Ken Kesey utilizes Jesus Christ as a constant symbol throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The protagonist of the story acts as a model and leader for other characters in the book, just as Christ was for his disciples. It is appropriate that such a leader would be closely associated with a powerful, and worshiped figure. Kesey's use of Christ associates the ideas or theories in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with the bible. McMurphy, however, may seem an unlikely Christ-figure due to his violent, sexual and seemingly immoral behavior. His behavior is merely an embodiment of the reforming movements that both Jesus and McMurphy share. Kesey's character, McMurphy, is portrayed as Christ-like throughout the novel to communicate the idea that McMurphy represents the same reforming leadership as Jesus did in the bible.
Kesey makes a series of simple associations between the events in Jesus' life and McMurphy's to initiate the assertion that the two men's purposes are one in the same. To begin Kesey's story, McMurphy enters the novel by showering upon his admittance into the ward. This showering, demanded by the ward aides, "where they take him into the shower room" (15), is analogous to Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist, and introduces the biblical theme in the novel. McMurphy's purpose in the novel is consistent and similar to that of Jesus. He attempts to unmask truths to the patients on the ward while displaying his true self through his overt behavior, regardless of the repercussions. Similarly, Jesus attempted to spread the word of God while displaying his beliefs freely despite whatever came as a result of not conforming...
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...to associate such power with McMurphy. Establishing similarity between the two figures serves to demonstrate the effect McMurphy had on his disciples that mere physical description would not depict. McMurphy battled against conformity and oppression throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and instilled faith in the patients' sanity, which they were blinded from. Likewise, Christ battled against temptation and sin in the bible to instill faith in God and relieve humanity of original sin. "In His death He is a sacrifice, satisfying for our sins," (Martin Luther).
The Holy Bible, New English Translation. Biblical Studies Press. Feb. 2002.
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. New York: Penguin Group, 1996.
Peterson, Susan Lynn. The Life of Martin Luther. 1999. 9 Mar. 2001 http://pweb.netcom.com/~supeters/luther.htm
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