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

Literature: One Flew Over The Cuckoo`s Nest

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What is reality? The novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, written by Ken Kesey,
explores living in a mental institution through the mind of a patient. As the
reader begins the novel, they would naturally think that a patient found in a
mental hospital would be insane. As Kesey introduces you to the patients, and
you see the institution in their eyes, you believe that they are really normal
people, and society is insane. The main character, Chief Bromden is a half
Indian man, who is considered schizophrenic. Randall McMurray, the newest
patient in the ward, causes many difficult situations for the Nurse. Nurse
Ratched is the authority figure for the patients and likes everything to be run
her way. A man who is known as Chief Bromden, the main character, starts as
seeming to be a shy, weak man. This is shown in the first chapter on page three,
when a caretaker of the institution talks of him while he is present, "Big
enough to eat apples off my head an' he mine me like a baby." Chief Bromden
is in the hospital because he is schizophrenic, and is considered deaf and dumb,
because he never talks or acknowledges people. At the end of the novel, McMurray
becomes a vegetable because of all of the shock treatments he had received.
Bromden displays that he is caring by smothering him with a pillow, because he
knows that McMurray would not want to live like that. One of the reasons that
people find him shy is that he would much rather be quiet, and observe his
surroundings. Page 26-27 (Bromden thinking of Nurse Ratched) "I've watched
her get more skillful over the years. Practice has steadied and strengthened.
her until she wields a sure power that extends in all directions on hair-like
wires, too small for anybody's eye but mine; I see her sit in the center of this
web of wires like a watchful robot, tend her network with mechanical skill, know
every second which wire runs where and just what current to send up to get the
results she wants" Chief Bromden is the smartest, most caring and gentle
man in this novel. He is the kind of guy that many people would like to know,
and associate themselves with. The Chief stands out from the rest of the men of
the ward. Physically, he stands out by being half Indian, with long, black oily
hair. Also, he is a very large man, standing 6'7" and having a very
muscular build, from playing football when he was a teenager. He stands out
mentally by being a "chronic." "Across the room are the culls of
the Combine's product - the chromic. Not in the hospital, these, to get fixed,
but just to keep them from walking around the streets giving the product a bad
name. Chronics are in for good, the staff concedes. Chronics are divided into
Walkers, like me, and the Wheelers. What the chronic are, are machines with
flaws inside that can't be repaired." The Chief thinks of the outside world
to be a "Combine," which is used throughout the novel. The chief is
very different from the men living in the hospital alongside him. Randle Patrick
McMurray is the newest addition to the ward. He is compared with two people
throughout the novel. His physical traits are compared with that of Paul
Bunyan's. McMurray is red headed, has long red side burns and curly hair. He has
a broad chest and jaw and has a distinct red scar that runs along his nose and
cheekbone. Another prominent feature of his, is a tattoo on his left hand of an
anchor. McMurray's large, beat-up hands and tanned body are a result of many
years working on a farm, P. 12, "His face and neck and arms are the color
of ox blood leather." He is the most recent addition to the ward, and one
of the reasons he was placed there was because he is obsessed with sex and
committed statutory rape with a 15-year-old girl. The second person they compare
McMurray to is Christ. He goes through a kind of crucifixion when he begins a
series of electric shock treatments. When the attendant places salve on his
temples, McMurray says, P 270, "Anointest my head with conductant. Do I get
a crown of thorns?" Randall McMurray's role is obvious in the world,
described to be a cross between Paul Bunyan and Christ. McMurray's personality
is very rejuvenating to the ward. Before he arrived, the men that live in the
ward were weak, and seem ashamed of themselves. Once McMurray arrives, they seem
to live on his confidence, and drain it out of him to use for themselves. As the
men gain more confidence, he seems to become weaker. An example is on P.245,
just after the fishing trip, "McMurray seemed dreadfully tied, and strained
and frantic, like there was not enough time left for something he had to
do.". McMurray's confidence is shown when he walks into the world. P ten,
(told in chief Bromden's point of view), "I don't hear him slide scared
along the wall, when they tell him about the shower, he tells them right back in
a loud, brassy voice that he is already plenty damn clean, thank you."
McMurray also contributes to the ward by bringing excitement and happiness to
the atmosphere. He introduces the men to gambling, which is a great advantage
for himself, because it always results in his winning all of the patient's
money. Chief Bromden observes him and says, P.11, "Even when he is not
laughing, that laughing sound hovers around him, it's in his eyes, in the way he
smiles and swaggers, in the way he talks." Chief Bromden also notices
McMurray's confidence when he meets him for the first time, P.10, "I don't
hear him slide scared along the wall, when they tell him about the shower, he
tells them right back in a loud brassy voice that he's already plenty damn
clean, thank you.". One negative thing about McMurray's personality is that
he is in denial of the fact that he is considered insane. P.13 "I gotta
couple of hassles at the farm, and the court ruled a psychopath. Do you think
I'm going to argue with that? If it gets me outta those damn pea fields I'll be
whatever their heart desires." Randall McMurray may be the most sane person
in the whole institution. Nurse Ratched is the authority figure of the ward.
Chief Bromden thinks that she is a good-looking woman. P. 5-6, "Her face is
smooth, calculated and precision-made, like an expensive baby doll, skin like
flesh colored enamel, blend of white and cream and baby-blue eyes, small nose,
pink little nostrils - everything working together, except the size of her
bosom. A mistake was made somehow in manufacturing, putting those big, womanly
breasts on what would have been otherwise a perfect work." Nurse Ratched is
one of the three female characters found in the novel. She is described to be a
"ball-crusher," meaning that because she is in control of the men, and
that the men are ashamed of this, because she is a woman. The other two
characters are prostitutes, generally they display the women in One Flew Over
The Cuckoo's Nest negatively, while the men are shown as heroes. At one point,
the patients have a huge party during the night when she is not there, and they
completely trash the ward. Billy Bibbit, a patient who isn't committed, but does
not have the confidence to live in the "real" world, loses his
virginity to a prostitute. Nurse Ratched cannot deal with the fact that they
outright rebelled against her so she targets Billy, the weakest of the bunch.
P.301, "What worries me Billy, is how your poor mother is going to take
this." She got the response she was after, Billy flinched and put his hand
to his cheek like he'd been burned with acid. "Nuh!Nuh!", He shook his
head, begging her, "You d-don't n-n-need!" The Nurse knows that it was
McMurray's idea to have the party, but she is also aware that he is mentally
stronger than she, so she targets the weakest man of all. This pushes him into
killing himself because she made him feel so ashamed of himself. One Flew Over
The Cuckoo's Nest, written by Ken Kesey shows that thoughts of mental patients
and what it is like to live in a mental institution. I highly enjoyed this
novel, and recommend it to a person that enjoys suspense, along with a theme of
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