Ken Kesey: Did he fly over the Cuckoo's Nest? Essay

Submitted By kipkelly
Words: 2158
Pages: 9

Noel Kelly
Professor Ronson

Individual Project #2

The novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was written by author Ken Kesey. Ken was a very intelligent and creative man who took a very unusual path in life. This path was one of the motivating factors for the vision of this highly successful novel. Ken was a controversial but highly functioning visionary and his unusual life and experiences are seen throughout the book. Ken Kesey was born on September 17, 1935 in La Junta Colorado to his parents Frederick Kesey and Geneva Smith, whom were dairy farmers. His family moved to Oregon in the mid 1940’s where he attended high school and was a championship caliber wrestler. It was also in high school where Ken Kesey met his high school sweet-heart, Norma Haxby. They eloped in 1956 while he was a student at the University of Oregon. Kesey was a student in Oregon’s school of Journalism and received a degree in speech and communication in 1957. After graduating he was awarded a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship in 1958. This award allowed him to enroll in the creative writing program at Stanford University. It was during this time that he met his mentor, Wallace Stegner, who was himself a great historian and Pulitzer Prize winner. The relationship between these 2 men helped to lay the foundation for the novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest as it was under Mr., Stegner’s tutelage that Ken Kesey wrote the manuscript for the novel. These “early years” of Ken’s life show a man of many talents. He was an all star athlete with an incredibly intelligent and creative mind. He was raised on a farm with strong family values. He married young and had children. I also believe that his early life laid the foundation for his need to seek out the truth in the world. I believe he felt confined by social norms and insisted upon freeing himself and others from what society had come to expect from him. This need to be set free would really be the defining character trait of Ken Kesey and his historic novel. Psychoactive drugs had become a part of Ken Kesey’s life in the late 1950’s. It was in 1959 when Ken volunteered to take part in a study called project MKULTRA. This infamous programmed was indirectly financed by the CIA but directly controlled by them. While most of the documents surrounding this project were destroyed in the 1970’s we know that the study included over 44 institutions and was designed to study the effects of mind and mood altering drugs on human beings. Drugs such as DMT and psilocybin (to name a few) were the main focus. However, the studies were also said to have included forms of mental, physical and sexual torture for “research.” Ken was directly involved in the psychedelic portion of these studies. He participated by taking LSD and mushrooms as well as DMT. These drugs can be corridors to our inner most thoughts and it is said that these hallucinogenic can unlock the door to creative freedom. The effect of this study, while controversial because of its involvement by the US Government, had a very profound effect on Ken Kesey. He kept well documented accounts of all of his experiences during these studies and made it a point to refer to back to them while he was continuing work on OFOTC. It was also during this time that Ken Kesey took a job at a state run veteran’s hospital. This was the clincher that convinced him to write and finish the novel. It was during his time at this hospital and while on psychoactive drugs that he realized that these people aren’t crazy. These people were just things that society had decided to throw away because of their own inability to deal with them. During his conversations with the patients he saw himself as a bit of a “hero” figure to them. He noted that it was important for the patients to see him as that figure. They needed hope and they gained that through him. He realized that maybe his crazy thoughts that he would share with them allowed them to see that maybe they