondering j u s t what did he use that Kleenex f o r (61). Harding e x p l a i n s that Miss Ratched has "a genius f o r i n s i n u a t i o n " (61). -22-Her i n s i n u a t i o n s create a closed system, a l l o w f o r no appropriate response. B u i l t i n t o any question i s the p r e c l u s i o n of any r e p l y . But " i f you don't answer her questions . . . you admit i t j u s t by keeping q u i e t " (66). And any r e s i s t a n c e to her i m p l i e d accusations i s met w i t h f u r t h e r i m p l i c a t i o n s , f u r t h e r accusations: "Why do you seem so upset by that p a r - t i c k - u l a r question . . .?" (66). Bi g Nurse i s able to emasculate her v i c t i m s by doing no more than manipulating words and i n f l e c t i o n s and by squeezing meaning out of what she does not s a y — o u t of the spaces between her words. She c a r e f u l l y o r c h e s t r a t e s words and s i l e n c e s to achieve her e f f e c t . But she i s capable as w e l l of combining s i l e n c e s w i t h s i l e n c e s , of w a i t i n g i t out, l i k e an animal b i d i n g time u n t i l the moment of the k i l l . Twice we see her e x e r c i s e the power of s i l e n c e . B i g Nurse c a l l s a s t a f f meeting to discus s the case of McMurphy. Everyone assembles; the door i s locked. B i g Nurse j u s t s i t s there " s m i l i n g up at the c e i l i n g and not saying anything," l e t t i n g the r e s t of the s t a f f " f i d g e t around" as they s t r u g g l e to say what they can only guess she wants them to say (145). She w a i t s — u n t i l the moment she can make the greatest impact w i t h "You—are very, very wrong . . . " (148). She proceeds to take c o n t r o l of the meeting. On another occasion, she designs a silence-bound scenario to p l a n t the s u s p i c i o n of McMurphy's monetary moti v a t i o n s . Her f i r s t t a c t i c i s to feed " h i n t s around to s t a r t a rumor and have i t breeding good before she a c t u a l l y [says] anything about i t " (249). Then she stages a p a t i e n t s ' meeting, scheduled to in s u r e McMurphy's absence. Her r o l e i n the meeting i s to w a i t — t o wait u n t i l the p a t i e n t s have f i n i s h e d t a l k i n g about what V -23-a "great guy" McMurphy i s , u n t i l p o s i t i v e regard i s "out of t h e i r systems." Then she pounces: she makes her case and prepares to wait again. She l e t s the suggestion take root and gives i t time to grow. She stops d i s c u s s i o n to a l l o w f o r her w a i t i n g , saying, " i t i s n ' t f a i r to make these accusations without the presence of the man we are speaking o f " (253). I f Miss Ratched's methods are so m a s t e r f u l , i f a winning response i s so u n l i k e l y , then one way to counter her l i n g u i s t i c stronghold i s e f f e c t i v e l y to not l i s t e n , not respond to her, but bypass her. Broom i s able to manoeuvre h i s way around her language because he has learned to w i e l d h i s p r e r o g a t i v e of s i l e n c e . He w i l l not hear and he w i l l not speak. But McMurphy hears and McMurphy speaks, and h i s power l i e s i n h i s a b i l i t y to bypass her i n h i s own way: She would reprimand him, without heat at a l l , and he would stand and l i s t e n t i l l she was f i n i s h e d and then destroy her whole e f f e c t by asking something l i k e d i d she wear a B cup, he wondered, or a C cup, or any o l ' cup at a l l ? (196). In moments of r e a l f r u s t r a t i o n , McMurphy may s l i p u n w i t t i n g l y i n t o the trap of Miss Ratched's language: "You seem so upset, Mr. McMurphy. Doesn't he seem upset Doctor?" "Don't give me that noise lady. When a guy's g e t t i n g screwed, he's got a r i g h t to h o l l e r . And we've a l l been damn w e l l screwed." "Perhaps, Doctor, i n view of the p a t i e n t ' s c o n d i t i o n , we should b r i n g t h i s meeting to a c l o s e e a r l y t o d a y — " (135). In f a c t , McMurphy has h i s own s t y l e of discourse and i t i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y d i r e c t , l i b e r a l l y s p r i n k l e d w i t h o b s c e n i t i e s and thoroughly punctuated w i t h laughter. And so, given the system of Big Nurse's r e i g n , even when he l o s e s , he wins, because he'refuses not to be -24-h i m s e l f . He refuses to cower under the t h r e a t of her language. (There Is one p e r i o d of exception. When McMurphy f i n d s out that h i s stay i n the h o s p i t a l i s i n d e f i n i t e and that i t i s dependent upon the d i s c r e t i o n of B i g Nurse, he becomes "cagey". When he i s a c t i n g cagey, he i s being other than what he i s . So during t h i s phase of the n o v e l , h i s language i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d by the subdued utterances of a "caged" and "cagey" man). While McMurphy i s "you damned McMurphy"—the o b j e c t i f i e d f i g u r e of red-blooded brawn—he can be nothing but d i r e c t . His d i r e c t n e s s i s the l i n g u i s t i c a n t i t h e s i s of B i g Nurse's c a l c u l a t e d i n d i r e c t n e s s . One s p e c u l a t i o n can be made: that McMurphy's d i r e c t n e s s i n language i s a concomitant of h i s absolute humanness, and Miss Ratched's i n d i r e c t n e s s i s a c o r o l l a r y of her absolute l a c k of humanness. This e x p l a i n s why much of the open c o n f r o n t a t i o n i n the novel i s played out i n the area of s e x u a l i t y . S e x u a l i t y i s the l a s t b a s t i o n of humanness i n the world of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. "There's not a man [on the ward] that i s n ' t a f r a i d he i s l o s i n g or has already l o s t h i s whambam" (65). And McMurphy i s ^ both a man and a psychopath because he " f i g h t s too much and fucks too much" (13). B i g Nurse i s a " b a l l - c u t t e r " (58). McMurphy then engages i n b a t t l e w i t h Big Nurse by d i s r u p t i n g her accustomed d e n i a l of the f l e s h . When Big Nurse delegates McMurphy to clean t o i l e t bowls and a r r i v e s w i t h her m i r r o r to i n s p e c t h i s work, t h e i r languages c l a s h : "Why, t h i s i s an outrage . . . an outrage . . . " "No; t h a t ' s a t o i l e t bowl . . . a toilet bowl" (151). McMurphy then p l a n t s a mirror-image message under the r i m of a t o i l e t bowl to undermine her c l e a n l i n e s s f e t i s h w i t h a l i t t l e v e r b a l d i r t . One of McMurphy's more i n t e r e s t i n g ploys i s h i s b l a t a n t r e f u s a l to -25-a l l o w B i g Nurse to ignore the existence of her mammoth b r e a s t s , the l i e and the t r u t h of her womanhood that she i s forced to c a r r y around w i t h her. So he asks her to t e l l him "the a c t u a l inch-by-inch measurement of them great o l ' breasts that she d i d her best to conceal but never could" (150). When One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest f i n a l l y moves beyond p l o y , beyond manipulation, beyond l i n g u i s t i c dance and i n t o p h y s i c a l b a t t l e , McMurphy attacks B i g Nurse, r i p s open her starched uniform, r e v e a l s her breasts and desper a t e l y , u n s u c c e s s f u l l y attempts to s t r a n g l e her. Miss Ratched loses her voice. The l o s s of her v o i c e i s the l o s s of her power. There could be no more p e r f e c t r e t r i b u t i o n . V iolence i n the novel represents a k i n d of a m p l i f i c a t i o n of the war between languages. McMurphy's b o d i l y f o r c e i s c a l l e d i n t o play only when words and laughter no longer work f o r him. He h i t s Washington because the aide w i l l not hear the plea d i n g of Rub-a-dub George, w i l l not stop d i r t y i n g him, m o r t i f y i n g him. McMurphy h i t s Washington because the aide w i l l not heed the warning of "enough" or the " h e l p l e s s , cornered despair i n McMurphy's v o i c e " (261). And McMurphy attacks Big Nurse because she has refused to hear B i l l y B i b b i t — e v e r . Violence i s the endgame. Throughout the no v e l , we have been able to t r a c e the movements of the characters between weakness and s t r e n g t h , rabbithood and manhood, by diagramming the changes i n t h e i r languages. When McMurphy f i r s t a r r i v e s on the ward, the p a t i e n t s are, i n e f f e c t , using B i g Nurse's language. They have adopted i t , a s s i m i l a t e d i t i n t o t h e i r own speech. B i l l y s t u t t e r s i t , Cheswick shouts i t , Harding embellishes i t ; but i n the f i r s t group-therapy s e s s i o n of the n o v e l , what we hear i s a conglomerate of v o i c e s , a l l speaking the Nurse's words. -26-The subject i s Harding: What's he think i s the matter w i t h him that he can't please the l i t t l e lady; why's he insist she has never had anything to do w i t h another man; how's he expect to get w e l l i f he doesn't answer h o n e s t l y ? — q u e s t i o n s and i n s i n u a t i o n s . . . (54). By the time McMurphy has t r a v e l l e d through the n o v e l , the p a t i e n t s have dropped the B i g Nurse s t y l e . While McMurphy i s "Up i n Disturbed," Harding i s speaking i n McMurphyisms. When Miss Ratched speaks to him of her d i f f i c u l t y i n making contact w i t h McMurphy, Harding responds w i t h "from what I hear about your dealings u p s t a i r s w i t h McMurphy, he hasn't had any d i f f i c u l t y making contact w i t h you" (278). The other p a t i e n t s laugh. One of Harding's l a s t statements i n the novel i s , "Lady, I t h i n k you're f u l l of so much b u l l s h i t " (307). Not bad. So the p a t i e n t s u l t i m a t e l y absorb McMurphy's manner and trade i n Miss Ratched's manner i n the process. Another kind of language changes i n the course of the novel as w e l l : body language. A concordance to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest would r e v e a l that among the words r e c u r r i n g most o f t e n i n the t e x t are v a r i a t i o n s of "to j e r k . " In the body language of the ward, heads j e r k , hands j e r k , chins j e r k , arms j e r k , whole bodies j e r k : "Harding's head turns w i t h a j e r k " (55); "he becomes a w i l d , j e r k y puppet doing a high-strung dance" (59); "she j e r k e d the adhesive t i g h t as she could" (195). I t goes on and on. The only character i n the novel who has the opportunity to j e r k and doesn't i s Candy, the k i n d whore. She comes " l i g h t f o o t e d across the grass . . . jouncing up and down" (218), then "jouncing up the h a l l past the Nurses' S t a t i o n " (219). Anyone e l s e (with the exception perhaps of McMurphy) -27-would have j e r k e d h i s / h e r way along the same path. Body language does speak. By the end of the n o v e l , McMurphy has j e r k e d to the rhythm of E l e c t r o Shock Therapy, and everyone e l s e has stopped j e r k i n g . We can observe a c t i o n , then, by observing changes i n language. But there i s one character whose language remains c o n s i s t e n t throughout the novel. Only h i s medium changes: he moves from s i l e n c e to v o c a l i z a t i o n . McMurphy has not given him a language, but a v o i c e . Broom's v o c a l i z a t i o n s are of no s p e c i a l i n t e r e s t . The f i r s t words he speaks are "Thank you," and from that moment, everything he says i s f a i r l y unremarkable. Even the other characters do not pay much a t t e n t i o n to him, "a guy who'd been considered deaf and dumb as f a r back as they'd known him, t a l k i n g , l i s t e n i n g j u s t l i k e anybody" (277). But the language of Broom's imagination, the language he uses to n a r r a t e the n o v e l , i s unique. His i s the c e n t r a l consciousness of the novel and we never get beyond i t . The Chief's language i s created out of h i s p e r c e p t i o n s , and l i k e h i s p e r c e p t i o n s , i t i s symptomatic and marked by exaggeration. But the i n t e r e s t i n g aspect of h i s language i s that i t does not change. His metaphors stay w i t h him, even when they describe absences i n s t e a d of presences. The " f o g " and the "fog machine," the apparatus of the. Combine, are a l l part of h i s vocabulary, even when they become d y s f u n c t i o n a l . What he learns from McMurphy i s not another language or another way of p e r c e i v i n g the u n i v e r s e : he learns to accept h i s own language and h i s own p e r c e p t i o n s — t o stop being a f r a i d of being who he i s . McMurphy seems to belong to Chief Broom from the beginning. McMurphy has h i s g r e a t e s t r e a l i t y as a f o r c e a c t i n g upon the Chief's consciousness. -28-Midway through the n o v e l , we f i n d Broom h i d i n g i n the l a t r i n e , communing w i t h h i s image: I'd take a look at my own s e l f i n the m i r r o r and wonder how i t was p o s s i b l e that anyone could manage such an enormous t h i n g as being what he was. . . . I t don't seem l i k e I ever have been me. How can McMurphy be what he i s ? (153). Slowly, as h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h McMurphy develops, Broom i s t u t o r e d to be h i m s e l f . Toward the end of the n o v e l , he i s shown again i n the self-communing stance, c o n f r o n t i n g h i s own image. The work has been done: I caught a look at myself i n the m i r r o r . [McMurphy had] done what he s a i d ; my arms were b i g again, b i g as they were back i n high s c h o o l , back at the v i l l a g e , and my chest and shoulders were broad and hard (257). Broom does not take on McMurphy's language. Rather, he takes on McMurphy's st r e n g t h , and that s t r e n g t h allows him to maintain h i s own language. Chief Broom's s t y l e of language i s informed by three dominating elements: machine imagery, nature imagery and sound imagery. Mechanical references c o n s t i t u t e the most obvious element of h i s language. They are invoked whenever the Combine i s being discussed. Examples are rampant through the n o v e l : a s s a u l t by technology i s the l e i t m o t i f of the n a r r a t i o n . Broom was "an e l e c t r i c i a n ' s a s s i s t a n t i n a t r a i n i n g camp" and "had some e l e c t r o n i c s i n [ h i s ] year i n c o l l e g e , " and that i s how he "learned about the way these things can be r i g g e d " (27). I t i s not s u r p r i s i n g that he understands the way the " I n d w e l l i n g C u r i o s i t y Cutout" works, or that the fog machine i s a simple m i l i t a r y device: "you got an ordinary compressor sucks water out of one tank and a s p e c i a l o i l out of another tank and -29-compresses them together" (124). The h o s p i t a l ward i s not the only locus of t e c h n o l o g i c a l takeover: i t i s only one f o r t r e s s of the Combine and the whole Combine i s mechanized. When Broom describes i n r e t r o s p e c t the v i s i t of the white a p p r o p r i a t o r s of h i s t r i b a l home, he ex p l a i n s the mechanical device operating w i t h i n the b r a i n s of these instruments of the Combine. The device he perceives becomes pa r t of the r a t i o n a l e f o r h i s deafness: I can . . . see the apparatus i n s i d e them take the words I j u s t s a i d and t r y to f i t the words i n here and there, t h i s place and t h a t , and when they f i n d the words don't have any place ready-made where t h e y ' l l f i t , the machinery disposes of the words l i k e they weren't even spoken (201). Broom i s a c t u a l l y not only the i n a u d i b l e , but the i n v i s i b l e man. Experience has confirmed that people of the Combine n e i t h e r r e a l l y hear nor r e a l l y see him. The same white people who ignore the c h i l d Bromden's words ignore h i s p h y s i c a l presence too. They appear to look at him (he i s "not but two yards away") and proceed to t a l k about him i n the t h i r d person: "Where do you suppose h i s parents are?" (199). Years l a t e r , as a p a t i e n t on the ward, Broom i s no more s u c c e s s f u l at making hims e l f seen. He i s the transparent j a n i t o r i n s t a f f meetings, knowing h i s own transparency, knowing "they see r i g h t through me l i k e I wasn't t h e r e — t h e only t h i n g they'd miss i f I d i d n ' t show up would be the sponge and the water bucket f l o a t i n g around" (143). Broom's universe i s a universe of metaphors become l i t e r a l . His perceptions complement, s u s t a i n , express h i s f e a r . But Broom i s more complex than h i s paranoia. He knows more than machines and machine-operated people. He i s Indian and he i s as c l o s e to nature as he i s to -30-technology.. ( A c t u a l l y , Broom i s h a l f Indian. The Bromden blood of h i s mother keeps him s e n s i t i v e to the mechanics of. the Combine. His f a t h e r ' s blood, the blood of The-Pine-that-Stands-Tallest-on-the-Mountain, keeps him s e n s i t i v e to the e a r t h . When Broom i s given the g i f t of h i s s e l f n e s s , he chooses h i s Indian i d e n t i t y . By the end of the n o v e l , he i s o f f i n search of h i s t r i b e ) . As an I n d i a n , Broom sees h i s world i n terms of n a t u r a l phenomena. Nature imagery, rather u n o b t r u s i v e l y , f i n d s i t s way i n t o h i s language. He describes Harding's hands creeping "out from between h i s knees l i k e white spiders from between two moss-covered tre e limbs, up the limbs toward the j o i n i n g at the trunk" (57). In the same sequence, he hears a sound come out of Harding's mouth " l i k e a n a i l being crowbarred out of a plank of green p i n e " C60). L a t e r i n the n o v e l , Broom po r t r a y s .the Chronics as " o l d guys welded i n wheelchairs f o r y e a r s , w i t h catheters down t h e i r l e g s l i k e v i n e s r o o t i n g them f o r the r e s t of t h e i r l i v e s r i g h t where they a r e " (214). There are numerous examples of t h i s k i n d of imagery s c a t t e r e d throughout the novel. But the most i n t e r e s t i n g of Broom's d e s c r i p t i o n s are those that combine mechanical and n a t u r a l images and add the t h i r d unique element of h i s language: obsession w i t h sound. Big Nurse's v o i c e i s described as having a " t i g h t whine l i k e an e l e c t r i c saw r i p p i n g through p i n e " (138). And one n i g h t on the ward, Broom h a l l u c i n a t e s the f o l l o w i n g mixed-media event: The furnace whoops a b a l l of f i r e and I hear the popping of a m i l l i o n tubes l i k e walking through a f i e l d of seed pods. This sound mixes w i t h the whirr and clang of the r e s t of the machines (84). -31-An examination of Broom's sound imagery has been held i n s t o r e to form the l a s t p a r t of the d i s c u s s i o n of language i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The study of sound takes us past language as an arena f o r c o n f l i c t i n the novel and on to p e r c e p t i o n as an arena f o r c o n f l i c t . Language, of course, i s a f u n c t i o n of p e r c e p t i o n ; but p e r c e p t i o n i n i t s own r i g h t provides another plane on which the b a t t l e s of the novel are enacted. When we observe the c o n f l i c t of modes of p e r c e p t i o n i n the n o v e l , we f i n d that our main p r o t a g o n i s t i s not McMurphy, but Broom. Broom f e i g n s being mute because people have h i s t o r i c a l l y not l i s t e n e d t o him. But he f e i g n s deafness, not because he has chosen not t o l i s t e n to o t h e r s , but because he has chosen to l i s t e n s e l e c t i v e l y and w e l l . He does not have to l i s t e n to Miss Ratched or the a i d e s — t h e y have stopped t a l k i n g to him and t a l k only past him or about him. But Broom l i s t e n s f o r sounds that nobody e l s e can hear. He hears "the lockworks r a t t l e strange" when McMurphy comes on to the ward (9). He l i s t e n s then f o r the sound of f e a r and hears only that the New Admission "sounds b i g " (10). When McMurphy shakes h i s hand, i t rings " w i t h blood and power" (24). Broom's s e n s i t i v i t y t o sound i s boundless. When P u b l i c R e l a t i o n s claps h i s hands, the Chief " can hear they are wet" (35). At the end of each day, "the machinery i n the w a l l s w h i s t l e s , s i g h s , drops i n t o lower gear" (75). But not only does Broom hear sounds that nobody e l s e can hear, he hears things that nobody at a l l is meant to hear. Because he i s "cagey" and has convinced everyone that he i s deaf, Broom f i n d s that he can be an audience to a l l the s e c r e t s on the ward. He understands w e l l the power of h i s deafness: " I had to keep on a c t i n g deaf i f I wanted to hear at a l l " (197). -32-One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest sets up a h i e r a r c h y of sound which i s f i l t e r e d to the reader through Chief Broom. We tend almost to use our ears to make our eyes comprehend what we are reading. The p i p e d - i n music which drones through the novel s t r i k e s a lower l e v e l of awareness than the sound of McMurphy's laughter or McMurphy's song. The r i n g i n g i n Broom's ears operates at a lower l e v e l of i n t e n s i t y than the sound of crashing glass when McMurphy d r i v e s h i s hand through the window of the Nurses' S t a t i o n . A dozen voices hum through the ward i n a dozen languages. The sound of Miss Ratched's key " h i t t i n g the l o c k " recurs as a k i n d of r e f r a i n , punctuating the soundtrack of the novel as a whole, combining s t r u c t u r a l sense w i t h c o n t e x t u a l sense: keys i n the h o s p i t a l are an o b j e c t i v e c o r r e l a t i v e to a u t h o r i t y . Throughout Kesey's no v e l , sound i s a preoccupation. Broom hims e l f experiences the world not only through h i s ears, but a l s o through h i s other senses. He touches, he t a s t e s , he smells and he sees. His d i s a b i l i t y i s that he does not always see very e f f i c i e n t l y : because i t ' s p a i n f u l to see somebody so c l e a r that i t ' s l i k e l o o k i n g i n s i d e him, but then n e i t h e r d i d you want to look away and l o s e him completely. You had a choice: you could e i t h e r s t r a i n and look at things that appeared i n f r o n t of you i n the f o g , p a i n f u l as i t might be, or you could r e l a x and l o s e y o u r s e l f (125). Broom o f t e n chooses not to see. The fog becomes an expression of h i s d e n i a l of s i g h t . When he s t r a i n s to see, he sees too much. He looks at Colonel Matterson and "every h a i r and w r i n k l e of him i s b i g , as though I was l o o k i n g at him w i t h one of those microscopes. I see him so c l e a r I see h i s whole l i f e " (128-9). The fog appears and disappears, and Broom -33-f l u c t u a t e s between being b l i n d and being so a c u t e l y s i g h t e d that i t h u r t s . The Chief i s more comfortable w i t h h i s other senses and he uses them a l l e x t e n s i v e l y . His perceptions are o f t e n s y n a e s t h e t i c ; h i s world i s pansensual. The l i g h t on the ward i s as " b i t t e r as b i l e " (142), and B i g Nurse's n a i l p o l i s h i s "so hot or so c o l d i f she touches you w i t h i t you can't t e l l which" (4). The h o s p i t a l i s " s t i c k y w i t h a thousand . . . s m e l l s " (98), and stranded i n the f o g , words come to Broom " l i k e through water, i t ' s so t h i c k " (127). One n i g h t , the Chief gets up from h i s bed and goes to the window of the "dorm": I pressed my forehead up against the mesh. The w i r e was c o l d and sharp, and I r o l l e d my head against i t from s i d e to s i d e to f e e l i t w i t h my cheeks, and I smelled the breeze. . . . I can smell that sour-molasses smell of s i l a g e , c l a n g i n g the a i r l i k e a b e l l — s m e l l somebody's been burning oak l e a v e s , l e f t them to smolder overnight because they're too green (154-5)_. Broom d r i f t s i n the flow between h i s senses, t r u s t i n g what he f e e l s , q u e stioning nothing. He becomes d i s o r i e n t e d only when he i s unable to hear—when the drumming gets so loud, he can't hear anything e l s e (83). Broom's m u l t i - s e n s u a l r e a l i t y i s set over-against the r i g i d l y v i s u a l r e a l i t y of B ig Nurse. Miss Ratched appears most of t e n encased by the g l a s s windows of the Nurses' S t a t i o n . Even when she i s not p h y s i c a l l y p l anted i n s i d e the Nurses' S t a t i o n , she seems to c a r r y windows around w i t h her, seeing through g l a s s , denying sound, denying touch, denying s m e l l , denying t a s t e . B i g Nurse speaks (sometimes through a sound system that l e t s her -34-own v o i c e out of the Nurses' S t a t i o n w h i l e l e t t i n g no other v o i c e i n ) , but she does not hear. While Broom can i n t e r p r e t the languages of the Chronics, B i g Nurse i s deaf to t h e i r meaning. When B a n c i n i begins to make the speech of h i s l i f e t i m e , p r o t e s t i n g that " i t ' s a l l a l o t t a baloney," B i g Nurse does not hear. Her response comes from behind her i n v i s i b l e s h i e l d : "Yes, yes, Mr. B a n c i n i . . . now i f y o u ' l l j u s t be calm" (51). Miss Ratched cannot be moved from her window. When her window i s moved from her, when i t i s broken and replaced by cardboard, she s i t s i n the Nurses' S t a t i o n , a c t i n g " l i k e she could s t i l l see r i g h t i n t o the day room" (194). B i g Nurse cherishes her windows, making sure the gl a s s i s p o l i s h e d d a i l y (96). Her watching i s a t o r t u r e and a t r i c k of the Combine. Midway through the no v e l , charged w i t h a t r a n s f u s i o n of McMurphy's st r e n g t h , the p a t i e n t s t u r n the gl a s s against her. She s i t s i n the Nurses' S t a t i o n , soundproofed,- and she i s being watched: For the f i r s t time she's on the other s i d e of the g l a s s and g e t t i n g a t a s t e of how i t f e e l s to be watched when you wish more than anything e l s e to be able to p u l l a green shade between your face and a l l the eyes that you can't get away from (141). Watching i s a weapon of the Combine. So Doctor Spivey, lackey of the Combine and e r s t w h i l e puppet of B i g Nurse, has h i s own miniature windows: h i s g l a s s e s . He p o l i s h e s them (108); he grabs them (144); he puts them on and "peers around" (104). And once, j u s t once, he leaves them o f f . On the f i s h i n g t r i p , out i n the ocean, past the reaches of the Combine, Doctor Spivey's eyes get " b r i g h t red from going so long without g l a s s e s " (239). During the f i s h i n g e x p e d i t i o n , he i s re l e a s e d from h i s t i e s w i t h the Combine and i s thereby re l e a s e d from o p p r e s s i v e l y watching. -35-Back on the ward, the doctor i s back f i d d l i n g w i t h h i s glasses (303). The c o n f l i c t i n modes of perception p i t s Broom against B i g Nurse. And the novel s t r u c t u r a l l y poses the question of McMurphy's place i n the c o n f l i c t . I t poses the question and answers i t . McMurphy sees, but he sees as Broom s e e s — p a s t appearance and through to a k i n d of r e a l i t y . This i s how McMurphy manages to make the analogy between group-therapy and a " p e c k i n 1 p a r t y " — q u i c k l y (55). And McMurphy hears. He hears each p a t i e n t i n d i v i d u a l l y , speaks to each i n h i s own language, strengthens each on h i s own ground. With Harding, he i s f o r c e f u l ; w i t h B i l l y , he i s sex u a l ; w i t h Cheswick, he i s dauntless; w i t h Broom: " I d i d n ' t say i t didn't make sense, C h i e f , I j u s t s a i d i t was t a l k i n ' crazy" (210). He even understands Broom's metaphors made r e a l as the Chief t a l k s about being " l i t t l e " when he used to be " b i g . " McMurphy i s , of course, sensual. He eats h i s b r e a k f a s t , savouring the t a s t e s and smells of c o l d orange j u i c e , c o r n f l a k e s w i t h bananas, eggs, bacon, coffee . . . (99). He seduces the p a t i e n t s to the ocean w i t h the promise of "the s a l t s m ell o' the poundin' sea, the crack o' the bow against the waves" (196-7). Most important, McMurphy i s not a f r a i d of touching: he scratches h i s b e l l y ; he s t r e t c h e s and yawns; he whacks h i s l e g and digs " h i s thumb i n t o the r i b s of whoever [ i s ] s i t t i n g next to him, t r y i n g to get him to laugh" (152). While opposing modes of perc e p t i o n manifest t h e i r extremes i n Chief Broom and B i g Nurse r e s p e c t i v e l y , McMurphy c e r t a i n l y f i n d s h i s place i n the Chief's camp. Broom's world through most of the novel i s an i n t e r i o r world, and the novel r e v e a l s h i s perc e p t u a l i n c l i n a t i o n s by f o l l o w i n g the mosaic p a t t e r n of h i s imagination. Broom has attempted to r e s i s t the -36-Combine by being "cagey," by undermining i t from i n s i d e h i s mind, by hearing s e l e c t i v e l y and seeing s p o r a d i c a l l y . His whole world i s a s e c r e t . But the Chief i s i n e f f e c t u a l beyond the implementation of h i s p r i v a t e formula f o r s u r v i v a l . In terms of a c t i o n , i n terms of c o n f r o n t a t i o n i n a p u b l i c realm, he i s v i r t u a l l y c a t a t o n i c . He may use the sense of touch to e s t a b l i s h contact w i t h h i s environment (154), but he cannot reach out to touch McMurphy without going through a long i n t e r n a l monologue: " I ought to touch him to see i f he's s t i l l a l i v e . . . . I want to touch him because he's a man. . . . I want to touch him because I'm one of these queers! . . . I j u s t want to touch him because he's who he i s " (210). He does not touch him. McMurphy does not s u f f e r from Broom's p a r a l y z i n g i n t e r i o r i t y . When he appears on the ward, he appears as an e x t e r i o r i z a t i o n of Broom: h i s perceptions are of the same order, but he i s not prey to the same c o n t r a d i c t i o n s ; he i s not a f r a i d to be who he i s . This ex p l a i n s why, when the time comes f o r a coup i n the b a t t l e between modes of p e r c e p t i o n , i t i s McMurphy and not Broom who a c t s . V i o l e n c e i s again the form that f r u s t r a t i o n takes. McMurphy i s l a t e r to a t t a c k both Washington and Bi g Nurse f o r t h e i r crimes of not hearing. In the context of the per c e p t u a l b a t t l e , he smashes the window of the Nurses' S t a t i o n as a gesture against Miss Ratched's crime of watching. McMurphy s h a t t e r s the window tw i c e , but i t i s s i g n i f i c a n t that the window i s shattered a t h i r d time, not by McMurphy, but by Scanlon, another of the inmates. McMurphy's power i s g r a d u a l l y being t r a n s f e r r e d to the other p a t i e n t s . When McMurphy f i r s t a r r i v e s on the ward, he l e a r n s that he i s safe i f he does not "end up cussing [Big Nurse] out or bu s t i n g a window or something -37-l i k e t h a t " (70). By the end of the n o v e l , he has committed both t r a n s g r e s s i o n s : one i s l i n g u i s t i c ; the other, p e r c e p t u a l . Time i s the t h i r d arena f o r b a t t l e i n the novel. Time, l i k e language and p e r c e p t i o n , i s not an absolute here: i t i s par t of the separate experience of each person on the ward. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, there i s a l i n k between modes of perc e p t i o n and r e l a t i o n s h i p s to time. B i g Nurse i s capable of using only one sense: her sense of s i g h t . And she perceives the world by moving her eyes from object to o b j e c t , from person to person, i n succession. She experiences time i n a comparable l i n e a r f a s h i o n , moving from moment to moment along a clock-dominated l i n e . So Miss Ratched i s again poised i n d i r e c t o p p o s i t i o n to Chief Broom. Broom absorbs the world through many senses simultaneously, and he experiences time as a phenomenon that i s r e l a t i v e and not bound by the clo c k . J u s t as there are l i n e a r and n o n - l i n e a r ways of p e r c e i v i n g the world, so there are l i n e a r and n o n - l i n e a r ways of r e l a t i n g to time. Chief Broom perceives time c y c l i c a l l y : past, present and f u t u r e run c i r c u i t o u s l y through h i s imagination. As the novel t r a c e s the convolutions of h i s consciousness, i t f l i p s between r e c o l l e c t i o n and a t t e n t i o n to a "now" that keeps changing. Clock time has no corresponding r e a l i t y to the Chief: i t i s an inconvenient device of the Combine, manipulated f o r the purpose of r e g u l a t i n g behaviour: The B i g Nurse i s able to set the w a l l c l o c k at whatever speed she wants by j u s t t u r n i n g one of those d i a l s i n the s t e e l door; she takes a n o t i o n to hurry things up, she turns the speed up, and those hands whip around that d i s k l i k e spokes i n a wheel. The scene i n the p i c t u r e - s c r e e n windows goes through r a p i d changes of l i g h t to show morning, noon and n i g h t — t h r o b o f f and on f u r i o u s l y w i t h day and dark, and everybody i s d r i v e n l i k e mad to keep -38-up w i t h that passing of fake time . . . . But g e n e r a l l y , i t ' s the other way, the slow way. S h e ' l l t urn that d i a l to a dead stop and freeze the sun there on the screen . . . . The c l o c k hands hang at two minutes to three and she's l i a b l e to l e t them hang there t i l l we r u s t (73-4). According to Broom's perc e p t i o n of the passage of time, the c l o c k i s not only deceptive, but i n s i d i o u s l y f a l s e : "The c l o c k at the end of the mess h a l l shows i t ' s a quarter a f t e r seven, l i e s about how we only been s i t t i n g here f i f t e e n minutes when you can t e l l i t ' s been at l e a s t an hour" (100). The only r e a l time i s e x p e r i e n t i a l time and that i s s u b j e c t i v e and r e l a t i v e . Broom's d e n i a l of the c l o c k and h i s i n s i s t e n c e on a f f i r m i n g the t r u t h of h i s personal time are p a r t of what designates him as "insane." His contention that B i g Nurse c o n t r o l s time i s more than a metaphor. Clock time i s one of the constants against which the Combine measures r e a l i t y . D e v iations from c l o c k time are p r e d i c t a b l y frowned upon. The Nurse, i n f a c t , does d i c t a t e the r e a l i t y of the ward by her s t r i c t adherence to the c l o c k . The Combine has constructed a l i n e a r , mechanical system of measuring time, but the B i g Nurse c a r r i e s the d i r e c t i v e of the Combine to i t s i l l o g i c a l extreme. Every a c t i v i t y on the ward, i s circumscribed i n u n i t s of hours, minutes and seconds. (Days are unimportant: they are a l l a l i k e ) . " E f f i c i e n c y l o c k s the ward l i k e a watchman's c l o c k " (29). " L i g h t s f l a s h on i n the dorm at s i x - t h i r t y . " At s i x - f o r t y - f i v e , the shavers buzz; at seven o'clock, "the mess h a l l opens"; at s e v e n - f o r t y - f i v e , "the b l a c k boys move down the l i n e of Chronics," t a p i n g catheters as they go (29-31). B i g Nurse i n s i s t s that "the schedule has been set up f o r a d e l i c a t e l y -39-balanced reason that would be thrown i n t o t u r m o i l by the switch of r o u t i n e s " (114). But she i s obsessed. Not only can the order of a c t i v i t i e s (and i n a c t i v i t i e s ) not be changed, but each operation on the ward must be compressed or expanded to f i l l a predetermined number of minutes. Twelve minutes i n t o a group-therapy s e s s i o n , she remarks, "we have . . . f o r t y - e i g h t minutes l e f t " (106). Her watch i s part of the machinery she c a r r i e s around i n her wicker basket, and i t i s no l e s s a part of her than her breasts or the windows of the Nurses' S t a t i o n . As the novel develops, we witness the near apotheosis of the watch. When Pete B a n c i n i f a l l s i n a f i t of a b o r t i v e communication, Miss Ratched in s p e c t s the damage and assesses i t : "His watch i s broken and he's cut h i s a r m " — i n that order (53). I t i s c l e a r that there i s a c o n f l i c t between Broom-time and Ratched-time. I t i s j u s t as c l e a r t h a t B i g Nurse can draw upon a l l the resources of the Combine to enforce her v e r s i o n of time. So Broom i s rendered powerless. He can only p r o t e s t s i l e n t l y and alone, or immerse himself i n the fog where time i s " l o s t . . . l i k e e verything e l s e " (75). McMurphy again f u n c t i o n s i n the c a p a c i t y of an e x t e r i o r i z a t i o n of Broom. His p e r c e p t i o n of time i s not the same as the C h i e f ' s , but i t i s e q u a l l y independent of Miss Ratched's manipulations. McMurphy's c o n f r o n t a t i o n w i t h B i g Nurse over the watching of the World Series on ward t e l e v i s i o n (132-6) i s not j u s t a f i g h t f o r b a s e b a l l , or even a f i g h t f o r democracy: i t i s a f i g h t to change the order of h o s p i t a l r o u t i n e . There i s no precedent f o r afternoon t e l e v i s i o n . T e l e v i s i o n has been s l o t t e d i n t o the time computer as an e a r l y evening d i s t r a c t i o n . But McMurphy and Broom act together to f o i l the Nurse. McMurphy coaxes Broom's vote and the Chief r a i s e s h i s arm. There i s c o l l e c t i v e a c t i o n , shared r e s p o n s i b i l i t y , -40-and the r e s u l t i s that the r i g i d l y scheduled day must be re-scheduled. The McMurphy/Broom v i c t o r y stands, even when Big Nurse turns o f f the t e l e v i s i o n s e t . The men on the ward organize to ignore t h e i r d a i l y clock-bound d u t i e s and gather together around a blank screen. This i s the f i r s t time i n the novel that the r o u t i n e i s broken. A p a t t e r n begins to emerge. Big Nurse's language has been made i n e f f e c t u a l by McMurphy; the medium of her watching has been s p l i n t e r e d by McMurphy; her c o n t r o l over time has been punctured by McMurphy. As p a t t e r n emerges, so does meaning. We know that Miss Ratched's language of i n s i n u a t i o n i s h u r t f u l . We know too that her d e n i a l of s e n s u a l i t y i n favour of voyeurism i s wrong. We now l e a r n that her a f f e c t i o n f o r the c l o c k i s almost immoral. The message that appears through an observation of temporal c o n f l i c t i n the novel i s that c l o c k time i s an unnatural imposition.on the n a t u r a l order of t h i n g s . Clock, time i s a r t i f i c i a l w h i l e s u b j e c t i v e time i s r e a l . The question that the novel poses i s whether time defines r e a l i t y or r e a l i t y defines time. And what the novel suggests i s that i t i s more " t r u e " f o r r e a l i t y to d e f i n e time. I f time i s contingent upon per c e p t i o n of r e a l i t y , then time i s c y c l i c a l or mosaic and c e r t a i n l y not l i n e a r . Linear time i s j u s t another l i e conceived by the Combine. Broom takes a s i g n i f i c a n t leap i n the novel when he stops p e r c e i v i n g the world as a scene on " p i c t u r e - s c r e e n windows" and i s able to look through to the countryside. The f i r s t o bservation that he makes i s that " i t ' s f a l l coming" (155). This i s the f i r s t mention of seasons i n the n o v e l , and the passage i s important. The flow of seasons t e s t i f i e s to the c y c l i c a l nature of time. The perception of time as a c y c l i c a l -41-phenomenon predates c l o c k s by m i l l e n i a : i t i s a b o r i g i n a l ; i t i s r e a l . Dawn and dusk move c y c l i c a l l y as the seasons, and the n a t u r a l world i s unaffected by the t i c k i n g of the cl o c k . As Broom's f a t h e r e x p l a i n s , i n one of the r e t r o s p e c t i v e accounts i n the n o v e l , "Geese up there, white man. . . . Geese t h i s year. And l a s t year. And the year before and the year before . . . and the year before and the year before and the year before" (92). Nature has i t s own time. The c l o c k on the ward i s absurd. Up on Disturbed, "time i s measured out by the dl-dock, di-dock of a Ping-pong t a b l e " (263). One t i m e s t i c k i s as true or as f a l s e as the next. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest seems to urge us to a r e c o g n i t i o n of the proper r e a l i t y of a n o n - l i n e a r r e l a t i o n s h i p to time. Yet w i t h i n the urging i s a c o n t r a d i c t i o n . While the novel may t h e m a t i c a l l y endorse n a t u r a l , c y c l i c a l time, i t i s s t r u c t u r a l l y submissive to the most obvious l i m i t a t i o n s of i t s own form. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest does not, i n any s i g n i f i c a n t way, break from the c h r o n o l o g i c a l plot-bound conventions of prose f i c t i o n . I t i s a l i n e a r product, organized around a v i s i o n of a c y c l i c a l process. While Kesey's novel does not always appear to be l i n e a r , i t always i s . One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s set i n s i d e a s i n g l e consciousness, and moves forward and back w i t h i n that consciousness, but never outside of i t . The novel begins only paragraphs before McMurphy's a r r i v a l on the ward and ends only paragraphs a f t e r h i s removal from i t . The book i s no more and no l e s s than Chief Bromden's account of the l i f e , the dying and the death of Randle P a t r i c k McMurphy. And although i t abounds w i t h d i g r e s s i o n s — h i s t o r i c a l , f a n t a s t i c a l , r e p o r t o r i a l — i t never a l t e r s i t s -42-primary course. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s subject to i t s own i n t e r n a l c l o c k . I t speeds up and slows down, manipulating time l i k e Big Nurse does, and on a p a r a l l e l l i n e a r s c a l e . When i t i s d e s c r i b i n g the arduous s t r u g g l e or the co l d war i n the h o s p i t a l , the novel moves s l o w l y , w i t h l e i s u r e to recount Broom's thoughts and memories. But there are c e r t a i n scenes which d e s c r i b e open combat or open p l a y , which i s a defiance of the Combine. In these scenes, the pace of the novel changes. The f i s h i n g t r i p , f o r example, i s marked by a d i f f e r e n t sense of time: "Up! Up! Keep the t i p up!" George was y e l l i n g . "McMurphy! Get out here and look at t h i s . " "Godbless you, Fred, you got my blessed f i s h ! " "McMurphy, we need some help!" (236). While Kesey uses h i s own c l o c k , he s t i l l uses a c l o c k , always l u r c h i n g forward. Even i f i t loses a minute or two or a year or two along the way, i t always, catches up to i t s e l f . There i s a pe r i o d i n the novel i n which Kesey allows time to be d i r e c t e d by Miss Ratched's watch. For a d u r a t i o n of f i f t y pages, we, l i k e the c h a r a c t e r s , are never allowed to f o r g e t the time of day. On page twenty-nine, the l i g h t s " f l a s h on" i n the ward as a r t i f i c i a l day breaks; on page seventy-eight, the l i g h t s are turned o f f and a day i n the l i f e of the ward i s complete. As we read t h i s p o r t i o n of the n o v e l , the c l o c k i s the base to which we are repeatedly returned. Drama from any time or any place may i n t e r r u p t our awareness of the hour, but flashbacks are only f l a s h b a c k s , and these f i f t y pages t e l l us something about the novel as a whole: i t moves i n a l i n e . The l i n e may be crooked and i t may be uneven, but i t i s always one-dimensional. -43-When Kesey l a t e r w r i t e s Sometimes a Great Notion, he manages a progression toward a c l o s e r r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of a simultaneous, c y c l i c a l r e a l i t y i n p r i n t . He suspends use of a s i n g l e n a r r a t o r and moves beyond s e q u e n t i a l development of p l o t . Sometimes a Great Notion begins and ends at the same moment; i t forms a c i r c l e and a s p i r e s to the p o r t r a y a l of a three-dimensional r e a l i t y . Cycles and c i r c l e s are b u i l t i n t o the f a b r i c of Kesey's second novel. Sometimes a Great Notion becomes what One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s about. In Sometimes a Great Notion, c i r c l e s and c y c l e s , both t h e m a t i c a l l y and s t r u c t u r a l l y , give way to a k i n d of c e n t r i f u g a l f o r c e and then to entropy, as each c o n s t i t u e n t of the Stamper community spins o f f i n h i s / h e r own d i r e c t i o n . The s t r u c t u r a l physics and metaphysics of Sometimes a Great Notion t e l l us something about the dynamics of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The entropy i n Kesey's second novel i s part of the b r i n g i n g together of technique and meaning; i t can be a n t i c i p a t e d through the novel as c i r c l e s of time widen and c y c l e s take on momentum. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest generates i t s own k i n d of entropy, a r r i v e s at the same c o n c l u s i o n , although i t takes a d i f f e r e n t route. A l l of i t s characters are s y s t e m a t i c a l l y dispersed. In Sometimes a Great Notion, Kesey w r i t e s that Hank Stamper once " t r a v e l e d i n a s t r a i g h t l i n e and completed a c i r c l e . " The d e s c r i p t i o n of Hank Stamper's path may be e x t r a p o l a t e d to become a d e s c r i p t i o n of the form of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I t i s as though thematic c y c l e s and c i r c l e s i n the novel are contorted and compacted to form a s t r a i g h t Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion (New York: Bantam Books, 1965), p. 150. Further c i t a t i o n s w i l l be to t h i s e d i t i o n . -44-l i n e of p l o t and point of view. And then the l i n e fragments. Cheswick, B i b b i t and McMurphy d i e ; Big Nurse recedes; Broom, Harding and others escape. The c y c l e of l i f e , death and regeneration a s s e r t s i t s e l f d e s p i t e the s t r u c t u r e of the novel. I t i s not u n t i l he w r i t e s Sometimes a Great Notion that Kesey i s able to b r i n g thematic c i r c l e s i n t o u n i t y w i t h form. The l a s t page of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest a t t e s t s to the c y c l i c a l nature of r e a l i t y and the war which the novel d e s c r i b e s . I t t e l l s us that Broom i s going o f f to "look over the country around the gorge." He meets a Mexican t r a v e l l e r along the way and t e l l s him a "good s t o r y about . . . being a p r o f e s s i o n a l Indian w r e s t l e r . " The Chief i s s t i l l cagey, and now he has learned to use not only h i s v o i c e , but h i s eyes. The ending of the novel i s i n c o n c l u s i v e . Broom escapes, but we know nothing of what becomes of him. The ward i s l e f t v i r t u a l l y without p a t i e n t s , but we know that i t remains as a trap f o r other men i n other times. B i g Nurse has l o s t her v o i c e , but we know that she w i l l speak and i n s i n u a t e again. One stronghold of the Combine has been broken, but we know there are other strongholds q u i t e i n t a c t . Each p r o t a g o n i s t has triumphed somehow by t a k i n g a path of d i g n i t y , but we have been warned that the Combine i t s e l f i s i n v i n c i b l e : i n d i v i d u a l v i c t o r y i s t h e r e f o r e tenuous, and perhaps even i l l u s o r y . Do we r e j o i c e or despair? McMurphy i s dead. Does the Chief leave the Combine, or does he only escape to i t s outer reaches? Where i s the Oregon or Canada to which Broom f l e e s ? I t can only be a place where d i f f e r e n t b a t t l e s are acted out by d i f f e r e n t people. The b a t t l e s and the people are the ones that w i l l make up Sometimes a Great Notion. -45-CHAPTER I I I SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION Sometimes a Great Notion opens w i t h a cinematic view.of the Wakonda Auga River and. focuses, sentences l a t e r , on an amputated human arm. The arm i s hanging from a p o l e , protruding from the top-story window of.a house. Below,, a l o g boom i s being navigated through the current. I t i s r a i n i n g . The r a i n and the r i v e r blend together to form a waterlogged soundtrack to the scene. The wetness s l i p s i n t o audio background w i t h the i n t r o d u c t i o n of a c o l l e c t i v e v o i c e shouting, "Stammmper! Hey, goddam you anyhow, Hank Stammmmmper!" (2). Several pages l a t e r , but simultaneously as the shout echoes, a man i d e n t i f i e d as the Union P r e s i d e n t approaches a woman i d e n t i f i e d as Hank Stamper's w i f e i n a small l o c a l bar. He wants to know "what happened ... . and why" (11). Here begins the s t o r y of the Stampers.. On the penultimate page of the n o v e l , the bar scene i s re-enacted, superimposed on a reproduction of the boom-sailing-down-the-r i v e r scene. The novel reaches i t s end i n the same way and on the same day as i t began. By t h i s time we know, at l e a s t , whose arm was l e f t t u r n i n g above the Wakonda Auga. Kesey's novel plunges us i n t o confusion. I t begins w i t h i t s ending and moves backwards to i t s beginning. I t i s simple, even accurate, to say that the novel i s constructed as a c i r c l e , that i t has an. o r g a n i z a t i o n a l frame. But t h i s does not account f o r the inherent complexity of the book: the confusion never r e a l l y l e t s up. By the end of the n o v e l , Draeger -46-has gone through the Stamper f a m i l y album and we have gone through n e a r l y s i x hundred pages of p r i n t . We are c l o s e r to knowing "what happened . . . and why," but we understand that we w i l l never know the whole t r u t h . Draeger has been p r i v y to photographs and we have been p r i v y to the thoughts and a c t i o n s of many characters. But photographs are moments frozen f o r f u t u r e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n and thoughts are s u b j e c t i v e responses to the a c t i o n s that c o n s t i t u t e a s u b j e c t i v e r e a l i t y . Sometimes a Great Notion i s about the s u b j e c t i v e nature of r e a l i t y and the s t r u g g l e f o r s u r v i v a l w i t h i n a world that i s f u l l of r e s i s t a n c e and short of absolutes. And the n o v e l moves i t s readers through per s p e c t i v e s as q u i c k l y as i t moves i t s characters through c o n f l i c t s . I t s h i f t s from one n a r r a t o r to another, from one character's speech to another's thoughts, from time present to time past, from omniscience to s o l i p s i s m . Technique makes the n o v e l as d i f f i c u l t to read as the world i t p o r t r a y s i s d i f f i c u l t to experience. I t i s because of t h i s that Sometimes a Great Notion i s u l t i m a t e l y more complex than Kesey's f i r s t n o vel. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest asks us to consider i t s s t o r y as "the t r u t h even i f i t didn't happen." Sometimes a Great Notion puts f o r t h a more demanding request because i t gives us a k i n d of warning: being accurate i s not n e c e s s a r i l y being honest. . . . Nor i s c h r o n o l o g i c a l r e p o r t i n g by any means always the most t r u t h f u l (each camera has i t s own v e r a c i t y ) e s p e c i a l l y when, i n a l l good f a i t h , one cannot t r u t h f u l l y c l a i m to remember what happened a c c u r a t e l y . . . . Or a c c u r a t e l y c l a i m to remember what happened truthfully . . . . Besides, there are some things that can't be the t r u t h even i f they did happen (70). One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest invokes very acceptable l i t e r a r y -47-parameters. I t asks us only to b e l i e v e . Kesey give s us one n a r r a t o r and one p o i n t of view and provides us w i t h i n t u i t i v e grounds f o r e v a l u a t i n g the perceptions that are p r o f f e r e d . Sometimes a Great Notion i s more complex because i t suggests that we cannot e a s i l y b e l i e v e — anything. Kesey now gives us a s e r i e s of n a r r a t o r s and a s e r i e s of p o i n t s of. view. Moreover, the perceptions we are witness to p e r s i s t e n t l y c o n t r a d i c t each other. In Sometimes a Great Notion, Kesey creates a form that i s at once more c o n t r i v e d and l e s s c o n t r i v e d than the form that d e f i n e s One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I t i s more c o n t r i v e d because i t m i n d f u l l y manipulates i t s resources to r e p l i c a t e something l i k e l i f e . I t i s l e s s c o n t r i v e d because i t i s l e s s schematized, l e s s amenable to any k i n d of r e d u c t i v e reading. In h i s second n o v e l , Kesey has removed the c e n t r a l i t y of a s i n g l e n a r r a t i n g consciousness and i n the process he has pushed beyond l i n e a r i t y . P l o t s u p p l i e s the only c h r o n o l o g i c a l ordering of the novel. . But p l o t i s never one-dimensional or completely l i n e a r . The primary p l o t revolves around the progress of n e g o t i a t i o n s between the labour union and the Stamper f a m i l y , w h i l e the.Stampers work toward meeting a.contract deadline w i t h a logging company. The secondary p l o t i s a revenge p l o t against Hank Stamper., w i t h h i s . brother as agent and h i s w i f e as instrument of h i s intended f a l l . For the greater part of the n o v e l , t h i s p l o t has i t s only expression i n the imagination of Lee Stamper. The ways i n which the , two p l o t s coalesce and a s s i m i l a t e subplots give substance and d e f i n i t i o n to the n o v e l . B a s i c p l o t l i n e f u n c t i o n s almost as an i n t e r r u p t i o n .of the momentum that i s set up through memory, d i g r e s s i o n , i n t e r n a l monologue and n a r r a t i o n of episodes that have no d i r e c t r e l a t i o n s h i p to the c e n t r a l -48-a c t i o n of the novel. Most of Kesey's secondary characters (Indian Jenny, Simone, W i l l a r d Eggleston, Teddy, Rod and Ray) have only i n c i d e n t a l connections to p l o t , yet each i s expanded and explored i n t u r n . The novel becomes a mosaic of character and c o n f l i c t . Kesey's method renders h i s novel very confusing. But the s t r u c t u r a l confusion f u n c t i o n s to underline theme. We have no s i n g l e r e l i a b l e character to whose perceptions we can r e f e r when images refuse to be c o n s i s t e n t and the t r u t h announced i n one sentence i s c o n t r a d i c t e d by the t r u t h announced i n the next. This i s because the l a c k of shared agreement as to what i s good or e v i l , r i g h t or wrong, r e a l or imagined, true or f a l s e i s a c e n t r a l concern of Sometimes a Great Notion. L i k e One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey's second novel i s about b a t t l e s — w i n n i n g them, l o s i n g them, compromising i n them and being compromised by them. More than anything, i t i s about the p e r c e p t i o n of b a t t l e s , and then the naming of them. The p e r c e p t i o n and naming of b a t t l e s , p r o t a g o n i s t s and antagonists form the process that c a r r i e s readers and characters through the t e x t . Nothing i s q u i t e c l e a r . Or r a t h e r , nothing remains c l e a r f o r very long. The e n t i r e novel i s a study of p e r c e p t i o n ; i t i s about perception and w r i t t e n through a l a b y r i n t h of changing p e r s p e c t i v e s . The c e n t r a l characters of Sometimes a Great Notion r e f e r to an imaginary monster c a l l e d "the Hidebehind." The Hidebehind i s "little, not b i g at a l l . . . but Jfast . . . . And.he stays behind a man's back a l l the time so no matter how quick you t u r n , he's run the other way, out of your seeing" (108). A l l the Stampers know about the Hidebehind. Lee's s i l e n t messenger, who keeps him advised to "WATCH OUT," cautions -49-him from the beginning to e s p e c i a l l y "LOOK OUT FROM BEHIND" (63). "Because one can never, no matter how f a s t he i s on the s p i n , face an a t t a c k from behind" (64). And i t i s b a s i c a l l y the enemy from the r e a r , the chameleon enemy, that the Stampers must c o n t i n u a l l y choose to escape or keep spinning to confront. The Hidebehind becomes a metaphor f o r a l l the enemies i n the novel. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the enemy i s s t r a i g h t ahead and v i s i b l e at. every t u r n . The novel p i t s one man (perhaps two) against „ one enemy and c a l l s the enemy the Combine. The Combine encompasses everything that i s c i t i f i e d and mechanized, everything that i s opposed to nature and v a r i e t y . N a t u r a l , d i r e c t language i s i n c o n f l i c t w i t h understatement and i n s i n u a t i o n ; m u l t i - s e n s u a l i s m i s i n c o n f l i c t w i t h unswerving v i s u a l i t y ; p e r s o n a l , c y c l i c a l , n a t u r a l time i s i n c o n f l i c t w i t h impersonal, l i n e a r , unnatural time. Although we have seen that the c o n f l i c t between the i n d i v i d u a l and the Establishment i s acted out i n s u b t l e ways, acted out through technique, s t i l l we have been able to name the enemy and watch the b a t t l e s . The b a t t l e s are simple because our p r o t a g o n i s t s never r e a l l y stop being p r o t a g o n i s t s , and our antagonist i s so p e r f e c t l y p e r s o n i f i e d and epitomized i n Big N u r s e — s o easy to hate. Even i f our n a r r a t o r i s p s y c h o t i c , he i s the only n a r r a t o r we have. There is.no such s i m p l i c i t y i n Sometimes a Great Notion. This i s because of the i n t e r r e l a t i o n s h i p s of technique, character and theme. The author o f f e r s no s i n g l e n a r r a t o r , p s y c h o t i c or otherwise; and because of the m u l t i - n a r r a t o r , technique, i t i s sometimes d i f f i c u l t to d i f f e r e n t i a t e between/positive characters and negative ones. Theme i s couched i n a complex .network of characters f i g h t i n g b a t t l e s ; and while i n d i v i d u a l d i g n i t y i s u l t i m a t e l y a f f i r m e d , there i s no Combine to f i g h t , -50-the n a t u r a l world i s a given, and the enemies are yet to be named. From i t s e a r l i e s t pages, the novel t e l l s us to "Stop," "Look" and " L i s t e n " (1-14). The i n s t r u c t i o n s are repeated a l l the way through the t e x t . We are being guided through the n o v e l , warned to keep our eyes and ears a l e r t , and l i k e c h i l d r e n about to cross a s t r e e t , we are being t o l d to WATCH OUT. We must read c a r e f u l l y , because i t i s f o r us, as i t i s f o r the characters i n the n o v e l , to be cognizant of percep t i o n s , to name the heroes and the v i l l a i n s and name the b a t t l e s . Although there i s some contention about t h i s w i t h i n the novel i t s e l f , Hank Stamper does emerge as the s i n g l e most h e r o i c f i g u r e of the saga. I t i s he who i s most c l o s e l y i d e n t i f i e d w i t h the c e n t r a l value of d i g n i t y . I t i s he who learns the meaning of stren g t h and weakness, l e a r n s i t from h i s brother: Weakness is true and real. I used to accuse the kid of faking his weakness. But faking proves the weakness is real. Or you wouldn't be so weak as to fake it. No, you can't ever fake being weak. You can only fake being strong .... And if you can only fake being strong, not being weak, then the kid has done to me what I set off to do to him'. He's shaped me up. He's made me to quit faking (503-4). In r e t u r n f o r the knowledge which Lee gives (which he gives i n ignorance because he never r e a l l y owned i t ) , Hank imparts i n t e g r i t y to h i s b r o t h e r , forces him to f i g h t — " n o t run f o r [ h i s ] miserable l i f e " (584). Hank develops a c e r t a i n s t a t u r e i n the n o v e l , and h i s r o l e as hero sets up a f a i r l y i r r e s i s t i b l e temptation to compare him to McMurphy, and even compare the union he f i g h t s to the Combine. The analogy seems sound to the extent t h a t Hank, l i k e McMurphy, stands apart from every other character i n the pose of a p a r t l y r e a l and p a r t l y manufactured hero. -51-(The people of the town create Hank no l e s s than the inmates of the h o s p i t a l create McMurphy). The q u a l i t i e s of Hank's heroism are t r a n s l a t e d i n t o a language compatible w i t h the image of the untamed West. Joe Ben describes him as the lone man who can "hold a double-edged ax s t r a i g h t out at arm's length f o r eig h t minutes and t h i r t y - s i x seconds" (312). The union approximates the Combine to the extent that i t cannot t o l e r a t e i s o l a t i o n i s t t a c t i c s i n i t s o p p o s i t i o n . L i k e the Combine, the union needs everyone to f i t together i f everything i s to run smoothly. L i k e the Combine, i t i s an amorphous yet organized f o r c e that must prosecute d e f e c t o r s . While the Combine/union analogy a p p l i e s , the union i s by no means the only enemy or even the r e a l enemy i n the novel. Hank Stamper must f i g h t more than the union i f he i s to s u r v i v e w i t h d i g n i t y and " f e e l a l l r i g h t about [ h i m ] s e l f " (589). Yet to what extent i s Hank a r e i n c a r n a t i o n of McMurphy? At times, he seems to resonate w i t h the v o i c e of the man we meet at the beginning of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Hank expl a i n s h i s p o l i t i c s i n the f o l l o w i n g excerpt from a d i a t r i b e to Draeger: I f we was to get i n t o i t w i t h Russia I'd f i g h t f o r us r i g h t down to the wire . And i f Oregon was to get i n t o i t w i t h C a l i f o r n i a I'd f i g h t f o r Oregon. But i f somebody . . . gets i n t o i t w i t h me, then I'm f o r mel When the chips are down, I'm my own p a t r i o t (346). Hank, l i k e McMurphy, i s not a f r a i d to be who he i s and to defy h i s own image too. Chief Broom expresses h i s astonishment at d i s c o v e r i n g that McMurphy can "p a i n t p i c t u r e s or w r i t e l e t t e r s to people, or be upset and w o r r i e d " (Cuckoo's Nest, 153). No l e s s a s t o n i s h i n g then i s Hank's -52-s e n s i t i v i t y to "rhododendron flowers In the dozen ways they bloom every year" (391). And Hank i s capable of being both upset and worried. Joe Ben n o t i c e s h i s "spots of r u s t . . . i n a dozen p l a c e s " (426). Hank's i n t e r i o r development allows us to see h i s "spots of r u s t " as w e l l , and i t i s the very expansion of h i s i n t e r i o r i t y t hat separates him from McMurphy. We are never admitted to the secret world of McMurphy's thoughts. He may be as complex a person as Hank, but we are d e a l i n g w i t h f i c t i o n , and as a character, McMurphy i s not exposed s u f f i c i e n t l y to r e v e a l h i s complexity. This makes McMurphy more mysterious than Hank, and e f f e c t i v e l y precludes any extensive comparison between the two men. While we perceive McMurphy as a hero on the b a s i s of Broom's r e p o r t i n g , we must a s c e r t a i n the nature of Hank's heroism on the b a s i s of evidence we acquire from c o n f l i c t i n g sources. In t h i s context, i t i s important t h a t we know Hank's a t t i t u d e toward h i s seemingly endless f i g h t i n g : " I don't care about the a c t u a l h i t t i n g and g e t t i n g h i t so much as I care that I always have to be goddammit working up to fighting w i t h some-guy-or-other" (314). And i t i s important that we know of Hank's dream "tha t he i s at the top of h i s c l a s s and nobody i s t r y i n g to p u l l him down, nobody i s t r y i n g to push him o f f , nobody but h i m s e l f even knows that he i s up there" (328). I t i s important that we know that Hank i s u l t i m a t e l y t e r r i f i e d by the r e f l e c t i o n of h i s own image i n a nighttime window (449). Hank appears as strong and independent, yet s e n s i t i v e and even v u l n e r a b l e . He i s a man who i s f o r e v e r cornered i n t o f i g h t i n g f o r h i s place "at the top of the c l a s s , " because there are people who keep pushing him—people who admit "we wanted the champ down simply because -53-i t was insupportable to us that he had the audacity to be up t h e r e — perched a r r o g a n t l y on the throne, when we were not" (187). The confession i s Lee's, but the "we" he uses groups him w i t h every man i n town who prays f o r the f a l l of Hank Stamper. And poor Hank has to " p u l l h i m s e l f together and t e l l them 'Up yours' . . . l i k e Hank has always had to do when a l l ' s s a i d and when a l l ' s done, on account of that's h i s p l a c e , no matter how he don't l i k e i t " (309). Although Hank's r o l e as pro t a g o n i s t seems unshaken i n terms of a l l we have seen, there are those that w i l l c a l l him the enemy. And while t h e i r voices are o f t e n weak, they cannot be ignored. Lee sees Hank as the person who v i o l a t e d h i s mother and s t o l e h i s sunshine (188). Lee's per c e p t i o n has i t s t r u t h , but i t i s Lee's p r i v a t e t r u t h . And Hank r e i n f o r c e s Lee's p e r c e p t i o n . He taunts him w i t h "You t h i n k you're b i g enough now?" (66), and even desp i t e h i m s e l f , feeds Lee's image of o l d e r brother as maniacal g o l i a t h . Hank e x p l a i n s : I I'm i n t e n d i n g to k i n d of k i d him but, t r y as I may, I can hear myself sounding j u s t e x a c t l y l i k e o l d Henry doing some f i r s t - r a t e ass-chewing, and I know I couldn't p i c k a worse way to t a l k to Lee. But I'm damned i f I can stop i t (170). We can determine u l t i m a t e l y that Lee's perceptions of Hank are d i s t o r t e d . As the novel develops, Lee becomes an i n c r e a s i n g l y negative f i g u r e . His "WATCH OUT" i s always f o r hims e l f . While the other Stampers are f i g h t i n g a c o l l e c t i v e f i g h t , w h i l e they are even dying i n the process, Lee i s self-consumed, s e l f - i n d u l g e n t , s e l f - p r e s e r v i n g . The novel s t r u c t u r a l l y f l a s h e s back and f o r t h between Hank's s t r u g g l e s i n the " r e a l world" of the f o r e s t and the town, and Lee's (always simultaneous) s t r u g g l e s i n no r e a l i t y but h i s own—"a fair y b o o k world . . . l i k e a k i n d of nightmare" (318).' -54-Moreover, Lee i s about as paranoid as Chief Broom and much l e s s accurate. The moment the avenger f e e l s complacency coming on, he puts f o r t h the f o l l o w i n g a n a l y s i s : "The whole d i a b o l i c a l houseful was being warm and sweet and treacherous, from my serpent brother down to the l i t t l e s t snake-in-the-weeds i n f a n t " (201). U n t i l the c o n c l u s i o n of Sometimes a Great Notion, when growth and knowledge become the s t u f f of the n o v e l , Lee remains the s e l f i s h v i c t i m of his.own monoideism. He compares himself to Hamlet i n a way that i s h a l f s e r i o u s and h a l f parodic (62-7). He i s the h e s i t a t i n g youth, bent on destroying the man who despoi l e d h i s mother, only "beset b y i t h e s l i n g s and arrows of outrageous i n t r o s p e c t i o n " (262). But we cannot dismiss Lee's understanding of Hank or h i s understanding of r e a l i t y . In. t h i s n o v e l , we are warned to "Look" and " L i s t e n " and not dismiss anything. Lee l a b o r i o u s l y attempts to give credence to h i s perceptions. He w r i t e s to Peters ( h i s Eastern c o h o r t ) , s t r u g g l i n g "with a stubby p e n c i l to i l l u m i n a t e h i s own p a r t i c u l a r r e a l i t y to someone e l s e " (407). (Peters appears only once i n the novel. For the remainder of the book, he i s i n v i s i b l e . His only f u n c t i o n i s to r e c e i v e Lee's perceptions of r e a l i t y . We know that Peters responds to Lee's l e t t e r s , but we never learn, what he w r i t e s . He i s e f f e c t i v e l y a c r e a t i o n of Lee to v a l i d a t e somewhere Lee's own v e r s i o n of what i s t r u e ) . While Lee may be alone w i t h Peters i n h i s p r i v a t e world of f a m i l i a l revenge, he i s not alone i n h i s simultaneous admiration and.hatred of Hank Stamper. The t r u t h of Hank's heroism may be apparent to us because we penetrate h i s image and enter h i s mind. But i n Sometimes a. Great Notion, there are always c o n f l i c t i n g perceptions of the way things r e a l l y are. "One man's poison is another man's high" (329). And one man's t r u t h i s another man's l i e . To the people of the union and the people of the town, Hank Stamper i s not a p r o t a g o n i s t but an antagonist. He i s seen, l i k e the r a i n , as a s a t a n i c f o r c e , w i t h no other purpose than to torment innocent f o l k : Nothing can be done about the r a i n except blaming . . . . And you can maybe put the blame on the Arm of the Lord those years when that arm puts a s t r a n g l e h o l d of f r o s t on the woods so t i g h t i t freezes a l l the way to your pay envelope . . . . But when the arm i s the arm of Hank Stamper s t r a n g l i n g o f f your income, and you damn w e l l know that the blow i s being d e a l t by the fist on that arm, then you f i n d y o u r s e l f having a p r e t t y hard time blaming your woes on anything other, than that arm (382-3). So everyone i n the town blames Hank Stamper f o r something. On the n i g h t of h i s impending s u i c i d e , W i l l a r d Eggleston telephones Hank because he "deserves to be t o l d j u s t what extremes h i s hardnosed obstinance can d r i v e a man t o " (407). To some extent, the townspeople are j u s t i f i e d i n blaming Hank Sta m p e r — f o r e v e r y t h i n g . The novel d e p i c t s a Depression in.Western Oregon that grows out of a s t r i k e which i s broken and t h e r e f o r e prolonged by the.Stampers alone. The Stampers are scabs. I t was no easy task f o r a n o v e l i s t to t u r n a scab i n t o a hero at the beginning of the 1960's, when.the labour movement was growing .in North America and the counter-c u l t u r e was endorsing the New L e f t . But Kesey d i d . i t . And. he d i d i t a l l through p e r s p e c t i v e and.point of view. Because i n d i v i d u a l d i g n i t y can supercede labour p o l i t i c s when the world i s a novel and the novel i s s t r u c t u r e d c a r e f u l l y . The people who oppose the Stampers are not granted even a f r a c t i o n of Hank's d i g n i t y . Evenwrite goes to the Stamper home to n e g o t i a t e -56-the terms of a labour settlement and leaves c u r s i n g h i m s e l f f o r not asking Hank f o r a c i g a r e t t e (347). Les Gibbons accepts t r a n s p o r t a t i o n d a i l y from the Stampers and then wishes f o r Hank's d e s t r u c t i o n at the hands of B i g g i e Newton (186). The members of the extended Stamper f a m i l y assume a l l the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of v u l t u r e s when they smell the rumour that Hank may be s e l l i n g the business (396). And on the day of Joe Ben's f u n e r a l , the c o l l e c t i v e p e r s o n a l i t y of the town i s revealed: the undertaker overdoes h i s embalming work to compensate f i n a n c i a l l y f o r the u n p r o f i t a b l e death of W i l l a r d Eggleston (508), w h i l e Brother Walker wonders what he should wear to the s e r v i c e s (513). Boney Stokes misses the f u n e r a l and goes to v i s i t the e l d e r Stamper i n the h o s p i t a l : he cannot r e s t u n t i l he sees r e s i s t a n c e d i e i n Henry (534). Teddy, the owner of the l o c a l bar, i s the one character who does not expend excessive energy i n h a t i n g the Stampers; but only because he does not have t o . F i r s t , he i s aware of the monetary gain that comes to a bar-owner i n times of general misery. Second, he has created an image of h i s own to fe a r and re s p e c t , and needs the Stampers to do nothing but p r e v a i l i n the name of good business. Teddy i s i n awe of Jonathan Draeger, and h i s t a l e of awe becomes a parable about the primacy of images and p e r c e p t i o n i n the novel. Evenwrite sees Draeger as a " f a s t i d i o u s k n o w - i t - a l l who'd ob v i o u s l y never had on a p a i r of corks i n h i s l i f e " (361). To Hank, Draeger i s j u s t " t h i s other dude" (398). Teddy sees Draeger d i f f e r e n t l y : You're j u s t a piece of a bigger piece getting bigger rolling across the land into an ocean of mercury .... And you know all this, Mr. Draeger. It is the thing that makes you special. And you have the courage to use it. I can only stand awed by the true All-Powerful; you can use it. You are beautiful (375). -57-The apotheosis of Draeger i s fundamentally a product of Teddy's p r i v a t e p e r s p e c t i v e . Images c o n t r a d i c t each other, but they dominate the novel. The theme i s underlined by the c o n f l i c t i n g perceptions of Teddy hi m s e l f . We see Teddy and Teddy sees himself as a l a y p s y c h o l o g i s t of f e a r (348) . The c l i e n t e l e of The Snag never gets beyond Teddy's appearance, and welcomes "the comic i n t e r l u d e Teddy [brings] to t h e i r s e r i o u s , grim, down-to-business d i s c u s s i o n s " (370). What can the reader b e l i e v e about Teddy, Draeger, Hank or anyone? Our examination of the secondary characters of Sometimes a Great Notion has seemed to support Hank's r o l e as c e n t r a l p r o t a g o n i s t of the novel. The suggestion has even emerged t h a t , aside from Lee, the union members and other townspeople c o n s t i t u t e the enemy that Hank must contest. But the novel i s too complex to allow f o r such pat naming of enemies and b a t t l e s : i t s h i f t s p e r s p e c t i v e s too o f t e n . While.a negative e v a l u a t i o n of the town-characters has i t s own t r u t h , there are other perceptions and more in f o r m a t i o n which must be taken i n t o account. We know that Evenwrite i s without r e a l i n t e g r i t y ; but we know too that h i s i n t e g r i t y evaporated i n the home of h i s two drunken parents (356-8). We know t h a t . B i g g i e Newton i s the murderous agent of the union; but we know too that h i s monstrous body grew f a s t e r than h i s young mind, l e a v i n g him "barely v o t i n g age," w i t h the " b l e a k i s h f u t u r e of the b u l l y w i t h no blocks l e f t who'd get i n h i s road and nothing to bust up" (514). We know that the Stamper r e l a t i v e s are pawns.of the union; but we know too that each one was pressured i n d i v i d u a l l y by every non-Stamper i n the town (374). We know that Brother Walker was i n a quandary over h i s f u n e r a l a t t i r e ; but we know too that V i v Stamper, l o v i n g as she i s , spent hours preening h e r s e l f f o r the event (519). We know that Boney Stokes i s r e s e n t f u l behind h i s mask of s o l i c i t o u s n e s s to Henry; but we know too that h i s -58-resentment i s a response to the Stampers' r e j e c t i o n of the admirable n o t i o n of "community" (533). I f nothing i s c e r t a i n , then perhaps Draeger i s even a l l that Teddy dreams him to be. We can never say without q u a l i f i c a t i o n that any character i s good or e v i l , any a c t i o n completely r i g h t or completely wrong, any perception a b s o l u t e l y true or a b s o l u t e l y f a l s e . F i n a l l y , we must sympathize w i t h Floyd Evenwrite when he says: I t ' s g e t t i n g so you can't h a r d l y be sure . . . any more . . . who's the Big-Asses and who's the L i t t l e - A s s e s . . . who's on whose s i d e . . . or who's winning . . . any more . . . or even who you want to win f o r sure . . . (362). P a r t of the complexity of Sometimes a Great Notion comes from the non-existence of a Combine and the non-existence of i t s c o r o l l a r y , a r e p r e s s i v e matriarchy. The Combine metaphor i s convenient, even v a l i d , i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest because that novel i s set w i t h i n the w a l l s of a s t a t e mental h o s p i t a l , and the w a l l s form a microcosm and compress i t s u f f i c i e n t l y to make hyperboles c r e d i b l e . But even i f i t i s true that the Combine e x i s t s and spreads i t s t e n t a c l e s i n every d i r e c t i o n , by the time we get out i n t o the open country that forms the s e t t i n g f o r Sometimes a Great Notion, the Combine i s no longer recognizable. At the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Broom escapes to the f r e e spaces of Oregon or Canada. The Wakonda Auga country i s the place to which the Chief escapes. Here the b a t t l e s are no l e s s d r a i n i n g ; they are simply harder to p i n down. Each member of the union i n Sometimes a Great Notion, each p o t e n t i a l enemy, i s i n d i v i d u a l i z e d to the extent that he cannot be a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the Combine, or even w i t h the r e s t of the union. Each character i s as -59-much v i c t i m as v i c t i m i z e r . (To some degree, t h i s i s true i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as w e l l . The bl a c k a i d e s , f o r example, can "hate enough" because they were the oppressed long before they became the oppressors [Cuckoo's Nest, 28]. But the theme of v i c t i m i z e r s as v i c t i m s i s not much explored i n the n o v e l ) . Sometimes a Great Notion might have taken an e a s i e r path. The novel might have set up a dichotomy between Eastern and Western people, the former representing mechanization and c i t i f i e d v a lues. Lee's r e l a t i o n s h i p to Boston and h i s mother's r e l a t i o n s h i p to New York C i t y would have made the dichotomy p l a u s i b l e . But Kesey does not make much of East/West d i s t i n c t i o n s , or even u r b a n / r u r a l d i s t i n c t i o n s . Each p o s s i b l e antagonist i n the novel i s saved from a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h the image of the Combine i n h i s / h e r own p e c u l i a r way. Henry's second w i f e i s set apart from any stereotype by making love to her husband's son and by committing s u i c i d e . Draeger i s repeatedly c a l l e d back from h i s remote i n t e l l e c t u a l i s m by the damp reminder of h i s a t h l e t e ' s f o o t . Lee i s saved from c i t y one-dimensionality by marijuana and h i s c o n v i c t i o n that he i s insane. And whereas the image of the Combine i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest presupposes a f e a r - i n s p i r i n g matriarchy, women i n Sometimes a Great Notion (who are, i n c i d e n t a l l y , mostly imported from the East) have a remarkable propensity f o r dying. Henry Stamper's mother died when she came to Oregon; h i s f i r s t w i f e died unceremoniously w h i l e doing the chores; h i s second w i f e returned east to d i e . Only V i v s u r v i v e s ; but she su r v i v e s i n order to l e a v e — t o go east as Lee's bus t i c k e t d i r e c t s her to do. So no Combine, no c i t y myth, no Eastern myth, no matriarchy serves -60-to f a c i l i t a t e the naming of enemies i n the novel. V i v concedes that "there are bigger forces . . . . I don't know what they are but they got ours whipped sometimes" (597). She may be making a new d e d i c a t i o n to the power of some i n t e r - g a l a c t i c Combine, but we never know f o r sure. Sometimes a Great Notion sets up a c y c l e . Because enemies are d i f f i c u l t to name, we must r e l y on images and perceptions. And because images and perceptions are o f t e n i n c o n f l i c t , and the r e f o r e u n r e l i a b l e , enemies become even more d i f f i c u l t to name. The novel a r t i c u l a t e s the theme of the primacy of images and perceptions through s t r u c t u r e , by s h i f t i n g p e r s p e c t i v e s and c o n t r a s t i n g perceptions. But the novel underlines the same theme through pure content. The questions of what i s r i g h t and what i s true are posed i n d i r e c t l y through technique, and they are posed d i r e c t l y by the characters themselves. The s t o r y of W i l l a r d E g g l e s t o n — h i s business, h i s w i f e , h i s m i s t r e s s , h i s death—seems i n i t i a l l y to be a d i g r e s s i o n i n the n o v e l , another i n Kesey's s e r i e s of expanded p o r t r a i t s of minor characters. In f a c t , W i l l a r d Eggleston's l i f e and death c o n s t i t u t e a paradigm of the meaning of the whole novel. His d e c i s i o n to commit s u i c i d e i s a l l wrapped up i n thoughts of images and perceptions and the mystery of everything that l i e s behind appearances. W i l l a r d decides to k i l l h i mself i n order that J e l l y , h i s only-ever l o v e r and mother of h i s c h i l d , can have h i s insurance money and not be compelled to marry another man i n order to support her son. But W i l l a r d ' s dilemma i s that h i s s u i c i d e i s out of synch w i t h h i s image. He must take h i s l i f e , not only to provide money f o r J e l l y , but to defy the r e f l e c t i o n that he sees when he looks i n t o the window of h i s laundromat: -61-. . . a r i d i c u l o u s l i t t l e c haracter w i t h a receding c h i n and eyes swimming n e a r s i g h t e d l y behind glasses out of s t y l e years ago, a. c a r t o o n i s t ' s wash-drawing of the c a p i t a l - H henpecked husband, a s a t i r i s t ' s two-dimensional straw man designed to convey at f i r s t glance a two-dimensional p e r s o n a l i t y that everyone knows everything about before i t even opens i t s straw man's mouth. W i l l a r d wasn't shocked by the image; he had been aware of i t f o r years. When he was younger he had s c o f f e d to himse l f at a l l those people who t r e a t e d him as though he r e a l l y were t h i s image he projected—"What do I care f o r what they see? They t h i n k they know the book by i t s cover, but the book knows what i t i s . " Now he knew b e t t e r ; i f the book never opens up and comes out, i t can be warped to f i t the image others see (386). And W i l l a r d never does escape h i s image. He f i n a l l y d i e s , but not by an act of w i l l : he "goes i n t o a s l i d e on the very turn he had picked weeks before, and u n i n t e n t i o n a l l y keeps both appointment and h i s promise" (445). Not only then are images i n c o n f l i c t i n Sometimes a Great Notion, they are e i t h e r d e c e i v i n g or t y r a n n i c a l (or both) even when they are co n s i s t e n t . Joe Ben marries the woman who slashes h i s face because "he looked so much l i k e [ h i s f a t h e r ] that he was scared to death he would grow up to be the same person" (111). With a scar on h i s f a c e , Joe Ben i s f r e e to be h i m s e l f , and f r e e a l s o to be subjected to other people's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of h i s appearance, h i s speech and h i s whole being. Hank sees him as a ki n d of s a i n t who "didn't care i f he made a f o o l out of h i m s e l f , j u s t so long as he made you happy w i t h the f o o l " (442). Then again, Lee sees Joe Ben as "poor f o o l Joe" w i t h a "Tinker Toy mind and scrambled world" (282). Awareness of images—of others and oneself—permeates the novel. The m i r r o r i s a r e c u r r i n g metonym f o r the theme. When V i v leaves the -62-home of her youth to marry Hank Stamper, she stares into her own eyes i n "a wood-framed oval mirror" and kisses the face i n the glass good-bye (152). Years l a t e r , she "faces her image i n a medicine-cabinet mirror" and frowns. "What she sees—or doesn't s e e — i n the face makes her uncomfortable" (557). The mirror i s an appropriate object for Viv's discomfort. During the weeks and decades that the novel spans, she i s always being moulded to f i t someone else's image of who she i s . Her uncle w i l l not l e t her cut her hair; Hank w i l l not l e t her cut her h a i r ; Lee i s not concerned about Viv's h a i r , but confesses that he i s i n love with her "need for what I have to o f f e r " (408). The contest for Viv becomes, i n Lee's mind, at least, a contest of which brother needs her more. And we hear Viv s i l e n t l y protest, " j can't be everybody's somebody" (250). I t i s no wonder then that Viv, who i s deprived of her i n t e g r a l , separate s e l f for years, confronts her r e f l e c t i o n a f i n a l time and asks and answers a question about images: What does i t mean, a l l t h i s concern about our images? . . . I t means th i s i s the only way we ever see ourselves; looking out, at others, reflected through cobwebs from an a t t i c window (578). Because images are often i n c o n f l i c t , and because r e a l i t y i s often a matter of opinion, some of the characters i n Sometimes a Great Notion seek the solace afforded by anything absolute. Unfortunately, absolutes most often turn out to be i l l u s i o n s . I t i s important to note here that the grasping after fact i s b u i l t into the novel s t r u c t u r a l l y as well as contextually. The reader, no less than the characters i n the novel, i s beckoned by the mirage of a fixed r e a l i t y . -63-Representations of f i x e d r e a l i t y i n the novel appear most o v e r t l y i n three forms: photographs, signs and (of course) Jonathan Draeger's aphorisms. The Stamper f a m i l y album begins and ends Sometimes a Great Notion; signs are posted throughout the novel as a k i n d of comfort i n black and white or neon; Draeger attempts to compact human nature i n t o sentences or paragraphs and b e l i e v e s that he i s recording truisms. We are guided through the h i s t o r y of the Stamper f a m i l y through the auspices of V i v and the album of photographs she shares w i t h Draeger. The photographs are reproductions of moments of people i n fragments of space and t i m e — o f , say, Jonas Armand Stamper, "Dusty Kansas t r a i n depot i n 1898" (14). Yet what can V i v or anyone do w i t h photographs but read i n t o them, through them and beyond them? When photographs are i n t e r p r e t e d , t h e i r t r u t h becomes v a r i a b l e and t h e i r s t i l l n e s s p a r t of a flow. V i v does not put much stock i n photographs, " t u r n i n g the pages i n s i l e n c e " (598), c r e a t i n g a movie. And the movie i s no more tru e than each separate image that creates i t . The t r u t h r a t h e r l i e s somewhere i n a s e r i e s of simultaneous images w i t h c o n t r a d i c t o r y commentary. The book teaches us t h i s l e s s o n s t r u c t u r a l l y , and then unequivocally s p e l l s i t out: Reality is greater than the sum of its parts. . . . Truth doesn't run on time like a commuter train, though time may run on truth. And the Scenes Gone By and the Scenes to Come flow blending together in the sea-green deep while Now spreads in circles on the surface (14). V i v understands and e x p l a i n s to Draeger t h a t he cannot r e a l l y know "what happened" "because i t ' s s t i l l happening" (598). -64-Lee does not have Vi v ' s wisdom. He b e l i e v e s i n the t r u t h , however f a l s e or non-applicable, of photographs. Toward the end of the no v e l , when Lee r e a l i z e s that he cannot take V i v east w i t h him, he decides to abscond w i t h a ..photograph of her i n s t e a d . A reasonable s u b s t i t u t i o n . He takes hold of a snapshot, supposedly of "Viv seated beside a s m a l l , bespectacled boy.". He i s determined to have i t — t h a t snapshot t h a t "showed, her caught i n an a t t i t u d e that perhaps f o r that one i n s t a n t f u l f i l l e d completely a l l that her s l i g h t smile p e r p e t u a l l y suggested" (575). Lee i s i n . l o v e w i t h a photograph of Viv and a l l he reads i n t o i t . But l a t e r we l e a r n that the photograph i s dated September, 1945: the woman i s Myra.Stamper; the c h i l d , Lee. The importance of t h i s p a r t i c u l a r photograph c o n s i s t s i n the way i t cuts through.to the image theme of Sometimes a Great Notion. Myra's part i n . t h e novel i t s e l f i s s m a l l . Henry fetches her from the East on page t h i r t y - t w o and ret u r n s her on page t h i r t y - s e v e n . But she i s a ghost that haunts the e n t i r e book. To Hank, she i s the mysterious lady who took h i s v i r g i n i t y ; to Lee, she i s the i n v i o l a t e mother; to Henry, she i s simply the w i f e who didn't work out. But V i v , who has never even known t h i s woman, i s forced under her shadow and becomes the u n w i t t i n g centre of a vendetta that was i n i t i a t e d by Myra's a d u l t e r y . (Lee, at one p o i n t , r e s o l v e s to t e l l V i v the whole s t o r y : " I was determined to r e v e a l the t r u t h . t o someone, though i t meant l y i n g myself blue i n the f a c e " [230]. He never does t e l l V i v the s t o r y of Hank and Myra). Yet V i v , i n the end, f i n a l l y r e j e c t s Myra, her photograph, t h e i r i n t e r c h a n g e a b i l i t y , and her own i n t e r c h a n g e a b i l i t y w i t h both person and photograph. But Lee i s never to know that the -65-photograph l i e d or that he himself imposed i t s l y i n g , because Lee Stamper wants to believe i n s t i l l s . Even his attempts to describe the act of his lovemaking with Viv segment the scene into a sequence of photographs: " I might . . . l i s t impressions, images s t i l l b r i l l i a n t , flash-bulbed forever by the white arching of those f i r s t touches" (499). He i s deceived. Signs are l i k e photographs i n the novel i n that they represent a s t r i v i n g toward the f i x i n g of elusive truth. Things mounted on plaques, billboards or i n e l e c t r i c l i g h t s are things to hold on to. The novel i s f u l l of such signs. There are advertising signs for Pepsi-Cola ("BE SOCIABLE") and for beer ("Mabel, Black Label"); and these serve as touchstones, i f not for the characters, then for the reader. These signs are taken out of " r e a l l i f e " and we know them. There are commercial signs for business enterprises ("The G u l l , " "The Black Kat," "The Crab Pot" and "The Wakonda House"). Teddy's bar, The Snag, has no sign of i t s own because Teddy has been hoarding neons of defunct bars instead, and the neons give him warmth. There are signs that are warnings ("CAUTION . . . SLOW . . . STOP . . . RESUME SPEED"), and the t r a f f i c signs e f f e c t i v e l y direct the movements of the characters and ultimately, the movement of the novel i t s e l f . There are signs that are rules to l i v e by, both written ("NEVER GIVE A INCH") and unwritten ("First Come, F i r s t Served," " I f You Wants to Win, You Does Your Best," "Watch the doughnut, not the hole"). But these signs are to be obeyed or disobeyed: t h e i r concrete r e a l i t y does not make easier the subjective decision of whether or not to believe i n them. Signs are everywhere i n the novel. Like photographs, they aspire toward the truth; l i k e photographs, they may be looked at, looked through, or looked away from. -66-Jonathan B a i l e y Draeger w r i t e s h i s own s i g n s , extensive ones, compiled i n a notebook f o r a sense of s e c u r i t y and a p r o j e c t i o n of i m m o r t a l i t y . He reduces and c a p s u l i z e s w i t h the pretense of i n v e n t i n g truisms. The reader must decide how true are h i s aphorisms and what r e l a t i o n s h i p , i f any, they have to the meaning of Sometimes a Great Notion: Men are f o r e v e r eager to press d r i n k upon those they consider t h e i r s u p e r i o r s , hoping thereby to e l i m i n a t e that d i s t i n c t i o n between them (53). Man is certain of nothing but his ability to fail (81). The lowest of v i l l a i n s w i l l push a man to greater heights than the t a l l e s t of heroes (317). Draeger p e r p e t u a l l y s t r u g g l e s (as the author himself s t r u g g l e s ) to f i n d the r e l a t i o n s h i p between the human c o n d i t i o n and language. Kesey i s more s u c c e s s f u l . I t i s impossible to e s t a b l i s h the v e r a c i t y of Draeger's aphorisms because, i n h i s own non-capsulized w r i t i n g , Kesey gives us no method f o r judging them. The importance of Draeger's quotable quotes does not l i e i n t h e i r t r u t h or l a c k of t r u t h , but i n the f a c t that they e x i s t , t e s t i f y i n g to a quest. Joe Ben's f a t h e r probably comes c l o s e s t to phrasing the i n d i s p u t a b l e when he says, "A c i g a r i s j u s t a c i g a r , but a good woman i s a fuck" (193). Sometimes a Great Notion supports no f i x e d r e a l i t y , but a flow of simultaneous approximations of r e a l i t y . So r e t u r n i n g to the problem that the novel presents of i d e n t i f y i n g p r o t a g o n i s t s and antagonists and naming b a t t l e s , we a r r i v e at the f o l l o w i n g approximation: Hank Stamper i s a p r o t a g o n i s t because he, more than any other c h a r a c t e r , c o n s i s t e n t l y -67-acts w i t h d i g n i t y . Lee and the townspeople ,are enemies to the extent that they oppose the man we a f f i r m as p r o t a g o n i s t . And two b a t t l e s are named: Hank versus Lee, and Hank versus p r a c t i c a l l y everyone e l s e . None of t h i s i s s u f f i c i e n t l y f i x e d or s u f f i c i e n t l y t r u e t o be s a t i s f y i n g as an a n a l y s i s , but l a c k of shared agreement i s the subject of the n o v e l and c o n t r i v e d ambiguity d e f i e s any a n a l y s i s that does not pay due respect to i t s complexity. One b a t t l e remains to be named. I t i s the b a t t l e against nature and i t i s fought most openly on the Stamper f r o n t . The f o r e s t and the r i v e r appear as f o r c e s of o p p o s i t i o n i n Sometimes a Great Notion. Of the f o r e s t , Henry says, " I cut i t down an' i t ' s comin' back up. I t ' l l always be comin' back up. I t ' l l o u t l a s t anything s k i n an' bone. You need to get i n there w i t h some machinery an' t e a r h e l l out of i t " (227). Of the r i v e r , Hank says, " I t was l i k e me and that r i v e r had drawn ourselves a l i t t l e c o n t r a c t , a l i t t l e grudge match, and without me knowing e x a c t l y why" (104). The f o r e s t and the r i v e r u l t i m a t e l y do p r e v a i l . As a c h i l d , Hank lose s h i s treasured bobcats to a r i s i n g t i d e and t h e r e a f t e r i s obsessed w i t h checking the foundation of h i s house d a i l y , compulsively, performing a r i t u a l to save h i s home from the r i v e r by l e t t i n g the r i v e r know that i t s power i s never f o r g o t t e n . Then the s t o r y i s t o l d of Judy Stamper who "got hammered f l a t by a spruce limb" (284). F i n a l l y , the f o r e s t and the r i v e r form a merger t o s t r i k e at the centre of the Stamper t r i b e . One l o g separates Henry's arm from h i s body, rebounds o f f of Hank, and s e t t l e s on top of Joe Ben at the bank of the r i v e r . Joe Ben d i e s by a j o i n t e f f o r t of nature, trapped by a l o g i n order to be drowned. -68-But l i k e the other antagonists i n Sometimes a Great Notion, nature i s not only v i c t i m i z e r but v i c t i m . The Stampers are i n the business of chopping down t r e e s : The f o r e s t fought against the a t t a c k on i t s age-old domain w i t h a l l the age-old weapons nature could muster: b l a c k b e r r i e s strung barbed b a r r i c a d e s ; the wind shook widow-makers crashing down from high r o t t e d snags; boulders reared s i l e n t l y from the ground to block s l i d e s that had looked smooth and c l e a r moments before; streams turned s o l i d t r a i l s i n t o creeping r u t s of i c y brown l a v a . . . . But the t r e e s continued to f a l l (474-5). In f a c t , the f o r e s t and the r i v e r together s u s t a i n the Stamper empire, and d i r e c t l y or i n d i r e c t l y , s u s t a i n every character i n the novel. They b r i n g death, but they a l s o give l i f e . Whether or not they are enemies depends on who ..looks at them, and when and how. Again, p e r s p e c t i v e i s f l e x i b l e and r e l a t i v i t y takes over. In d i s c u s s i n g Sometimes a Great Notion to t h i s p o i n t , we have d i r e c t e d our a t t e n t i o n p r i m a r i l y to matters of perception. Examinations of form, character and theme have a l l l e d to e x p l o r a t i o n s of c o n f l i c t i n g perceptions of r e a l i t y and t r u t h . C l e a r l y , perceptions i n c o n f l i c t c o n s t i t u t e both the technique and meaning of Sometimes a Great Notion. But a study of technique as meaning i n the realm of perception was c e n t r a l to our reading of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as w e l l . And i t i s important that we now begin to look d i r e c t l y at the d i s t i n c t i o n s between Kesey's approaches to perception i n h i s two novels. There are major d i f f e r e n c e s . Moreover, j u s t as p e r c e p t i o n has a c e n t r a l but new meaning i n Sometimes a Great Notion, so do language and time. -69-The d i s p a r i t y i n approaches to p e r c e p t i o n , language and time i n the two novels emanates from the f a c t that Sometimes a Great Notion o f f e r s no s i n g l e enemy to correspond, i n magnitude or c l a r i t y , to the Combine enemy i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Kesey's second novel begins, i n e f f e c t , at the point at which h i s f i r s t novel leaves o f f . Sometimes a Great Notion takes f o r granted the ways of p e r c e i v i n g , communicating and r e l a t i n g to time that are fought f o r and died f o r i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Modes of p e r c e p t i o n , systems of language, methods of r e l a t i n g to time are a l l arenas f o r c o n f l i c t i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.' Sometimes a Great Notion assumes the supremacy of m u l t i - s e n s u a l p e r c e p t i o n , and then sets images perceived through every sense i n t o c o n f l i c t . Sometimes a Great Notion assumes the existence of gross d i f f e r e n c e s i n language systems, and proceeds to watch, not the r e s u l t i n g b a t t l e , but the f i n e r aspects of the r e s u l t i n g i n t e r f a c e . Sometimes a Great Notion assumes the r e j e c t i o n of a r t i f i c i a l time schemes, and recognizes from the s t a r t that there i s " f a s t time, slow time, d a y l i g h t time, n i g h t time, P a c i f i c time, good time, bad time," but not "such a t h i n g as the time" (85). What we see then i n Kesey's second novel are the i m p l i c a t i o n s of p e r c e p t i o n , language and time taken to another l e v e l of meaning. Every character i n Sometimes a Great Notion i s protected somehow from a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h the Combine, and no B i g Nurse f i g u r e , i n t e n t on watching, and r e f u s i n g to l i s t e n , s m e l l , touch or t a s t e , i s to be found i n the novel. Perhaps because Sometimes a Great Notion i s set i n the open country, a l l of i t s c e n t r a l n a r r a t i n g characters are attuned w i t h a l l of t h e i r senses to t h e i r environment. Many of t h e i r perceptions -70- , are worthy of even Chief Broom's consciousness. Hank enjoys milking the cows because the feel of "a cow's t i t [is] a nice change from an ax-handle" (79). He listens for sounds like the sound of logs.in the river, "scraping and rubbing against each other . . . making an actual sound above the motor and the rain . . . like a big throng of people muttering to each other" (422). And not only does Hank hear, but he hears synaesthetically. He describes a multitude of birds "in the last bit of daylight": . . . not purple, not green, not quite the acetylene blue of a cutting torch, a color almost a sound i t ' s so bright; ringing of bits of tinted glass against each other in the wind (389). Lee too perceives the world with a l l his senses, and refers in a single silent monologue to his "steely eyes," his "sentinel ears," his "sense of touch . . . disconnected by the cold," his "taste buds," his "keen nose" (556). Viv, in her own world, can hear at once "the slough, the whistle and b e l l buoy, the last of the h i l l s i d e flowers dying in the breeze—the drip of bleeding heart, the rattle of firecracker weed, the hiss of adder's tongue" (241). Even more remarkable than the perceptions of Hank or Lee or Viv are the perceptions of the third person narrator who makes frequent appearances in the novel, f i l l i n g the gaps that the troop of f i r s t person narrators leave in their t r a i l s , and providing the listings of simultaneous events that no f i r s t person narrator could know. It is this persona that describes the "light, restrained touch of the glass against the table, as light as a hammer cocking" (374), and the neon signs "so bright and so clashing . . . that on a dark night their effect is almost audible" (45). -71-Synaesthetic perceptions and a k i n d of u l t r a - s e n s e are the keynotes of the novel. There are never c o n f l i c t s between modes of p e r c e p t i o n ; r a t h e r there are c o n f l i c t s i n what i s perceived and how perceptions are a s s i m i l a t e d and i n t e r p r e t e d . This order of discrepancy i s the s i n g l e most important method and meaning of Sometimes a Great Notion. We have examined the many r a m i f i c a t i o n s of images and perceptions i n the f i r s t p a r t of t h i s chapter, but we may now observe perceptions and misperceptions i n a c t i o n i n a couple of s p e c i f i c sequences i n the novel. On pages 180-181, Lee and Hank are together at lunchtime during Lee's f i r s t day of l o g g i n g . Hank t r i e s to e x p l a i n h i s a t t i t u d e toward the work he does and shows Lee one of h i s o c c u p a t i o n a l wounds. "You see what I'm driving at, bub?" says Hank, and Lee r e p l i e s , "Yes, I see," or "Yes, I believe I see what you're driving at" (depending on whose v e r s i o n of r e a l i t y we b e l i e v e ) . But then, as Hank comments to h i m s e l f that Lee " a i n ' t completely l o s t to us, a f t e r a l l . College or no, we can s t i l l f i n d ways of making contact," Lee t h i n k s , " H e ' l l always be running ahead f o r me to catch up. He keeps changing the r u l e s f o r the run or the run i t s e l f . . . . He w i l l never give me the chance!" What i s happening? On pages 318-319, at the scene of Hank's imminent f i g h t w i t h B i g g i e Newton, both brothers wonder why Lee has been brought along to witness the massacre. Each unable to f i n d a reason that i s the "whole t r u t h , " Hank guesses that "the k i d needed to see f i r s t hand . . . the real world w i t h real h a s s l e s , " w h i l e Lee imagines that he i s about to see a demonstration of the treatment he can expect f o r h i s involvement i n such a " h a s s l e " as "making a play f o r one of the woods f o l k s ' wildwoods w i f e . " What i s happening? Events are continuously t a k i n g place and being p e r c e i v e d , reperceived and -72-misperceived. The question i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s how do we p e r c e i v e , w h i l e the question r a i s e d i n Sometimes a Great Notion i s what do we perceive. And j u s t as the question i s a r t i c u l a t e d through technique i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, so i t i s a r t i c u l a t e d through t e c h n i q u e — d i f f e r e n t l y — i n Sometimes a Great Notion. Language, l i k e p e r c e p t i o n , has a separate meaning i n each of Kesey's novels. In both novels, language i s a f u n c t i o n of p e r c e p t i o n , and i n both novels language i s an aspect of technique that has i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r theme. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, each mode of expression i s p e r s o n a l i z e d , and o p p o s i t i o n between language systems i s a m a n i f e s t a t i o n of the c e n t r a l c o n f l i c t i n the nov e l . In Sometimes a Great Notion, modes of expression are again p e r s o n a l i z e d , but the o p p o s i t i o n between them i s almost too obvious to be i n t e r e s t i n g . F a s c i n a t i o n w i t h language goes beyond questions of i n d i v i d u a l i t y and c o n f l i c t : Kesey explores the s u b t l e t y of range w i t h i n p r i v a t e language systems and moves toward the suggestion that language i t s e l f i s an inadequate method of communication—an approximation of thought and f e e l i n g s t r u g g l i n g to r e p l i c a t e what can only be an approximation of the way things r e a l l y are. Lee speaks i n a starched academic language that i s p r e d i c t a b l e i n l i g h t of h i s starched academic h i s t o r y . But even w i t h i n t h i s frame, h i s language i s more i n t r i c a t e and more v a r i a b l e than i t seems to be. Lee, i n f a c t , speaks w i t h many tongues. There i s the language he uses i n conversation w i t h h i m s e l f (and t h i s i s not always c o n s i s t e n t ) , the language he uses i n w r i t i n g to P e t e r s , and the language he uses i n speaking w i t h other people ( a l s o not always c o n s i s t e n t ) . -73-When Lee converses w i t h h i m s e l f , h i s language i s o f t e n q u i t e s t i l t e d and he draws a few too many analogies from l i t e r a t u r e . He compares the " s p e c t e r " of h i s brother to h i s "Dickensian counterpart" (60), and contemplating s u i c i d e , he extends h i s Hamlet fantasy and concludes that "the Mad Dane of Denmark" would have allowed himself a l a s t c i g a r e t t e (62). But Lee i s not always so p r e t e n t i o u s . He has a f a i r l y well-developed vocabulary of t e r r o r as w e l l . In one of the countless scenes i n which Lee imagines h i s l i f e to be threatened, we hear the manic rumblings of h i s paranoia take over: "Call it a draw while there's s t i l l a chance. WATCH OUT. No, concede. WATCH OUT'. WATCH OUT'. WATCH OUT'. YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME'. . . . I concede" (298). When Lee w r i t e s to P e t e r s , he summons a l l h i s i n t e l l e c t u a l prowess to the f o r e and w r i t e s i n a language so s t y l i z e d that i t i s almost a parody of i t s e l f . D e s c r i b i n g l i f e i n the w i l d s to h i s correspondent, Lee puts together the f o l l o w i n g c o l l e c t i o n of words and a l l u s i o n s : I have had to stand there pant and f a i n t i n g t r y i n g to endure b e r r y v i n e s , n e t t l e s , sunstroke, b l i s t e r s , mosquitoes . . . i n the b r i e f r e s p i t e a l l o t e d me w h i l e I waited f o r that cable to drop i t s l o g a hundred yards away and come h i s s i n g and snapping back f o r a new a s s a u l t (something of Dante, don't you thi n k ? ) I mean not only have I suf f e r e d a l l these p h y s i c a l h o r r o r s , but I have, i f anything . . . increased my mental menaces a millionfoldl (Pardon my bad a l l i t e r a t i v e . . .) (262). When Lee speaks to other characters i n the n o v e l , he modifies h i s language to serve h i s p a r t i c u l a r purpose. He uses p o l y s y l l a b l e s as weapons, confounding Joe Ben, f o r example, w i t h h i s reference to "a so r t of p e d i a t r i c Procrustean bed" (160). Sometimes he s e t t l e s i n t o h i s own brand of d i r e c t n e s s , arguing w i t h Hank about music: "This i s -74- . Jazz as b l a c k as i t comes, b l a c k b a l l s dragging on the ground" (265); or p l a y i n g at making V i v h i s confidante: " I was a l i a b i l i t y when I f i r s t came. I don't f e e l so any more" (238). Most of Lee's language i s a c u t e l y s e l f - c o n s c i o u s . But through the v a r i a t i o n s w i t h i n h i s language system, we can note changes i n h i s s t a t e of mind. At one p o i n t , h i s language becomes genuinely f l u i d ; i t d i s s o l v e s i n t o oneness w i t h h i s environment. He goes out to get cream f o r the f a m i l y dinner and we hear him t h i n k i n g , " I stood w i t h a bowl of fetched cream f r a g r a n t as a l f a l f a i n my hands, watching the dark p o u l t i c e of dusk draw b u l l b a t s from t h e i r hideaways" (217). Here Lee's language i s so c o n s i s t e n t w i t h the language of h i s s e t t i n g that we know, almost before he does, that he i s l o s i n g h i s h a t r e d , becoming in v o l v e d w i t h the Stamper mystique. I t i s h i s language t h a t exposes him. Hank's language i s n e i t h e r as v a r i a b l e nor as complex as Lee's. He i s most o f t e n d i r e c t , only h i d i n g what he f e e l s he must hide. ("What went on inside, that was nobody's business but whoever's i t went on inside of" [195]). When Hank speaks, there are no hidden agenda, no c i r c u m l o c u t i o n or camouflage of meaning. Hank speaks the language of " p l a i n f o l k , " but forces us to re-examine our own preconceptions of what that language i s . In Lee's jaded imagination, he a t t r i b u t e s to Hank a language that belongs to a c a r i c a t u r e of a country bumpkin: Paw, I knowed how ya f e l t . I c a i n ' t help but f e e l the same way m y s e l f — w o r s t , mebbe, comes down to i t ; I'd as leave never heard h i s name again the r e s t o' my n a c h r u l l i f e — b u t I didn ' t see no way g e t t i n ' around i t , c o n s i d e r i n ' the s i t u a t i o n we i s i n (75). -75-In f a c t , Hank i s no c a r i c a t u r e . He i s capable of near eloquence i n i n t e r n a l monologue, and h i s o r a l language, w h i l e not always grammatically f l a w l e s s , i s c e r t a i n l y nothing l i k e the drawling d i a l e c t of the stereotyped farmboy i n the image that Lee f a b r i c a t e s . V i v s t r a d d l e s a l i n g u i s t i c fence. She i s n e i t h e r as crude as Hank nor as loquacious as Lee. Her language i s without r e a l d i s t i n g u i s h i n g f e a t u r e s . But her l i n g u i s t i c p lace i n the novel i s an i n d i c a t i o n of her r o l e i n the Stamper domain. In language, as i n a l l other t h i n g s , V i v i s "without a world t r u l y her own" (153). The secondary characters i n the novel are known by t h e i r languages as w e l l , and t h e i r languages are g e n e r a l l y v a r i a b l e . Draeger p r e v a r i c a t e s u n t i l he d i c t a t e s ; Evenwrite s u l k s u n t i l he curses. Joe Ben's language i s a l t e r n a t e l y profoundly r e l i g i o u s and completely earthbound. Henry speaks l i k e a g e r i a t r i c c a s u a l t y u n t i l he f i n d s the l o s t vocabulary of a competent foreman. Even Indian Jenny o s c i l l a t e s between p r o t e s t and prayer. I t i s c l e a r that language i s a f u n c t i o n of perception to the extent that i t i s considered to give expression to the p a r t i c u l a r views of p a r t i c u l a r people at p a r t i c u l a r times. But w h i l e language may f o l l o w from p e r c e p t i o n , i t i s a l s o subject to pe r c e p t i o n . Once words are spoken, they are open to i n t e r p r e t a t i o n by any l i s t e n e r . Moreover, as an undercurrent to the importance of language i n the n o v e l , there i s the suggestion that words do not always communicate the thoughts and f e e l i n g s that are supposedly t h e i r impetus. Words may even p u r p o s e f u l l y betray inner t r u t h . So Kesey p o i n t s to two i l l u s i o n s : the assumption that words are -76-necessarily interpreted to mean what the speaker intends them to mean (as i n the incident i n which Hank and Lee share misperceptions as they share lunch); and the assumption that language i s t r u l y representational of thoughts and feelings. There are two scenes i n the novel which i l l u s t r a t e most c l e a r l y the discrepancy between private conception and public expression. In the following passage from the text, we are given Lee's analysis of a dialogue he had with Hank on the subject of Myra Stamper's death: " I r e a l l y wisht there'd been something I could of done." Meaning: Was there? " I don't know, Hank." Meaning: You did enough. " I always worried about her." Meaning: Was I p a r t i a l l y to blame? "Yeah." Meaning: We were a l l to blame (203-4). There are layers of l y i n g . In another scene from the novel, Lee has apparently been revealing his innermost thoughts to Viv, while he has actually been executing the double mission of attracting sympathy and furthering his revenge scheme. Viv i s feeling pressured by the demands Lee i s making on her attention, and we are given her public and private responses: "'Lee, please e x p l a i n — ' Don't explain! Leave me alone . . . 'What was i t you started to confess?" 1 (250). Given the undercutting of the c r e d i b i l i t y of language i n the novel, i t i s no wonder that the best relationships i n Sometimes a Great Notion are founded on a minimum of speaking. Hank explains that he and Joe Ben "didn't r e a l l y have to talk a whole l o t " (170). And suspicion of language i s confirmed i n Kesey's description of Joe Ben's l a s t day of work. The action i s permeated with silence and the vignette i s one of the most evocative i n the novel. The players are Hank, Joe Ben and Henry: - 7 7 -Few w o r d s a c t u a l l y p a s s e d b e t w e e n t h e m ; t h e y c o m m u n i c a t e d w i t h t h e u n s p o k e n l a n g u a g e o f l a b o r t o w a r d a s h a r e d e n d , b e c o m i n g more a n d more a n e f f i c i e n t , s k i l l e d t e a m a s t h e y w o r k e d t h e i r way a c r o s s t h e s t e e p s l o p e s , b e c o m i n g a l m o s t o n e m a n , o n e w o r k e r who knew h i s b o d y a n d h i s s k i l l a n d k n e w how t o u s e t h e m w i t h o u t w a s t e o r o v e r l a p ( 4 7 5 ) . C o m m u n i c a t i o n w i t h o u t s p o k e n l a n g u a g e i s g i v e n a c e r t a i n s a n c t i t y i n Sometimes a Great Notion. L a n g u a g e i s a f a s c i n a t i o n i n t h e n o v e l : i t i s d e s c r i b e d , e x a m i n e d , m a n i p u l a t e d a n d t h r o w n i n t o c o n f r o n t a t i o n . B u t i t i s f i n a l l y u n d e r c u t . W h i l e l a n g u a g e s y s t e m s a r e i m p l i c i t l y r a t e d i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a n d o n e l a n g u a g e s y s t e m i s deemed more w o r t h y t h a n a n o t h e r , n o l a n g u a g e i s r e a l l y s u f f i c i e n t i n Sometimes a Great Notion. I n h i s f i r s t n o v e l , K e s e y e x p l o r e s c o n f l i c t s i n modes o f p e r c e p t i o n , s t y l e s o f l a n g u a g e a n d r e l a t i o n s h i p s t o t i m e . He d e s c r i b e s a n d h e j u d g e s : one way o f p e r c e i v i n g i s b e t t e r t h a n a n o t h e r ; o n e m e t h o d o f c o m m u n i c a t i n g i s b e t t e r t h a n a n o t h e r ; o n e s y s t e m o f r e l a t i n g t o t i m e i s b e t t e r t h a n a n o t h e r . I n Sometimes a Great Notion, K e s e y m o v e s b e y o n d d e s c r i p t i o n a n d e v a l u a t i o n i n h i s t r e a t m e n t o f p e r c e p t i o n a n d l a n g u a g e . And h e a c t u a l i z e s t h e p r i n c i p l e o f " m o v i n g b e y o n d " i n h i s t r e a t m e n t o f t i m e a s w e l l . Sometimes a Great Notion p u n c t u r e s t h e s u r f a c e c o n f l i c t b e t w e e n c l o c k a n d a n t i - c l o c k a n d b e t w e e n l i n e a r a n d n o n - l i n e a r t i m e t o e x p l o r e t h e m a n i f o l d m e a n i n g s o f t i m e i t s e l f . T h e c l o c k a s c l o c k — t i m e f o r t i m e ' s s a k e — i s d i s p e n s e d w i t h s u m m a r i l y i n t h e n o v e l . A s L e e moves c l o s e r t o t h e O r e g o n s e t t i n g o f Sometimes a Great Notion, h i s w a t c h s t o p s w o r k i n g , h i s " s e l f - w i n d e r " u n w i n d s ( 8 4 ) . And L e e ' s s e n s e o f -78-discomfort and h i s hankering a f t e r "the time" provide the occasion f o r the explanation that there i s " f a s t time, slow time, d a y l i g h t time, n i g h t time . . . " In t h i s context of s u b j e c t i v e , v a r i a b l e time, the hands on the c l o c k are obviously i r r e l e v a n t . I t i s from the knowledge of the i r r e l e v a n c y of pure mechanical time that the c l o c k can be reintroduced i n t o the n o v e l . While the c l o c k i s an object of the absurd when i t i s revered i n and of i t s e l f , i t i s an object of convenience when i t stands i n r e l a t i o n to the c y c l e s of nature, when i t serves as an i n d i c a t o r of what i s t a k i n g place i n the n a t u r a l world. So the Stampers a r i s e u s u a l l y at f o u r - t h i r t y a.m.. But f o u r - t h i r t y i s the chosen hour f o r waking because i t s i g n i f i e s time p r i o r to s u n r i s e . When the sun emerges e a r l i e r , so do the Stampers. The f o u r - t h i r t y waking ho u r / i n Sometimes a Great Notion may be compared to the s i x - t h i r t y waking hour i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The p a t i e n t s on Miss Ratched's ward are j o l t e d from bed at s i x - t h i r t y because i t i s s i x - t h i r t y . The waking hour i s determined a r b i t r a r i l y by B i g Nurse, i r r e s p e c t i v e of s u n r i s e and t h e r e f o r e i r r e s p e c t i v e of season. Sometimes a Great Notion not only e s t a b l i s h e s the r e l a t i o n s h i p between the c l o c k and the n a t u r a l phenomena which i t i n d i c a t e s , i t a l s o concedes that f o u r - t h i r t y a.m. i s n e c e s s a r i l y i n t e r p r e t e d d i f f e r e n t l y by d i f f e r e n t characters. The hour of f o u r - t h i r t y may have a c e r t a i n c l o c k - d e f i n e d constancy, but i t i s d i s t u r b i n g l y e a r l y f o r Lee and not e a r l y at a l l f o r the other Stampers. In f a c t , Lee's accustomed s l e e p i n g h a b i t s r a i s e the p o s s i b i l i t y that f o u r - t h i r t y may not denote the beginning of a new day at a l l , but r a t h e r the end of an o l d n i g h t . -79-While the c l o c k i s something of power i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, i t i s only another object to be perceived and r e p e r c e i v e d , i n t e r p r e t e d and r e - i n t e r p r e t e d , i n Sometimes a Great Notion. I t i s not the c l o c k but the i n d i v i d u a l that determines pace i n the novel. His f i r s t day of l o g g i n g seems long and i n t e r m i n a b l e to Lee, but to the other Stampers the day i s of r o u t i n e length and passes even too q u i c k l y , c o n s i d e r i n g the amount of work that must be completed before sunset. Dates, l i k e hours of the day, have both a personal and n a t u r a l / c y c l i c a l meaning i n the novel. Thanksgiving Day i s important because i t s i g n i f i e s the deadline f o r the Stampers' contract w i t h Wakonda P a c i f i c . The f i r s t day of w i n t e r i s notable because, according to the c y c l e s of nature, i t heralds the beginning of a season of r a i n f a l l . Other days i n the novel accrue meaning according to the ways i n which they are experienced by each character i n t u r n . The e x p e r i e n t i a l system i s n o n - l i n e a r ; time i s represented through experience and experience i s represented through time. In Sometimes a Great Notion, Kesey seems to break through the formal l i m i t a t i o n s that c o n s t r i c t e d him i n One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In h i s f i r s t n o v e l , Kesey i s simultaneously i n r e b e l l i o n a g a i n s t , and trapped by, l i n e a r p rogression. In h i s second n o v e l , he deals w i t h h i s own c o n t r a d i c t i o n s . He stops p o i n t i n g to p e r c e p t i o n ; r a t h e r , using a s e r i e s of n a r r a t i v e p e r s p e c t i v e s , he turns the novel i t s e l f i n t o a meditation on perception. He stops p o i n t i n g to v a r i o u s ways of understanding time; r a t h e r , p e n e t r a t i n g the perceptions of each of h i s c h a r a c t e r s , he turns the novel i t s e l f i n t o a c o l l a g e of time sequences. -80-Kesey c o n t r o l s time g r e e d i l y i n Sometimes.a Great Notion, and he bequeaths c o n t r o l c a u t i o u s l y to each of h i s n a r r a t o r s . We have seen that each n a r r a t o r i s given the power to present h i s / h e r p e r c e p t i o n of r e a l i t y . S i m i l a r l y , each n a r r a t o r i s given the power to present h i s / h e r understanding of time. I t i s because of Kesey's technique of power-sharing that Hallowe'en, f o r example, loses i t s r e l a t i o n s h i p to October 30th and November 1st and accumulates a multitude of new r e l a t i o n s h i p s i n s t e a d . Hallowe'en i s experienced by Joe Ben as the day of Hank's f i g h t w i t h B i g g i e Newton. As such, October 31st i s l i n k e d to a day, years before, when i t was Hank's f a t e to p r o t e c t h i s d i g n i t y i n another f i g h t — a f i g h t w i t h Tommy Osterhaust, a newcomer to Hank's and Joe Ben's high school (315). This same Hallowe'en i s experienced by Hank as the day he must save Lee from h i s own cowardice and from a troop of l o c a l j u v e n i l e s who would see Lee drown. And so Hank's imagination takes him and the reader to a day i n the d i s t a n t past when he saved a f r i g h t e n e d Lee from death i n a dung d i t c h (303). Lee experiences t h i s same Hallowe'en as the day of h i s intended rendezvous w i t h V i v , and h i s thoughts c a r r y us back to another Hallowe'en—an October 31st of Lee's y o u t h — r e c a l l i n g h i s f e a r and hatred of masks and, no doubt, of witches and goblins (280). These v a r i o u s a s s o c i a t i o n s w i t h t h i s Hallowe'en day have co n t e x t u a l and s t r u c t u r a l s i g n i f i c a n c e . October 31st has no s i n g l e meaning. I t s place on the calendar i s l e s s important than i t s r o l e as a t r i g g e r to the memories of people who have experienced other f i g h t s , other rescues, other f e a r s . As Hallowe'en day f o l l o w s i t s course i n the n o v e l , we are p r o j e c t e d through time and space as -81-years are tossed around without a t t e n t i o n to chronology. Memories are moments that evoke l i f e t i m e s . Sometimes a Great Notion r e j e c t s l i n e a r time i n favour of n a t u r a l , p e r s o n a l , e x p e r i e n t i a l time. Decades may s l i p by i n paragraphs as generations of Stampers are described i n a few pages, and moments may consume chapters as moments are m u l t i p l i e d by the number of characters i n the novel that l i v e through them. The t h i r d person n a r r a t o r acquaints us w i t h the d e t a i l s of simultaneous experience. We know t h a t w h i l e the postman i n Boston d e l i v e r s a card addressed to Lee Stamper (a card composed f i v e pages later by Hank and Joe Ben), V i v i s c l e a n i n g up a f t e r b r e a k f a s t , Evenwrite i s d r i v i n g the Oregon highway i n search of a bar, Draeger i s contemplating human nature, and Indian Jenny i s s i p p i n g "bourbon and s n u f f " (54). The number of characters included i n the l i s t i n g s of simultaneous events i n c r e a s e s as the novel progresses. By page 205, the a c t i v i t i e s of W i l l a r d Eggleston and Simone are added to the l i s t and the meaning of the moment i s increased by two exi s t e n c e s . In the v o i c e of an i t a l i c i z e d consciousness, Kesey accounts f o r h i s method: Time overlaps itself. A breath breathed from a passing breeze is not the whole wind, neither is it just the last of what has passed and the first of what will come, but is more . . . more like a single point plucked on a single strand of a vast spider web of winds, setting the whole scene atingle. That way; it overlaps (191). I t makes sense that past and present should keep i n t e r s e c t i n g as they do i n Sometimes a Great Notion. On h i s way to Oregon, Lee becomes the c h i l d he was, t r a v e l l i n g i n the opposite d i r e c t i o n twelve years e a r l i e r , -82-and "meets hims e l f coming back across twelve years a f t e r " (39). U p s t a i r s i n h i s room, Henry Stamper converses w i t h h i s youth as "the young Henry . . . [grapples] with the shirtfront of the old Henry" (230). S i t t i n g i n The Snag at the end of the n o v e l , V i v becomes V i w y , speaking to her childhood s e l f . Time i n Sometimes a Great Notion t r a v e l s q u i c k l y , then s l o w l y ; backs up and renews i t s forward t h r u s t ; meets i t s e l f i n new p l a c e s . The n o v e l moves l i k e t r a f f i c , only d e v i s i n g i t s own i n s t r u c t i o n s : "CAUTION . . . SLOW . . . STOP . . . RESUME SPEED" (82). Kesey e x e r c i s e s h i s sense of time s t r u c t u r a l l y by s h i f t i n g from one character's time warp to another's, by t a k i n g giant leaps through time, by i n f u s i n g s i m u l t a n e i t y i n t o h i s t e x t . His treatment of time shapes the content of the novel and gives i t an added dimension of meaning. An i m p l i c i t p a r a l l e l i s drawn between the nature of r e a l i t y and the nature of time: both are i n p e r p e t u a l f l u x . Kesey's characters can l i v e without the r e a l i t y i f each has some conception of a working r e a l i t y . And they can, perhaps, l i v e without the time i f each has some conception of working temporal r e l a t i o n s h i p s . D i s o r i e n t a t i o n comes when time i s completely l o s t . In Sometimes a Great Notion, f i n d i n g the answer to "what time i s i t ? " i s l e s s o f t e n a matter of deciphering the hour than a matter of a s c e r t a i n i n g the year or the decade or one's place i n the m e r c i l e s s f l u x : "The raw m a t e r i a l s of r e a l i t y without that glue of time are m a t e r i a l s a d r i f t and r e a l i t y i s as meaningless as the b a l s a " p a r t s of a model a i r p l a n e s c a t t e r e d to the wind" (157). The image of the r i v e r recurs i n the novel as an o b j e c t i v e c o r r e l a t i v e to the movement of time. I t c o n s t i t u t e s an analogy to the form of the -83-novel and a metaphor f o r the flow and the f l u x , the meaning of the novel. The s t r u c t u r e of Sometimes a Great Notion i s anything but f l a t and l i n e a r . I f we were to conceptually diagram the movement of the n o v e l , we might imagine a r i v e r , r i s i n g and ebbing and changing i t s course w i t h the t i d e . Or we might imagine a w h i r l p o o l . Because, on another l e v e l of s t r u c t u r e , and i r r e s p e c t i v e of i n t e r n a l time sequence, the novel i s patterned as a s e r i e s of shimmering c i r c l e s . The a b s t r a c t constructs of c i r c l e s and c y c l e s are i n v o l v e d i n many aspects of technique and meaning i n Sometimes a Great Notion. The novel i t s e l f i s organized on a c y c l i c a l model, beginning w i t h i t s ending, ending w i t h i t s beginning. The concept of the "Hidebehind" and the consequent spinning to c o n f r o n t a t i o n suggest c i r c u l a r movement. Lee's mission i n r e t u r n i n g to Oregon (twelve years a f t e r the twelve years he l i v e d there) to "seek out [ h i s ] l o s t r o o t s " (61), and encounter the s u n - s t e a l i n g shadow of h i s h a l f - b r o t h e r , i s an attempt to complete a c i r c l e . Lee i s d r i v e n by h i s own sense that "the past . . . never seems to stay i n place as i t should" (247). But the novel v a l i d a t e s h i s p o i n t : even s t r u c t u r a l l y , the past i s never more behind than i t i s ahead. There i s a passage that opens one of the chapters i n Sometimes a Great Notion that lends some understanding to the c i r c u l a r , c y c l i c a l process: An echo is an inflexible and pitiless taskmaster; you sing the echo's way because it is damned sure not going to sing yours. And even after you leave . . . you cannot help feeling . . . that any jig you whistle, hymn you hum, or song' you sing is somehow immutably tuned to an echo yet unheard, or relentlessly echoing a tune long forgotten (272). -84-An echo i s i t s own v e r s i o n of a c y c l e . Once the momentum i s s t a r t e d , there i s a l o s s of power—or at l e a s t an i l l u s i o n of l o s s of power. Lee i s locked i n t o the echo of h i s past. But he i s no more and no l e s s a servant to h i s echo than Hank and V i v are to t h e i r s . Our thoughts r e t u r n to images and perceptions as we f l a s h on Hank, immovable, and V i v , h e a l e r of the s i c k , tender of the s o r r y . One of the c r u c i a l c y c l e s that e x i s t s i n the novel i s the c y c l e of l i f e , death and b i r t h , the c y c l e of generations. I t i s the f o r c e of generations that has fed the Stamper stamina. Because, l i k e the f o r e s t , the Stampers reple n i s h e d t h e i r numbers as q u i c k l y as t h e i r numbers f e l l . And so i t w e n t — u n t i l V i v became the Stamper w i f e , c a r r y i n g i n her body the sum of the Jonas Stamper, Henry Stamper, Hank Stamper p o t e n t i a l . V i v (who opens and closes the n o v e l , whose very name i s a palindrome and a c i r c l e ) stops the c y c l e , stops the movement of generations. Throughout Sometimes a Great Notion, V i v i s e s s e n t i a l l y p a s s i v e . She i s plunged i n t o the centre of a f r a t e r n a l s t r u g g l e that predates even her own Stamper name; she i s fat e d to be loved by people "who j u s t wanted what they needed [her] to be" (597). But V i v p u l l s out at the end of the novel and divorces h e r s e l f from her f a t e . Her one act before her act of l e a v i n g i s an a n t i - a c t : she has d e c i s i v e l y not perpetuated the Stamper l i n e . V i v ' s c h i l d l e s s n e s s i s not simply assumed i n the novel. The f a c t i s not that V i v never became pregnant, but that she became pregnant and the foetus died i n s i d e her. Our a t t e n t i o n i s drawn to her c h i l d l e s s n e s s , to the "hollow of something gone" that she c a r r i e s around i n her -85-womb (251). V i v ' s departure at the end of the novel confirms the breach i n the Stamper c y c l e . The c i r c l e s and c y c l e s , broken and unbroken, that comprise Sometimes a Great Notion generate a f o r c e l i k e a c e n t r i f u g e . By the end of the n o v e l , each major character has gone to death or to some modicum of e x i s t e n t i a l aloneness. The spinning o f f that marks the c o n c l u s i o n of Sometimes a Great Notion i s reminiscent of the l a s t pages of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest which, see each p r o t a g o n i s t t a k i n g h i s own path. In Sometimes a Great Notion, the entropy i s more e x p l i c i t . Joe Ben i s dead; Henry i s dying; .Viv i s " j u s t going" (598). Hank undertakes to steer the barge down the r i v e r , prepared to accept the consequences of the attempt. Lee j o i n s him, not i n the name of b r o t h e r l y l o v e , but to r e t r i e v e "the p r i d e [he] had exchanged f o r p i t y " (594). V i v decides, " I cannot g i v e myself f o r them. Not my whole s e l f . I have no r i g h t to do t h a t " (597). Everything i s l o s t and everything i s won. Each character l o s e s each other c h a r a c t e r , and each character wins him-or h e r s e l f . The s e l f n e s s which each character f i n d s i s i n the i s o l a t i o n of death or l i f e . But dead or a l i v e , each has d i g n i t y . The novel closes m y s t e r i o u s l y w i t h an unexpected close-up of Indian Jenny parading some new-found d i g n i t y of her own. Not community (the dashed myth of the union), not f a m i l y (the compulsion of the Stamper b l o o d ) , but the i n d i v i d u a l endures i n the end. As. there i s no r e a l i t y but that which i s perceived, no language but that which i s heard, no time but that which i s f e l t , there i s no promise but that of human d i g n i t y . And so the novel ends as i t began, assuring us of nothing but the flow. The image of the r i v e r contains -86-the image of the whirlpool. The novel creates c i r c l e s and spins them u n t i l they give way to centrifuge and centrifuge gives way to entropy, and the flow goes on. And the Scenes Gone By and the Scenes to Come flow blending together in the sea-green deep while Now spreads in circles on the surface. -87-CHAPTER IV CONCLUSION Each i n i t s own way, Kesey's novels describe a flow. Recognition of the flow i s a f u n c t i o n of the understanding that r e a l i t y i s a s u b j e c t i v e phenomenon, perceived and experienced d i f f e r e n t l y by every person and perhaps every organism i n the universe. I n Sometimes a Great Notion, Kesey represents a f l o w that i s l i q u i d and smooth. The flow that c h a r a c t e r i z e s One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i s more vi s c o u s and l e s s i n t e g r a l to. the novel. Kesey's f i r s t work has knowledge of the f l o w , but a r t i c u l a t e s that knowledge crudely. That i s , the novel i s constructed on the premise that i f r e a l i t y i s not constant, then d i s c r e p a n c i e s i n perception and experience of r e a l i t y w i l l give way to open c o n f r o n t a t i o n , Sometimes a Great Notion becomes one w i t h the f l o w which i s i t s s u b j e c t , and g i v e s expression to the s u b t l e p o e t i c s of c o n f l i c t . I r e c o n c e p t u a l i z e , r e c a p i t u l a t e my sense of the meaning of Kesey's work. I r e i t e r a t e that the author's use of time i n h i s novels r e v e a l s h i s p r o g r e s s i o n i n g i v i n g p r i n t e d l i f e to the existence of the flow. I repeat that the theme of the novels i n v o l v e s the importance of human d i g n i t y and the importance of l i v i n g according to the f e l t t r u t h of one's p r i v a t e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of r e a l i t y . I r e s t a t e that although Kesey's themes are not r e a l l y new, the t h r u s t of h i s novels i s not r e a l l y thematic. The impressive q u a l i t y of h i s work proceeds from the ways i n which meaning -88-i s given through technique and rendered through Kesey's treatment of p e r c e p t i o n , language and time. R e c a p i t u l a t i o n , r e i t e r a t i o n , r e p e t i t i o n add up, at t h i s p o i n t , to redundancy. This i s because there are echoes i n t h i s paper as there are echoes i n Kesey's novels. My thoughts on the books have been s t a t e d and r e s t a t e d . I f my c o n c l u s i o n were to take the course of a summation, i t would be w r i t t e n as a sequence of r e v e r b e r a t i o n s : " . . . no absolute winners and no absolute l o s e r s , " " . . . c i r c l e s and c y c l e s , " " . . . c e n t r i f u g e and entropy." What seems more important now than echoes i s a f u r t h e r observation of Kesey as n o v e l i s t . Kesey d i d say that he would r a t h e r be a l i g h t n i n g rod than a seismograph. The development i n h i s w r i t i n g — t h e b r i n g i n g together of meaning and form i n h i s second novel—may be seen as the beginning of an attempt to combine a u t h o r i a l i d e n t i t y w i t h a c e r t a i n a c t i v e a u t h e n t i c i t y . In Sometimes a Great Notion, l i t e r a t u r e i t s e l f becomes a t o p i c . Kesey's approach to l i t e r a t u r e as subject i n h i s own t e x t i s a kind of r e v e l a t i o n and an explanation of why he d i d so l i t t l e w r i t i n g a f t e r he completed h i s second novel. The world of l i t e r a t u r e , l i k e the world of e s o t e r i c language, belongs to Lee Stamper (Leland Stanford Stamper). Lee i s the persona through which l i t e r a t u r e i s discussed i n the t e x t . As p a r t of Lee's seduction of h i s brother's w i f e , he o f f e r s her a book of poetry. His t a c t i c i s c l e a r l y to reach a place i n her that i s s t i l l v i r g i n a l , a place i n her that has not already been pioneered by Hank. Lee speaks at some length about reading and w r i t i n g i n general before making h i s p r o p o s i t i o n to V i v — t h e p r o p o s i t i o n that she read a book of poetry. -89-Lee exp l a i n s h i s own ambivalence about l i t e r a t u r e : When I f i r s t discovered . . . other scenes i n other times, I thought the discov e r y so b r i g h t and b l a z i n g I wanted to read everything ever w r i t t e n about these worlds, in these worlds. Let i t teach me, then me teach i t to everybody. But the more I read . . . a f t e r a w h i l e . . . I began to f i n d they were a l l w r i t i n g about the same t h i n g , t h i s same d u l l o l d here-today-gone-tomorrow scene . . . Shakespeare, M i l t o n , Matthew A r n o l d , even Baudelaire . . . the same scene f o r the same reasons and to the same end . . . t h i s same d u l l o l d scene . . . . This one, the r a i n , those geese up there w i t h t h e i r hard-luck s t o r i e s . . . t h i s , t h i s same world. They a l l t r i e d to do something w i t h i t . . . . They were a l l d r i v e n by the need f o r something e l s e . But when the d r i v e was over, and the dreaming and the deluding worn out, they a l l ended up w i t h the same d u l l o l d scene (415). Lee i s t a l k i n g about the r e l a t i o n s h i p between "the scene" (that i s , the a c t u a l world) and the w r i t i n g about i t , s i f t e d through the imagination. And although he does not know i t , he i s t a l k i n g about himself w r i t i n g l e t t e r s to P e t e r s , about Draeger w r i t i n g memoranda to h i m s e l f , about Kesey w r i t i n g about books w i t h i n h i s book. Lee i s t a l k i n g about the luxury and the f o l l y of recording that scene and dres s i n g i t up i n s t e a d of l i v i n g i t s t r a i g h t out. Moreover, he adds that w r i t e r s i n other times had "an advantage w i t h t h e i r scene . . . something we've l o s t . " The "something l o s t " that Lee i s r e f e r r i n g to i s "a l i m i t l e s s supply of tomorrows to work w i t h . " He ex p l a i n s that the " l i t t l e red button" might be pushed at any time, and he e f f e c t i v e l y zeroes i n on the f e a r or the paranoia that marked the 1950's and the e a r l y 1960's i n A m e r i c a — the f e a r of THE BOMB. The thr e a t i s th a t c y c l e s , which are designated as the only r e a l i t i e s that can be known or w r i t t e n about, w i l l be h a l t e d , dead-ended i n a moment by the push of a button. I t i s t e r r i f y i n g , -90-e s p e c i a l l y i n the context of the c i r c u l a r r e a l i t y that Sometimes a Great Notion a s s e r t s , that i t i s only " p r e t t y l i k e l y " that V i v w i l l be up making pancakes and coffee the next morning as she has done every morning f o r days and years (415). The i m p l i c a t i o n seems to be that the e x i s t e n c e of the bomb turns l i t e r a t u r e i n t o a k i n d of pastime, something so removed from any r e a l i t y that i t i s a d e n i a l . Lee uses poetry as a weapon to conquer V i v . I t even works. But Kesey, the c r e a t o r of the weaponry, becomes the mocker of i t . In r e t r o s p e c t , the author has mocked Lee's bookishness throughout the nove Lee i s redeemed only when he puts away h i s i n t e l l e c t u a l i s m and becomes part of a f i s t - f i g h t i n g , l o g - d r i v i n g s t r u g g l e . At the moment that Lee courts V i v w i t h poetry, i t i s c l e a r that there i s no j u s t i c e i f the heap of words that belongs to Lee can stand up against the s t a r k world of f o r e s t , r a i n , l i f e and death that belongs to Hank. Kesey's presence i s s u g g e s t i v e l y invoked when l i t e r a t u r e i s being discussed i n the novel. Reading and w r i t i n g — t h e a c t i v i t i e s of f i c t i o n are never eleva t e d w i t h i n t h i s f i c t i o n a l world. W i t h i n the thematic framework of the n o v e l , l i t e r a t u r e i s a s e l f - i n d u l g e n c e . I t i s almost as i f l i t e r a t u r e were a form of exorcism f o r the l i t e r a r y and Sometimes a Great Notion i s the process of e x o r c i s i n g the seismograph i n Kesey. Ken Kesey's second novel i s about the s u b j e c t i v e nature of r e a l i t y I t i s a l s o about the l i v i n g out of many conceivable notions of what r e a l i t y i s . I t i s about the edge where Hank Stamper l i v e s and about the safe places f a r from the edge where Lee Stamper has l i v e d . The concept of the edge i s important. The Stamper home i s a "two-story monument of wood and obstinacy" at the edge of the r i v e r (5). Hank -91-i s at peace at the edge of the woods "where the c u t t i n g stops and the f o r e s t s t a r t s " (169). L i v i n g on the edge i s l i v i n g u n a f r a i d , and being mindful and powerful enough t o , at l e a s t , f e i g n s t r e n g t h . Sometimes a Great Notion ends w i t h each of the Stampers moving toward h i s / h e r own perception of h i s / h e r own edge, w i t h everyone out there w i t h Hank and everyone out there alone. This i s the e n t r o p i c v i s i o n and the v i s i o n of l i v i n g on the edge and l i v i n g w i t h d i g n i t y . One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ends the same way: McMurphy knowingly s a c r i f i c e s himself to lobotomy; Broom p a s s i o n a t e l y murders McMurphy and goes. Each pro t a g o n i s t i n each novel f i n d s the periphery of h i s / h e r own being. Kesey completes two novels and j o i n s h i s characters at the edge, at a place where he sees n e i t h e r time nor space f o r w r i t i n g books. I t i s enough. -92-SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. New York: The V i k i n g P r e s s , 1962. •_. Sometimes a Great Notion. New York: Bantam Books, 1965. . Kesey's Garage Sale. New York: The V i k i n g P ress, 1973. . "The F r i e d Ice Cream Papers." Rolling Stone, 165 ( J u l y , 1974), 48-50. Barsness, John A. "Ken Kesey: The Hero i n Modern Dress." Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, X X I I I , 1 (March 1969), 27-33. F i e d l e r , L e s l i e A. The Return of the Vanishing American. New York: S t e i n and Day, 1968. Folsom, James K. The American Western Novel. New Haven: College and U n i v e r s i t y P ress, 1966. F o s t e r , John W. " H u s t l i n g to Some Purpose: Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Western American Literature, IX, 2 (1974), 115-129. K l e i n , Marcus, ed. The American Novel Since World War II. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett P u b l i c a t i o n s I n c . , 1969. M i l l e r , James E. Quests Surd and Absurd. Chicago: U n i v e r s i t y of Chicago P r e s s , 1967. Olderman, Raymond R. Beydndgthe Waste Land. New Haven: Yale U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1972. Sherwood, Terry. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the Comic S t r i p . " Critique, X I I I , 1 (1971), 96-109. Tanner, Tony. City of Words: American Fiction 1950-1970. London: Jonathan Cape, 1971. Waldmeir, Joseph J . "Two N o v e l i s t s of the Absurd: H e l l e r and Kesey." Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature, V, 3 (1964), 192-204. Wolfe, Tom. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. New York: F a r r a r , Straus and Giroux, 1968. 

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