Essay about The Chief in One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Essay about The Chief in One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Critical Essay

One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest, written by Ken Kesey in 1962 is a gripping multidimensional novel, set in an Oregon Mental Institution set deep in the countryside. The novel is narrated by an American half-Indian known as the “Chief”, who is a seemingly deaf and dumb patient with Paranoid Schizophrenia. By choosing Bromden as the narrator instead of the main character McMurphy, Kesey gives us a somewhat objective view, as its coming from only one perspective.
The story comes from Kesey’s own experiences working on the Graveyard shift as an orderly at a Mental Institution, where he witnessed the Bureaucratic workings of the Institution and looks at the struggle for Power and Control between the two main characters Randal McMurphy who has been admitted for tests after being transferred from Pendleton work farm where he was sentenced to six months hard labour for Statutory Rape, but is faking his Mental illness to try to avoid having to carry out any more hard work and thinks that he can finish off the rest of his sentence in the comfort of the Mental Institution, and Nurse Ratched, the Head Nurse of the ward which is a Mini Society with strict rules, regulations and punishments. Throughout the novel Kesey deploys a range of literary techniques such as characterisation and Biblical imagery in order to explore the themes of Power and Control.
Before the novel even begins Kesey subtly introduces the themes at hand in the Title which is taken from a well-known nursery rhyme which states “One flew East one flew West and one flew over the Cuckoo’s nest” signifies that there are two distinct groups presented: the geese that fly east and those that fly west. These groups are going in pola...


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...e novel progresses, it becomes clear that McMurphy is to be regarded as a Christ-figure giving us a Biblical Imagery. There are suggestions of this early in the novel in the patient Ellis, who has received ECT and is now nailed to the wall with his arms stretched out, as if he were being crucified (this is how the Chief sees him). It is Ellis who says to Billy Bibbit, as the men are about to set out for the fishing trip, to be a “fisher of men”, which is what Christ said to the fisherman Peter when he called Peter to be his disciple. The table which is used for the EST treatments is shaped like a cross, which suggests the crucifixion of Christ. McMurphy takes twelve people with him on the trip, just as Christ had twelve disciples, and he choose to see out his mission to free the patients from their oppression on the ward, even at the expense of his own safety.



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