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The Waking by, Roethke and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Kesey

The value of experience plays a major role in the poem The Waking by, Roethke and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by, Kesey. Both portray a similar message, which seems to suggest that in life you must learn to live by gaining different experiences, which contribute to making you the person that you are. The quote “I learn by going where I go” from The Waking would be the same philosophy that McMurphy used in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to teach the ward members how to live on their own and gain a sense of individuality.

You can not shy away from things or go through life doing the same things over and over again or you become a machine incapable of making your own decisions. In The Waking the author tells of how you must ask questions about things you don’t know and you must learn things by actually venturing into the unknown to gain new knowledge. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, McMurphy tries to make the patients believe in themselves and not have to go by the strict rules of the nurse.

By allowing them to learn to help themselves he in a sense opens each inmate to a new world in which they can succeed and therefore they do not need to be sheltered from society. He tries to let them gain new experiences and even if they are not successful ones they still learn something and gain confidence and individuality. In The Waking the poem can be compared to an a patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest before McMurphy got a chance to teach the patients about experience.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow describes how the inmates would wake up only to go through a planned out schedule that they didn’t have to think about at all. So in waking they were basically asleep and just moving slowly through life with no purpose. I feel my fate in what I cannot fear shows how the patients believed they should go through their lives without feeling fear at all, which means never trying new things or gaining new experiences.

I learn by going where I have to go, though seemingly optimistic still suggests by the words, “have to” that, like the patients, this person learns things about life by being forced to go places and not making his own decisions. The line, “What falls away is always. And is near” can be fitted to the patients beliefs that when things happen they always happen that way and can not be changed or happen differently in any way. The poem and the patients alike give you a sense of conformity and dullness, but there is a hint of hope and optimism in both as well.

In the poem two questions are asked, the first being what is there to know and the second being who can tell us how. These questions show that the door is still open to for someone to come in and answer these questions and therefore change this person’s outlook on life. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest this person is McMurphy. He came into the ward with a cocky swagger and the patients on the ward looked at him like a misfit of their strictly set society.

McMurphy automatically wages war on the nurse and the strict guidelines for living that she has instituted in the ward. McMurphy questions why the inmates must brush their teeth at a specific time and when he gets an unsatisfactory answer he uses soap powder to brush his teeth instead of toothpaste, which is locked away. With this act he sent a message to the patients. He questioned authority and the patients began to realize that there was more to life than what they knew from the ward.

McMurphy really made them understand what learning from experience meant when he tries to lift a huge control panel even though he knows he can’t. He shows the patients that even if you fail you still gain experience from what you have done and that is what truly makes you a person. Once the men realize this, McMurphy is able to organize a fishing trip and get the patients away from the ward and into the real world. They gain a sense of confidence from their journey and when they are fishing they ask for Mac’s help many times, but he refuses.

He realizes that he can not always be there to do things for the patients and they must learn to help themselves. To be “cured they must become individuals and to do this they must go through new and different experiences on their own. At the end of the book the questions asked by the “patient” in the Waking are answered. What is there to know? The patients realize that living their life according to a strict schedule everyday is not really living. They have learned to question authority and live life based on individual decisions.

McMurphy sums up what he has taught the patients by telling the Chief that you must look back at painful memories and laugh and look back at good memories and feel the pain and that really makes you the person that you are. The other question is who can tell us how. The answer is seemingly McMurphy, who points the patients in the right directions, but they really must tell themselves how. They must teach themselves to be independent by doing knew things and thinking on their own.

In the end The Nurse, who runs the ward, gets the best of McMurphy and he ends up getting a lobotomy. The Chief, who has learned McMurphy’s lessons well, ends up killing McMurphy because he knows he can no longer gain experiences and be an individual. Therefore he is no longer a person and is not really considered alive. Once he suffocates McMurphy, the Chief and other patients leave the institution to gain their own experiences and live life as individual people. They now will learn by going where they want to go.

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