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How can you be big and small at the same time? In Ken Kesey's novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Chief Bromden is one of the inmates in an insane asylum who escapes the Institution. Many of the other inmates are afraid of the Institution and cannot escape. How does Chief escape? McMurphy helps him break free. He teaches Chief how to be strong and independent again. He listens to Chief and helps him get back his self-confidence. McMurphy influences Chief to do things for himself. Having this help, Chief finds himself and his self-confidence. This leads to Chief escaping the Institution because he can face the world on his own without hiding under a false identity of being deaf.
Chief Bromden is a six foot seven tall Native American (half) who feels very small and weak even though by physical description, he is very big and strong. Chief does not have enough self-confidence and he is not independent. That is what makes him so small and weak. When Randle McMurphy, the new inmate in the asylum comes in, Chief is reminded of what his father used to be: strong, independent, confident and big. "He talks a little the way papa used to, voice loud and full of hell " (16) McMurphy helps Chief gains back his self-confidence and teaches him to be independent.
In the control panel scene, McMurphy bets with the other men that he can lift the control panel even though it is too heavy for him. He is teaching Chief and the other inmates that even if you think you can't do something, you have to try. If you try and you fail that will be okay, but if you never try, you don't know what you can do. The other men and Chief have never tried to rebel against Nurse Ratched and the institution. They have watched others fail so they are afraid to try; but they are different. If they try, they might be able to defeat Nurse Ratched. They do not know about their own abilities. They lack the self-confidence and courage to do it for themselves. So McMurphy shows them how to try. "But I tried, though,' he says. Goddammit, I sure as hell did that much, now, didn't I?"(111)
During the second World Series vote, McMurphy gets Chief and twenty of the Acutes to raise their hands up.
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"Chief Bromden's Escape in Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Nov 2019
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When Chief and the inmates go on the fishing trip with McMurphy, he teaches them how to face the outside world and its problems. He teaches them how to be independent by letting them do things for themselves. He sits back on the boat and just laughs while the men are trying to fish by themselves. They learn that they can actually do things independently without depending on someone else to help them. They begin to see themselves as stronger people and Chief starts having fun. McMurphy also shows the men that they don't have to look at the bad side of things. They can always look at the funny and good side. Chief and the inmates learn to let loose and laugh on the boat.
When the inmates get back to the asylum, the men have to go through cleaning. The black boys force George to clean even though he doesn't want to. McMurphy stands up for George and starts to fight with Washington. Chief joins in to help McMurphy and George. When Nurse Ratched comes, they get sent up to the Disturbed. During this event, Chief has someone else being dependent on him (McMurphy and George). He also does something himself because he wants to help fight against the Institution. "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 kind of amends was by doing what I did, without thinking about being cagey or safe or what would happen to meand not worrying about anything else for once but the thing that needed to be done and the doing of it." (227) Chief is not the same as he was before McMurphy came. He does not hide away and stare at the fight. He joins in to help. Also, he takes responsibility for his actions unlike Billy Bibbit who blames McMurphy after he is found with Candy by Nurse. Chief does not blame McMurphy for provoking him to help fight. It was his decision and he took the punishment for it. So at this point, he is independent and has gained his self confidence.
McMurphy also helps out Chief by listening to him and acknowledging him. When Chief was ten years old, a group of government people came to his house and started insulting his family and village. Chief spoke aloud in English for them to hear but they ignored him. The staff in the asylum ignores him too when he tries to speak so he pretends to be deaf and remains silent. " they think I'm deaf and dumb. Everybody thinks so."(10) But as soon as McMurphy is introduced into the ward, McMurphy acknowledges Chief. He goes around to everyone in the room when he first comes in and even spoke to Chief. Even after being told that Chief is deaf, he still notices Chief and talks to him. When Chief first speaks to McMurphy by saying "Thank You" (185), McMurphy listens to Chief and is patient with him. "He told me not to worry, that he had till six-thirty in the morning to listen if I wanted to practice." (185)This helps Chief get used to talking and it helps him shed away his fake identity of being deaf.
After the electroshock treatment that Chief takes, he does not slip back into the fog. He gets out of it by himself which proves him to be now strong and independent. "Its fogging a little, but I won't slip off and hide in it. No never again "
So Chief gets out of the Institution with the help of McMurphy influencing him and helping him along. But Chief also had to believe in himself. He learns to do that and have self-confidence. He learned to be independent and he learned to face reality and its problems. That's how Chief breaks free of the control of the Institution and finds himself again.