Madness In "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" And "Hamlet"

3069 words - 12 pages

The issue of madness has been touched by many writers. In this paper I will focus on two important writings which deal directly with the mental illnesses. The first one is "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey first published in 1962. The second is "Hamlet" written by Shakespeare approximately in 1602. Ken Kesey worked nights in a mental institution in California and his novel has a lot of truth in it. He faced patient's insanity every day and was confident that it was natural response to the overall madness of the corporate America. Shakespeare on the contrary, focused on the completely opposite side of the mental madness: through "Hamlet" he wanted to show that in degree of publicity mental disorders can harm observers.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was written and set at the period when people outside the mainstream were often looked at with some suspicion. The United States were at Cold War with the Soviet Union and people were afraid of the nuclear conflict. Toward the end of the late 1950s the groups started to form protesting against civil injustice and cultural mediocrity. Beat Generation was one the groupings expressing their "dissatisfaction with the current society through art and non-violent actions" (Partridge 19).

Soon the movement became known as a counterculture (Hippies) and Kesey was among supporters. At that time rates of drug usage grew up quickly and Kesey was a subject in the scientific experiment on the effects of LSD. This drug is not fatal and was often used to treat mental disorders, however with a lot of side effects such as visual and auditory hallucinations. For many years, in addition, in the United States the mental illness was often ignorers and misinterpreted. Only with the beginning of the 20th century new methods started to appear. Kesey talks "about these new methods in his novel" (Partridge 19). His attitude to each of them is easy to guess: for example, he talks about electroshock therapy as a mean of punishment rather then treatment.

As I already mentioned above, the novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" deals with the mental diseases directly, talks about what and how ill people feel, about their treatment and possible consequences. Shakespeare only slightly touches these issues in "Hamlet." He does not go so deep into details and talks more about the relationships among people and how mental disorders influence these relationships. The revenge is a central issue in the play "Hamlet" and all problems, including insanity of both Hamlet and Ophelia, seem to be a result of it. ""Hamlet" is a play of unanswered questions" (Partridge 22). The reader remains wondering whether the host is friendly or evil, did Ophelia commit suicide or it an accident. Hamlet as a character is very difficult to understand. His insanity is hard to explain.

Sigmund Freud viewed madness of Hamlet in terms of an Oedipus complex (a sexual desire towards his mother). His insane...

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