One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a fantastically fun text to teach. It’s rowdy, hilarious, a touch dangerous. It’s about conformity and imprisonment, themes that will be of special interest to any student. A section that is especially worthy of discussion is the revelation that all of the inmates save McMurphy are in the asylum voluntarily. Why are they there? A rich and puzzling question to answer. At that point I always like to say, “it’s a lovely day outside today. Why did you decide to come here, to this airless, windowless basement room to have me talk at you for two hours? Why are you here, now?”because we’re expected to be because they made us because we’re bored on the off chance you’ll say something interesting on the off chance you’ll embarrass yourself because a friend is here because we lack imagination we have nowhere else to be because it’s better than a job because it’s better than nothing because we’re scared because we’re curious because we paid for it it’s not so bad who says we’re really here? because we don’t want them to hurt us because we don’t want to hurt them we want a future they tell us we have no future unless we’re here we’re used to it we hope you’ll teach us something tell us something that’ll make us ready for out there because you’re kind of funny because this a break from our other classes because it’s required (at least we think so) (that’s what they tell us anyway) because it fits into our schedule because this is where everyone else is we don’t want to be left out
on the off chance something weird happens it gives us something to do we’re used to it it’s not so bad we want hey, why are you here, anyway? tell us this is going somewhere
This is fantastic–I love this! What an amazing opener to class discussion; it makes me want to teach Cuckoo’s Nest (and I would, if not for the constraints of my program).
Thank you! Can you not teach it because you need to stick to short texts? Now I’m trying to think of a short text that brings up the same points…
I can’t teach it bc my current comp classes have an Asian Pacific American literature focus and the main text if anything, should be APA-related. But–I do teach a few short texts from various cultures (outside of Asian Pacific Islander), so now I’m thinking of maybe just using an excerpt from Cuckoo’s Nest (but man, that would really be out of context for the students)…but yah, I love your strategy here and I too, am trying to think of a short text (maybe from APA lit) that brings up the same points.