Ken Kesey's classic novel One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest recounts the experiences of R.P. McMurphy, a criminal sentenced to time in a mental hospital. Kesey's illustration of the mental hospital provides the stereotypical view of "institutions." However, many other areas of life go unnoticed as institutions, such as schools or even families or close-knit groups of friends. Despite general unawareness of the extent of institutions, institutions have direct consequences for the identities of individuals that exist within them. In this analysis I will first outline Goffman's theory of total institutions focusing on the general characteristics of total institutions, the disculturation process, and the privilege system of total institutions. I will then apply Goffman's theory to Kesey's group the Merry Pranksters and to Augsburg College. Both cases should be interesting to analyze because Kesey demonstrated that he had significant knowledge of the effects of total institutions in his fiction writing, and Augsburg College is perceived as a training ground to "nurture future leaders of the world" (Augsburg Website). Neither of the two cases is traditionally viewed as a total institution in the public eye. After applying Goffman's original theory to the two cases, I will evaluate weak areas in the theory and elaborate on the original theory in an effort to strengthen its applicability to a variety of cases. In doing this I will demonstrate that total institutions break down the pre-institution identity of individuals to create a new institutionalized identity which allows the institution control over the institutionalized individual's identity. This breakdown and rebuilding of identity benefits the functionality of total institurtions.
"Charicteristics of Total Institutions in the Merry Pranksters and Augsburg College: A Goffmanian Analysis,"
Augsburg Honors Review: Vol. 2
, Article 2.
Available at: https://idun.augsburg.edu/honors_review/vol2/iss1/2