Free Novel Review: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Essay Sample
Q2. In what five ways does McMurphy influence Chief Bromden to change during the course of the novel? In what specific way does each change liberate the chief?
In Ken Kesey’s novel, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” we meet Chief Bromden, an escaped inmate from an insane asylum. The Chief is a six foot tall Native American with an inferiority complex. He feels small, insignificant and weak, even with his giant physique (Gold 114). He lacks self-confidence and is reliant on others for almost anything. Most of his fellow inmates are afraid to escape the Institution, and it is only through McMurphy’s help that the Chief escapes. McMurphy trains Bromden to be strong and self-reliant. By listening to McMurphy, Bromden regains his self-confidence, and he finally does things for himself. In fact, it is McMurphy who influences the Bromden to do things for himself, consequently giving him the courage to escape from the Institution. The Chief, through McMurphy’s influence, can face the world on his own, and does not have to hide behind an identity that portrays him as deaf.
Randle McMurphy is a new inmate in the Institution who reminds the Chief of what his father used to be: a strong, independent, confident and big man (Wilson 126). The Chief observes “He talks a little the way papa used to, voice loud and full of hell” (Kesey 16). McMurphy urges the Chief to take back his life. One instance in the book is the control panel scene. In the scene, McMurphy wagers the other inmates that he can lift the control panel even if it is too heavy for him. This scene teaches the Chief that although he cannot do something, he still has to try. McMurphy shows the chief that even though you try something and fail, it is better than not trying and finding out if you can succeed.
Another scene where McMurphy influences the Chief is during the Second World War series vote. During the scene, McMurphy encourages the Chief along with twenty of the Acutes to raise their hands. By doing this, McMurphy demonstrates to the Chief and the Acutes that together, they can fight the Institution (Pink and Lione 641). He draws the Chief from the fog blinding him from the reality that not only can he do something for himself, but also, he can fight against the Institution. When the Chief raises his hand initially, he thinks that it was McMurphy’s doing. He, however, comes to realize that it was him doing it, without help or influence from another person. He says “No. That’s not the truth; I lifted it myself” (Kesey 126). After this incident, the chief realizes that the fog has been lifted. He says, “There’s no more fog” (Kesey 130) because McMurphy has helped him out of the fog. Consequently, the Chief refuses to take sleeping pills by himself, indicating that he can make decisions by himself, and not just blindly obeying the Institution like a machine.
During the fishing trip, McMurphy teaches the Chief and other inmates how to face the world and every obstacle. He emphasizes the importance of being indepedent by sitting back on the boat and allowing the other men to fish. Doing so makes the Chief and the other men realize they can do things by themselves without the help (Simmons 175). Consequently, the Chief begins to see himself as a stronger person, regaining his confidence.
After getting back to the Institution from the fishing trip, the men have to clean. Some of the black boys force George, a fellow inmate to clean even though he does not want to. McMurphy defends George and gets into a fight with Washington. Chief joins McMurphy in fighting Washington. Nurse Ratched intervenes and sends the Chief, George and McMurphy to the Disturbed.
It is during this event that the Chief has someone relying on him for a change, both George and McMurphy. He says, “ So I think what happened in the shower room that afternoon was more my fault than anyone else's. And that's why the only way I could make any amends was by doing what I did, without thinking about being cagey or safe or what would happen to me and not worrying about anything else for once but the thing that needed to be done and the doing of it." (Kesey 227). We now see a different Chief. Since McMurphy’s arrival, the Chief has gone from a person with low confidence which is dependent on others to a person who can make his choices, and does not even back away from a fight.
Another way McMurphy influences the Chief is by listening to him and acknowledging him. The Chief remembers when people from the government came to his house when he was young. They insulted his family, and the Chief spoke loudly in English but they ignored him. In the Institution, the Chief is continuously ignored by the staff when he speaks. Therefore, he adopted a personality that portrayed him as deaf, and he remains silent. However, when McMurphy is admitted to the ward, he immediately acknowledges the Chief. He even speaks to the Chief, even when he was informed he was deaf. When the Chief finally speaks to McMurphy, he listens to him patiently and acknowledges him. The Chief recalls “He told me not to worry, that he had till six-thirty in the morning to listen if I wanted to practice." . This act helps the chief gain confidence, and soon he is talking and interacting with other inmates. It is through McMurphy’s introduction that the Chief shuns his deaf and mute personality and adopts a new, confident and action-oriented attitude.
Kesey, Ken. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Penguin, 2002. Online.
Pink, Jim, and Lionel Jacobson. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." BMJ 334.7594 (2007):
Wilson, D. G. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Proceedings of the Royal Society of
Medicine 70.2 (1977): 126.
Gold, Stanley. "One flew over the cuckoo's nest." Australasian Psychiatry 37.1 (2003): 115-118.
Simmons, David. "‘Hundred-per-Cent American Con Man’: Character in Ken Kesey’s One Flew
Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." Reassessing the Twentieth-Century Canon: From Joseph Conrad to Zadie Smith (2014): 175.
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