Metaphors of Society in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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Metaphors of Society in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey's use of description and symbolism not only enhance the depth of the narrative, but they provide the reader with amazing insight into the character’s minds, hearts and souls. In fact, the characters themselves can be viewed as metaphors of society; not just the institution. R.P. McMurphy, for example represents the rebellious faction of society that was so loudly expressing itself during the sixties and seventies. He, like the hippies, challenges authority and brings about change by inciting others to rebel as well. He is both dynamic and crude, both funny and pitiable, as he rallies the other patients
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In Citizen’s Government however, could be seen as the reality that Kesey’s metaphors are attempting to symbolize. Box’s perceptions of community and government could almost be a “parallel universe” of Kesey’s institutionalized community and the authority figures that oppress them. Both communities are about individuals acknowledging that they have a collective identity, that they may have common interests which separate them from other communities and that they may have a common vision, an aspiration as to what they want for their own futures.

Maya Angelou’s experiences could also be seen as a metaphor for society vs. the government. Her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freeman, molested and raped her, but her fears kept her from telling anyone what had happened for a long time. When she finally did admit to Mr. Freeman’s atrocious behavior in court, she lied and said it only happened once. After this traumatic incident, Maya became mute, unable to face her truths or her lies. Riddled with guilt after Mr. Freeman was killed by her uncles, Maya decided that she had the Devil inside her (from lying at the trial) and must no longer speak for fear that her words might cause another death. Maya stopped speaking for five years but began scrutinize everything around her, including the racial politics and prejudicial attitudes that pervaded her life. This silence could be compared with both the self-chosen silence of “The Chief” in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as well

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