One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey explores the tendency of humans to conform to ideals proposed by popular society. The participants in this society process their new members, shunning those who deviate from the norm. Ken Kesey uses the image of a combine harvester to symbolize the organized way society classifies its inhabitants. As a person excluded from society, Chief Bromden feels pressured by the representatives of society who try to ‘fix’ him, to make him conform to the popular ideal. Chief imagines himself lost in a fog when he feels overwhelmed by the demands of society. However, this fog starts to disappear when Randall Patrick McMurphy enters the ward. McMurphy teaches the patients in the ward to value happiness and learning and admitting mistakes over striving for societal perfection. Kesey uses the Combine, Chief’s hallucinations of fog, and McMurphy’s laughter to express the manipulative, repressive character of popular society.
Kesey uses the image of fog to describe the suffocating nature of the ideals of society. When chief feels inferior to the demands of Big Nurse, he imagines fog leaking out of the vents in the ward: “it’s getting hard to locate my bed at night… Nobody complains about all the fog. I know why, now: as bad as it is, you can slip back in it and be safe” (114). The fog has been preventing Chief from sleeping, his everyday escape from the demands of society. When Big Nurse has more power, the fog seems thicker. Although Society has excluded the patients in the ward for their unique qualities, they feel ‘safer’ trying to fit in because they receive approval from Big Nurse and the representatives of society.
Chief compares society to a combine, reveal...
... middle of paper ...
... his rejection of and rise above the ideals of society.
Through his use of symbols to represent corrupt society, Ken Kesey renews the reader’s concept of insanity. The combine, a heartless machine reduces stray societal participants, shaving them down to the exact same length. Kesey proposes that the ‘insane’ are those who refuse to be cut down, not those who are naturally different. Chief, confused by the demands of society, refuses to talk in order to prevent his ‘harvesting’. He knows his participation in Big Nurse’s experiments will lead to his eventual ‘fix’. McMurphy, showing him how be comfortable with his differences, frees Chief from his paranoia against conforming. The ‘insane’ recognize the corrupt values of society and separate themselves from it, eventually becoming too far pressured and conforming or finding happiness and comfort in their differences.
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