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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Scarlet Letter To Live With Fear

 

    To live with fear and not be overcome by it is the final test of

maturity. This test has been "taken" by various literary characters.  Chief

Bromden in Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and Reverend Arthur

Dimmesdale in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter both appear to have taken and

passed this test.

 

    It first seemed as though the Chief was going to fail this test of

maturity in the mental ward that he was committed to.  He had locked

himself up by acting deaf and dumb.  He had immense fear of the "Combine,"

or society, that ruined things and people and treated them like machines,

giving orders and controlling them.  Soon enough to "save" the Chief,

McMurphy arrived. He was lively, and not scared;  the complete opposite of

the Chief.  This courage eventually passed on to the Chief.  At a meeting,

when McMurphy was holding a vote to prove that the patients wanted to see

the World Series, the Chief voted for it.  At first he said that McMurphy

controlled his hand.  Later on he admitted that it was he who raised it.

He even talked to McMurphy one night, and began laughing at the situation

at hand.  One day when McMurphy and the Chief tried to help another patient

who was being taken advantage of by orderlies, they were caught and

sentenced to electro-shock therapy (EST).  The Chi usually blacked out in a

fog when confronted with problems;  however, this time (he had endured over

200 EST sessions previously) he did not.  However, McMurphy was

deteriorating, and the two seemed to be reversing positions.  McMurphy

eventually was sentenced to a lobotomy, which left him as a helpless,

pathetic person, as the Chief had once been.  The Chief now had the courage

to put McMurphy out of his misery, despite what the head nurse, Nurse

Ratched, the symbol of the combine to the Chief, would do to him.  He

smothered McMurphy, and afterwards, escaped by lifting the control panel,

which McMurphy told him that he could lift but the Chief saw himself as

"small," a symbol of his strength against the combine, and breaking a

window with it.  The mere fact that the Chief could lift the panel was

proof that he had become "bigger," even than McMurphy, who could not lift

it.  By confronting his fear and dealing with it, the Chief passed his test

of maturity.

 

    Reverend Dimmesdale also lived in fear.  Fear that one day he would be

found out as the father of the child of Hester Prynne, and an adulterer. If

he was found out, he could not serve his purpose on this earth: Relaying

God's word to the people.  He feared that if found out, he would be

humiliated like Hester was.  Also, he feared that Chillingworth, Hester's

husband, would take revenge upon him for corrupting her. Dimmesdale

eventually faced his fears, and in front of the townspeople, he, Hester,

and Pearl, their daughter, got up on the scaffolding that was used to

punish Hester, and confessed to his crimes.  He passed his test of maturity

because he confronted the fear, and was not overcome by it, (although it

almost did overcome him: His health was failing rapidly due to his guilty

conscience).  He knew that he would be humiliated, and that he was to leave

town with Hester that very day, but he confessed anyway.  His confession

shows his maturity and proves that he "passed" the test.

 

    A test of maturity is whether or not one is overcome by the fear they

live with.  The Chief and Dimmesdale are two literary characters who lived

in fear and overcame it.  Therefore, they both passed their test of

maturity by doing so.

 

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