One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Comparison of the authors’ presentation of alienation and isolation in ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

The themes of alienation and isolation in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ are highly prominent, as the authors seek to portray the journey of an individual (or indeed group) that exists outside of mainstream society. In both novels we see the story told through the persona of an alienated first person narrator, a viewpoint that profoundly affects our comprehension and interpretation of the stories told, whether it be Bromden’s hallucinatory description of “the fog” and its effects or Holden’s quasi-reliable description of the events that lead to his being in a mental asylum. It is important to illustrate the subtle difference between alienation and isolation: Although the two terms are closely linked and often seen to be synonymous, I understand ‘alienation’ to be a more passive term; an alienated character has been alienated by the society around them. I understand isolation, however, to be a conscious – or at least intentional on some level – move by a character to exist outside of society. Society alienates a character, whereas a character isolates himself – naturally, there is some overlap between the two. Both of these phenomena are presented in, and are key to understanding ‘One Flew over...

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