(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley.com)
Important Note: You will need to click this icon to download the free needed to view most of the images on this Web site - just a couple of clicks and you're "good to go." For reasons why - go here.
A listing and access link to all:
song lyrics and mp3 audio files http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/ (all of which are a part of this Web site) can be accessed simply by selecting the "htm" file for the song you want;
quotations http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations.htm; and
essays written by Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/articles_larry_blakeley.htm,
all of which are used to tell the story in this Web site, can be accessed by going to each respective link set out above.
My son, Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/larryblakeley_photos_jpeg.htm manages this Web site.
Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)
When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play
No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye
- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins
MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm
For a larger image click on the photograph.
In the mad rush to jettison Western Culture and replace it with the undifferentiated goulash of multiculturalism, we run the risk of doing serious damage to our ability to communicate ideas to one another. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a series of archetypes, symbols, myths and meanings that we all recognize and understand and which we can refer to in a sort of literary shorthand, without always having to start at ground zero and build up meanings for every concept and reference. The existence and maintenance of this set of shared societal understandings is also what makes it possible for art that arises from the personal to achieve universality--a phenomenon that is clearly displayed in this, one of our most underrated great books (it is disgraceful that it did not make the Modern Library Top 100).
Ken Kesey's novel is based in part on individuals whom he met while working in a Veterans' Administration Hospital in Oregon. And when he was writing, he worked the graveyard shift in the psychiatric ward and actually underwent real-life shock treatment. At a surface level then, the book can be read as an indictment of the mental health system and psychiatric practices of the 50's & 60's. Just beneath this surface it is an attack on conformity and the organizational man and a celebration of individualism. But we reap its greatest rewards when we peel back another layer of the onion and, intentionally or not, the symbols and themes that Kesey mines reach deep into the archaeology of our entire mythos and the tale returns to the central dilemma of human existence, first presented in the Garden of Eden, should mankind choose security or freedom?
Without being too pedantic, it's pretty easy to decipher the metaphorical elements of the novel:
The Hospital: authoritarian Social Welfare state, which offers inmates a sense of security at the cost of their freedom
Nurse Ratched: ruler of this secure world, significantly she is a maternal figure, since the security impulse is fundamentally female
R.P. (Randall Patrick) McMurphy: of course, the initials RPM are a dead giveaway for a character who represents revolution against
authority--symbolizes the male yearning for freedom and is essentially a messianic figure
The Inmates: the most telling factor is that they are there voluntarily, they are willing participants in their own degradation--sexless, spineless, but safe from the big bad world, they have surrendered to the Big Nurse and the Combine
Electro shock therapy: the obligatory crucifix scene, as McMurphy says, it's his "crown of thorns"
Billy Bibbitt: He is McMurphy's Judas. McMurphy heals him (he stops stuttering after McMurphy procures a woman for him), but he denounces McMurphy to Nurse Ratched and then commits suicide.
The Chief: McMurphy dies for his sins--after McMurphy is lobotomized, the Chief smothers him (rather than see him live on as a broken man) and then breaks out of the Hospital by heaving the enormous control panel through a window (i.e., rolls the boulder away from Christ's tomb). The Chief is reborn through McMurphy's intercession.
Obviously Kesey may not have intended that each of these elements be read this way. In fact, as an icon of the counterculture it as, at least, ironic that they can be read this way. But the point is that all of these elements have fundamental cultural meanings, regardless of his intentions. They resonate within our minds because they strike the touchstones of our shared understandings. The result is that a seemingly simple fable about a con man in an asylum achieves mythic dimensions and partakes of universal truths that are central to our culture and our vision of mankind.
This is a great book and belongs on the shelf with Orwell, Brave New World, Farenheit 451, Clockwork Orange, Darkness at Noon and Cool Hand Luke--the Century's great dystopic fantasies that have best symbolized the human dilemma and come down on the side of Freedom.
- Review of "A+" by Orrin Judd, http://www.brothersjudd.com