What do you think of when you hear about the early American frontier? Do images of rifles or coon-skin caps come to mind? Or do you ponder the idea of covered wagons, the Oregon Trail, and pioneers and Indians? How about cowboys and horses, stage coach robbers, little towns in the middle of no where, or the first railroad crossing the United States? It is interesting to see how each person, or generation of people for that matter, has developed their own interpretation of the early American frontier and what its values and ideals stood for; and although as years go by and the representations of those values may change, their origins still develop the foundation of American fictional writing. In two of early America's greatest works, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest, readers are exposed to the vision of two great authors of the 18th and 19th centuries and while it is possible for one to simply read and enjoy the plot of these stories, it is impossible to overlook the similarities in their greater thematic issues.
Before actually plunging into the concepts presented in the two stories mentioned above, one must have a brief understanding of the historical setting. America was originally colonized by early Europeans in an attempt to flee the imposed conformity that was taking place in some early European societies. While American was seen as an escape of sorts, this European legacy created somewhat of a paradox for the American settlers. The desires for financial advancement, scientific improvements, industrial superiority, the growth of capitalism, and even democracy were persuading people to think, live, and act in terms of a growing homogeny of life and opinion. However, synonymous of the European migration to America, Americans alike attempted to escape this paradox by pushing westward. The west to them was a never ending source of individual freedom.