Free Essays – The Scarlet Letter and Cuckoo’s Nest Essay

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comparison compare contrast essaysThe Scarlet Letter and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: What Makes Up A Work Of Literature

A work of literature may be defined as a classic because it

promotes deep insight into human behavior. Both The Scarlet Letter, by

Nathaniel Hawthorne, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey give

a reader a complete understanding of what is going on inside of the heads

of the characters. This insight into the characters can be used as a

general insight into human behavior. One insight is that a person’s

physical abilities can be controlled by their mental awareness and stat e

of being. Another is that they see themselves in relation to those around

them.

In The Scarlet Letter, a reader is presented with the feelings of

Chillingworth, Hester’s (the main character) husband, and Dimmesdale

(Hester’s partner in adultry), as they are destroyed mentally as well as

physically. Chillingworth is afraid of being dishonored by being known as

the husband of a whore. He also wants revenge on Dimmesdale for corrupting

Hester. His thoughts are read by the reader, and his actions represent the

fiendish ways that have overcome him. The way he torment s Dimmesdale is

seen when he acts as his physician. Chillingworth knows that Dimmesdale

was the father of Pearl, Hester’s daughter. But he wants to torment and

take revenge on the Reverend Dimmesdale, who suddenly became sick.

Chillingworth uses his knowledge of the human mind and of medicine to

deduce that Dimmesdale’s sickness lay not in his body, but in his mind: He

was holding a secret, a deep, dark, secret, that was destroying him. By

asking Dimmesdale if he were hiding something, Chillingworth angered

Dimmesdale and tried to torment him. This insight into human behavior,

that one’s physical attributes can be determined by a mental condition,

makes The Scarlet Letter a classic.

Ken Kesey gives an excellent insight into human behavior in One

Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in a similar way to that in The Scarlet

Letter. Through Chief Bromden, a patient at the mental ward, Kesey shows

how one sees him/herself in relatio n to others and how the way that he/she

sees him/herself can affect his/her physical abilities. The Chief had

thought that he was “small,” despite the fact that he was six feet seven

inches tall. He felt that because he was controlled by the “combin e,” or

the society around him, and because he could not do anything about it that

he was inferior to those who did and/or tried to. When a new patient,

McMurphy, was admitted, the Chief saw him as a big man because he stood up

to the authorities. H owever, McMurphy was much shorter than the Chief and

had a much smaller build. As the book progressed, McMurphy tried to

convince the patients that he could lift a huge control panel and throw it

out a window to escape. He tried, and failed. He al so tried to convince

the Chief to try to lift it; McMurphy knew that the Chief could, but

because the Chief saw himself as inferior, he could not. Nearer to the end

of the novel, the Chief realized that he was growing “bigger” again – he

was regain ing his previous size from the courage that McMurphy had given

him. However, McMurphy had been “shrinking,” falling under the control of

the Combine. The final blow was when Nurse Ratched ordered a lobotomy on

McMurphy. From then on he was as smal l as ever to the Chief. The Chief,

however, now realized that he himself was bigger than ever; he put

McMurphy out of his misery by smothering him, and lifted the huge control

panel that he was previously convinced he could not. He threw it throug h

the window and escaped. Ken Kesey may have realized that people sometimes

seem different because of the power or freedom that they hold. He may have

known that they saw themselves only relative to others around them. It is

possible that he expre ssed these ideas in his book, using the Chief and

McMurphy as his subjects in the situations previously described.

If a work of literature shows deep insight into human behavior, as

do The Scarlet Letter and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, then that work

can be considered a classic, as Hawthorne’s and Kesey’s are. The major

insight in common is that bot h authors realized that mental and physical

conditions are interrelated and depend upon each other. Also, Kesey showed

how a person sees things in perspective to things around him or her.

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