Essay, Research Paper: One Flew Over The Cuckoo`s Nest

Literature: One Flew Over The Cuckoo`s Nest

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When a person reads the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey,
they are taking a different look at the corrupt side of society through the eyes
of this intelligent and imaginative author. Kesey leads the reader through a
mental hospital in the form of a mentally ill patient called ‘Chief’ Bromden.
Throughout the story the reader is shown a darker side of what is traditionally
labeled as good or necessary, namely the hospital, in our culture. It is shown
how one good force can have such an extreme effect on the fate of it’s
opposition. In this particular story the good force is a man by the name of
Randall P. McMurphy. He comes into the ward and creates a disruption to all that
is ordinary and accepted. The story One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest explores
the idea that McMurphy is a Christ-like figure, and that there is an underlying
battle between good (McMurphy) and evil (Big Nurse) that seriously affects the
outcome of the patients in the ward. One thing that allows the reader to enter
into the idea that McMurphy is quite special is how he was noticeably different
from all the other patients at the beginning of the story. He had a much greater
crave for independence and things like self-gratification than did any of the
others. He states that he is “thinking of taking over the whole show
himself” (Kesey 22) right at the beginning of the story. This is something
none of the other patients would ever even consider saying, and they become very
interested in him immediately. After McMurphy starts getting to know the other
people in the ward, he builds a bond with them and starts to express a feeling
of wanting to make things change. This is where his stronger Christ-like
qualities begin to shine through. He can relate to Christ not only because “He
and Christ could function in their societies, but they were able to edify those
who followed them and bring meaning into once futile lives” (Essay 2).
According to one essay: Both McMurphy and Christ were charismatic and had a
small devote following. Christ often challenged the Jewish ritualization of the
law and blamed the scribes and Pharisees, with power, for being hypocrites. In
this same manner, R.P. McMurphy often caused a stir by confronting the system of
the asylum and it’s authorities. (2) This is only one of the many similarities
between the two very important men. One could go as far as to relate the fishing
trip in the story to the actual assumed profession of Jesus Christ himself, that
of a fisherman. Perhaps the most unifying similarity between Christ and McMurphy
is the action of sacrificing themselves for their causes. They are both killed
by their own people. Christ is killed by the Jews, and McMurphy by Mr. Bromden,
both for a good cause. Both men have interesting life stories that end with
martyrdom and salvation for others. In some words “Finally, the eventual death
of McMurphy was Chief’s “new birth.” McMurphy died in place of Chief, and
liberation ensued. The same parallel exists among those who identify themselves
with Christ, his death, and resurrection. This was the way to salvation or
liberation from the confinement of a worthless life” (Essay 2). The presence
of a Christ-like protagonist leads the story to take on the basis of a battle
between good and evil. In this basic frame of good and evil, Big Nurse,
otherwise known as Nurse Ratched takes on the role of the evil force. She is
hurtful toward the patients and is always making certain that her power and
authority over the patients aren’t questioned or jeopardized in any way. A
perfect example of her hurtful behavior is the downsizing of Billy Bibbit, a
patient in the ward, after he has sex with a woman, which proves to be extremely
therapeutic for his condition. Her verbal assault drives the boy to the point of
suicide within minutes. The good force, performed by McMurphy, is very helpful
to them. When he brings the whole group out on a fishing trip without ward
permission the guys get their first real taste of freedom in a long time. The
whole trip ends up being so much fun, that almost all of the patients seem one
hundred percent better. This makes no difference to the nurse. She quickly
scolds them, fighting to be powerful, and accuses McMurphy of being a danger to
the safety of the ward. The support for the struggle between the two forces is
displayed near the beginning of the book when McMurphy bets some of the other
patients that he will ‘beat’ big nurse. He knows right from the start that
his enrollment in the mental hospital will be a battle against the nurse, and he
states it clearly. The struggle between the two forces in this book has a
magnificent outcome on the end of the story. “Some of the patients in the ward
like Chief, Billy, and Cheswick, “an insecure, neurotic man lacking in
self-confidence” (Dirks 1), were literally transformed.” The absolute
outcome, though, is the liberation of the Chief. He completely recovers from the
deepest state of mental affliction of any patient. This is entirely credited to
the relationship he had with McMurphy and their plans to leave when the Chief
was ‘ready’. The night of McMurphy’s lobotomy and death the Chief makes a
statement about feeling as big as a mountain. It seemed almost as if the free
spirit of McMurphy had passed from him to the Chief and enlightened a few others
as well. The transformation of Billy Bibbit from “a pathetic, incessantly
stuttering, paranoid boychild” (Dirks 1) into a more confident, experienced,
man, then to his regression and suicide combines with the moving, tragic death
of McMurphy to form a remarkably dramatic outcome. Even the once unchangeable
force, The Big Nurse, is altered by the final events in the story. The outcome
of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, based on Randall P. McMurphy’s intense
struggle with the opposite side, can only be appreciated best from one
perspective. Although he suffers the loss of life, and the nurse hasn’t, his
achievements prove that he has ultimately triumphed over the “evil” side
that fought him with such considerable force, and he earned the right to be
labeled as a Christ-like figure. This just proves that “no matter how
repressible society may be, one can find freedom, or salvation through
identifying themselves with a Christ-figure, or beliefs in general” (Essay 2).

Dirks, Tim. Review Page. One Flew Over.
Essay-Cuckoo. From 4 April 1999
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Signet, 1962. New York City.
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