Sometimes a Great Notion is more rooted in realism than Kesey's previous work, the phenomenally successful One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but is also more experimental. It has been compared to William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! in both form and content.
The novel uses the technique of having multiple characters speak sequentially in the first person, with no announcement that the first-person speaker has changed. A first reading can be confusing, but subsequent readings reveal that Kesey always provides a clue, such as quickly referring to the previously presumed first character in the third person. This technique allows Kesey to weave an intricate braid of characters who reveal their motives in depth to the reader, but do not communicate well with each other.