Sometimes a Great Notion

Sometimes a Great Notion and the American Dream

In Ken Kesey’s <i>Sometimes a Great Notion</i>, the Stamper family illustrates how the idealistic American culture -- and the equally idealistic individuals living and working within that culture -- become corrupted by the dark side of the American Dream. The Stamper family follows the unthreatened life, unregulated liberty, and unrestricted pursuit of happiness, which leads them to the inevitable demise of that pursuit.

The theory that every man has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is frequently skewed and instead perceived as every man’s right to his maximum capacity of these inalienable rights, provoking detriments that he may inflict on his neighbors. This dark side is further defined as the pursuit of financial success and personal power, both of which come at the expense of others. The Stampers’ determination to freely pursue their life, liberty, and happiness on their own terms gets them into conflict with others who are trying to do the exact same thing. The family runs a Gyppo logging operation in Wakonda, Oregon that has made a deal with a logging union called Wakonda Pacific. The gravity of their decision soon becomes evident when the town’s lumber industry finds itself in a...

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