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July 19, 2007 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend short stories or essays that can complement Ken Kesey's "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest"?

I teach high school English, and next year I'll be teaching Cuckoo's Nest, finally. One of my favorite novels, it deals with rebellion and conformity, bravery and dissent. Can anyone recommend short pieces of fiction and/or nonfiction that can help flesh out these themes?
posted by John of Michigan to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson...too obvious?

Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison (from this book, which is excellent)
posted by iconomy at 9:21 PM on July 19, 2007

The Caine Mutiny, by all means. Not the play (The Caine Mutiny Court Martial), which is for some reason more commonly taught (probably for its shortness), but the book. A startling story about independence vs. groupthink aboard a WWII destroyer. Unexpected ending.
posted by Miko at 9:36 PM on July 19, 2007

Try a part--say, the first chapter--of Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization.
posted by nasreddin at 9:51 PM on July 19, 2007

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, by Oliver Sacks.
posted by SNACKeR at 4:19 AM on July 20, 2007

Perhaps an excerpt from the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test would be in order.
posted by sophist at 4:24 AM on July 20, 2007

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a no brainer. It's commonly taught in schools and colleges, and is based on Gilman's own experiences with what is now known as postpartum depression. In it a wealthy young wife is confined to her bed for "the rest cure" by her husband and her doctor. She resents the imprisonment in the yellow papered room, and her mental illness serves as a way to rebel against the patriarchy that believed nothing could be truly "wrong" with a woman, that its all hysteria and nothing a good nap couldn't cure.

I'd especially recommend it because Nurse Rachet isn't exactly a feminine influence, and it might be nice to temper some of the boy's club feel of Cuckoo's Nest.

Marsha Norman's play "'night, Mother" about a daughter's decision to commit suicide, is a bit of a longer read, though by no means book length. It's a 90 minute long play that covers a 90 minute long period of time. It's got a gentle humor, and deals with what an intensely personal and selfish decision suicide is without judgement.

There's more, but they're all book length and I hated reading excerpts as a kid. What the hell happens next?
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:29 AM on July 20, 2007

How about Running Wild by JG Ballard? It contains the wonderful quote "In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom." which could be quite nicely comparable with the themes of Cuckoo's Nest.

Oh, and it's short, which is handy.
posted by minifig at 6:51 AM on July 20, 2007

This edition of the book might be of interest to you.

"...contains the complete text...supplemented by reviews, essays and more, including:

excerpts from analogous works of fiction by Ralph Ellison, Jack Kerouac and others."

Here is the table of contents.
posted by simbiotic at 7:03 AM on July 20, 2007

If you can stomach it, The Fountainhead fits the bill, or any Ayn Rand could be considered about "rebellion and conformity, bravery and dissent." There's actually a ton of options, widely taught at that level: 1984 by Orwell, The Handmaid's Tale, or for something more recent, I really loved Never Let Me Go. That might be a bit of stretch for those themes, but maybe not, because it shares the same sense of institutionalization and budding self-awareness. Or perhaps some non-fiction about McCarthyism?
posted by lubujackson at 7:53 AM on July 20, 2007

Second The Handmaid's Tale: it's creepy and science-fiction-y, but addresses your themes, and is by a female author with a female protagonist. I do agree that's important for students, as Juliet Banana says, because so much of the high school canon is about male heroes and authors.

I have another suggestion: why not call some reference librarians, either in your area or elsewhere, and describe what you're looking for? No doubt they could find you booklists categorized by theme and make some recommendations.
posted by Miko at 7:59 AM on July 20, 2007

"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut.
posted by weebil at 8:45 AM on July 20, 2007

Cool Hand Luke - Donn Pearce
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
The Revolt of Mother - Mary E Wilkins

Perhaps something from non-conformist movements?
A speech by Eugene Debs or The Black Panthers? An essay by Dorothy Day? Writings of Quaker or other Pacifists?
posted by MasonDixon at 9:13 AM on July 20, 2007

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