In literature, Clockwood Orange by Anthon Burgess, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and Cool Hand Luke by Donn Pearce are three widely acclaimed works with captivating storylines. Clockwood Orange by Anthon Burgess is in a futuristic English setting where intense youth violence exists as a subculture. The narration is by Alex, the protagonist who relates his exploits and his experience while in the hands of an authority hell-bent on reforming him. The city is under the rule of a super-State known for its repressive and totalitarian style of leadership. The growth of complacency among its members leads to the increase of a youth culture known for being insatiable. Alex is a leader of a local gang known for prowling the streets, raping women and beating men. They do all this with impunity and do not spare their victims. Alex is, however, not lucky and is soon arrested and persecuted. On the other hand, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is a narrative with Oregon psychiatric hospital as its setting. It offers an in-depth look into the processes that take place in the human mind, merriment of all humanistic ideals and a stern critique of behaviorism. It revolves around Chief Bromden who is committed to a mental facility as he is perceived to be schizophrenic, deaf and dumb. It is however soon apparent that he lied about being deaf. Randie McMurphy joins the patients, a serial gambler whose sole intention is to inspire dissent and upset the balance of power. The chief nurse, Ratched, fears losing control and confines the belligerents. Cool Hand Luke by Donn Pearce is a first-person narrative that follows the life of the brutalized life of convicts and the life that they now have to grapple with in prison. In this essay, I will provide a keyhole analysis of these three stories drawing on the standard denominator that exists between them.
Clockwood Orange Alex feels in control of all situations and the main reason why he participates in a subculture known for perpetuating violence. Together with his gang, they wreak havoc throughout their locality and do not spare anyone who crosses them. The citizens are suffering in silence as life worsens by the day. A large chunk of their time is spent at the Korova Milkbar where they get intoxicated and plot map out their exploits. It is from this location that they decide to head to the countryside where they rape a woman while forcing her husband to watch. Cracks soon emerge in the gang and a fight that ensues delays Alex’s escape, and he is promptly arrested. In jail, he has lost all the control he was seeking while free. Similarly, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest presents a similar perspective where Randie McMurphy is new to a facility that is run by rules and stipulation. However, his ego gets the best of him and even seeks to know why the other patients avoid rebelling against the hospital administration. His threats do not go unnoticed as the resident nurse takes note of his attempt to assert himself as the de facto leader of all persons in the asylum. He is reminded that he is not in control when the primary nurse schedules a lobotomy that is meant to make him serve as an example to the others. The author writes: “This morning I plain don’t remember. They got enough of those things they call pills down me, so I don’t know a thing till I hear the ward door open” (Kesey). Cool Hand Luke follows the lives of individuals who thought they were in control while loving as free men and abused that privilege. The system soon reminds them that it is in control when they are convicted and sent to jail. Their lives now revolve around a predictable cycle of building roads, building roads coupled with boring food and a mundane (Pearce 21). All this was as a result of them trying to reinvent the wheel and leading a criminal life which ultimately ends in their imprisonment.
The system that Alex had defied was now on his neck and had ensured that he received the punishment that he deserved. It all started with the judge sentencing him to serve fourteen years in one of the toughest prisons in the country and was still defiant: “Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?” (Burgess). The woman he had raped died after a day, which plays a huge role in the manner in which the system treats him. From the onset, the guards do not spare him and are mercilessly oppressive. At one point, others prisoners even threaten to rape him while the prison refuses to intervene to help him. He soon realizes that society adheres to rules that one has to ultimately follow and uses his stay as a moment of reflection. After befriending the chaplain, he rapidly develops an interest in the Bible and uses it to turn over a new leaf. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on the other hand first introduces a Native American man, Chief Bromdem who is aware of the brutality that the system is capable of and tries his best to steer off its way. The new admission, Randle Mc Murphy is a larger than life figure who the system will soon teach a crucial lesson. The system oppresses him through various rules and regulations and decides to lead the others in revolt. He rebels against the system for its policies and is resisting any attempts at conforming. It ultimately leads to his death when the system decides to make an example out of him by carrying out a lobotomy. His friend determines that death is a better fate for him as he will not experience the suffering the rest were going through while there. In Cool Hand Luke, the prison system is relentless in dehumanizing and brutalizing the convicts. There are in dire need of a better life and seeks solace in inventing nicknames that are meant to raise their spirits. Additionally, they are crammed into a tiny space full of nasty smells and defecation (Pearce 34). The brutality that they experience is unimaginable but the main reason why they all decide to resist. Luke refuses to bow and tries to escape, which offers hope to the other prisoners. They are nonetheless disappointed when their hero is recaptured and fails miserably at beating a cruel system.
In conclusion Clockwood Orange by Anthon Burgess, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and Cool Hand Luke by Donn Pearce contemporary literary masterpieces that are connected in the subjected matter presented. A keyhole analysis reveals that in the midst of these tales lies the desire to live a life devoid of rules and the system’s reaction to this paradigm shift.
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