American Dominance In Works By Ken Kesey

.. flooding of the river, and makes his life frustrating and challenging. Throughout the book, the river is always Hank’s potential enemy. He is constantly checking the bank to see how much the water had risen. ..Hank was worried that the boats might be swept loose from their moorings, as they had been last year,..Before going to bed, he put on rubber boots over his pajamas and pulled on a poncho and went out with a lantern to check…Hank noted the water’s height on the marker at the dock–black water swirling at the number five; five feet, then, above the normal high tide mark..

(105-106) Hank is constantly haunted by paranoia about the river rising and destroying his belongings. This is his ongoing conflict against nature, his attempt to confine and control the river. Another of Kesey’s books Kesey’s Garage Sale is a group project by him and other authors. This book portrays Kesey’s ideas of the 1960’s counterculture movement and a desire for a broadened consciousness. It is not a very popular work, and most reviewers saw the book as a thrown together combination of recycled spare parts designed to make money (Tanner 104).

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Many of the characters in the work are based on Kesey and his life experiences. The longest piece, a screenplay, Over the Border, is an exaggerated version of his flight to Mexico to escape prosecution for his second drug arrest. The main character, Devlin Deboree, is modeled after Kesey, who is joined by a group called Animal Friends, modeled on Kesey’s followers, the Merry Pranksters. They both lead their groups into frequent experiments toward discovering new dimensions of consciousness. Never satisfied staying the same, Deboree and his Friends must constantly try new paths and they’re confident in finding what they are searching for.

Deboree makes this journey with the confidence in being strong and becoming successful. He goes into Mexico to live a better life, using his surroundings to accommodate his needs. In the hope of being free from the legal system, he flees to another country just as the first immigrants to America were seeking freedom from religious prosecution and a better life. In this screenplay, Kesey evaluates his leadership. It is fascinating and informative document of Kesey’s search for new awareness and transcendental experience (Tanner 111).

In Kesey’s collection, the realization of the revolution of consciousness has gone sour, as it was hindered by too idealistic motives and by the ..corroding impulses to power and vengeance.. (Tanner 112). Tom Wolfe’s documentary on Ken Kesey and his group of Merry Pranksters, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is about Kesey’s real life and how his social life affected his writing. He describes Kesey’s avid use of LSD and marijuana. Surrounded by his Pranksters,with drugs being used all around him, Kesey is a leader of the psychedelic revolution in California. The drugs do have a marked affect on his writing, and he has often said he was high while writing parts of his novels.

Drugs have also distracted him from his writing, and there had always been a conflict between the two; eventually he stopped writing and remained active as a drug user. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test reveals the life Kesey lived, as Wolfe writes about Kesey and his group taking a trip across the United States to New York City in a bus painted exotically with day-glo colors. Being the first Beats to make such a statement to the nation, they are confident in entering the uncharted adventure to make new discoveries about themselves. As Wolfe wrote of the trip, Kesey was already talking about how writing was an old-fashioned and artificial form..(91). The idea of the journey was to further expand their consciousness by making a journey to bring their revolution to New York. They were confident in g successfully spreading their ideas.

This trip had a major affect in making the transition from the Beatnik generation to the hippies. After they traveled across the country in the outlandish bus, other similar vehicles became popular. Tom Wolfe illustrates the great influences Kesey had on the nation and the promotion of psychedelics. Kesey persists in his own life to take on new challenges, confident in his ability to change things to the way that suits him. Ken Kesey’s works all relate to the early American ideal of being able to come to a completely new place and take control.

Taming the wild and rugged environment and making it adjust to one’s desires was an important part in his characters’ lives. In Cuckoo’s Nest McMurphy could end the Big Nurse’s control and live his own way. Like McMurphy, In Great Notion, Hank and Joe Ben do tame the wilderness but pay a severe price for it. In Garage Sale, Kesey portrays his own journey to lead the nation to new psychedelic stages of consciousness. In Acid Test, Kesey’s road trip across the United States shows his determination and ability to lead people to new phases in history and his confidence in achieving his goal. He says: It’s the same old wilderness, just no longer up on that hill or around that bend, or in that gully. It’s because there are no more hills and gullies that hollow is there, and you’ve got to explore the hollow with faith.

If you don’t have faith that there is something down there, pretty soon when you’re in the hollow, you begin to get scared and start shaking… Real warriors like William Burroughs or Leonard Cohen or Wallace Stevens examine the hollow as well as anybody; they get in there, look far into the dark, and yet come out with poetry. (qtd. in Faggen 24) Ken Kesey continues to illustrate the American ideal of conquering new territory and transforming it into the way that suits them best. He shows how important determination to take the dominating role affects Americans lives.

He is an author of the Beatnik generation and throughout his lifetime made significant social contributions. He led the country from Beats to Hippies with his influence through psychedelic drugs.


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