The Character of Chief Bromden in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The Character of Chief Bromden in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Chief Bromden, a tall American-Indian mute is the central character that symbolizes the change throughout the text and also throughout society. Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest uses this character that is subject to change as the narrator event though his perceptions cannot be fully trusted.

 

Initially the ward is run as if it was a prison ward, but from the moment the brawling, gambling McMurphy sets foot on the ward it is identified that he is going to cause havoc and provide change for the patients. McMurphy becomes a leader, a Christ like figure and the other patients are his disciples. The person who is objective to listen to his teachings at first is Chief Bromden (often called Bromden), but then he realizes that he is there to save them and joins McMurphy and the Acutes (meaning that they have possibility for rehabilitation and release) in the protest against Nurse Ratched, a bureaucratic woman who is the protagonist of the story, and the `Combine' (or society).

 

Chief Bromden hallucinates the fog machine and Air Raids. They represent his mental clarity, it comes when he is less stable and recedes when he's more coherent. That is the first noticeable change by Bromden because of the receding hallucinations when McMurphy enters the ward; McMurphy usurps his power to change through charisma.

 

By chapter 7 there is a small but subtle change to Bromden, he decides to go to sleep without taking the little red capsule, it seems as though he wishes to follow McMurphy. McMurphy is not taken in, by the `Combine' so Chief Bromden thinks by not taking the capsule he can perhaps escape the `Combine' and its power. Although he has a rather gruesome dream, whereby he sees one of the other patients, Blastic, being hung up on a hook and cut open. He thinks Blastic is being used as an experiment. Then Turkle, the night guard wakes Bromden. It is understood by the responder that Bromden has been taking the red capsule for a long time and suddenly to go `Cold Turkey', that is why he had such a wild dream. It does not definitely mean that he is crazy.

 

The vote for the change in schedule, so the patients could watch the World Series is a turning point for Bromden, as it's the first time he reasserts himself as a functioning person.

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It is his first definitive responsive action and from here he continues this pattern when he joins McMurphy in their protest against Nurse Ratched.

 

As the story continues Ken Kesey's motif, social criticism moves to another level of understanding. By demonstrating that Nurse Ratched is not the only obstacle that McMurphy faces to effect social change. It is also identified that if Nurse Ratched and the other administrative staff represent the ruling class in the institution, the patients are certainly the working class, an unformed mass that must be exhorted to collective action.

 

Ken Kesey uses Bromden primarily as a narrator who describes external conditions, and rarely gives insight into Bromdens own psychology. However, in Chapter 15 Ken Kesey gives some indication of the origin of Bromdens psychological problems. Bromden relates the imaginary `fog machine' of the mental institution to the fog that surrounded him during wartime. This indicates Bromden likely suffers from shell shock, which prompted him to lose his grip on sanity.

 

A major theme in the story is the importance of rational choice. It is the ability to choose that determines one's status as a rational human being. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest in a very significant sense centers around the conflict between McMurphy, who represents the capability for choice, and Nurse Ratched, who does not allow persons to determine decisions for themselves. When Chief Bromden realizes he wants the ability of rational and joins the other men in protest of Nurse Ratched, his hallucinations of the fog machine disappear. This decision to change comes at a cost however; by making choices Bromden becomes vulnerable. He loses the safety of the fog for the privileges of human choice.

 

Bromdens choice to present himself once again as deaf and dumb is a tactical move that serves himself and, for the narrative purposes of the story, Ken Kesey. Bromden uses the perception as a tactic to deflect harassment by the black boys, but it also allows Bromden access to situations such as the staff meeting that would normally remain secretive. Ken Kesey grants Bromden access to the staff meeting to give the responder greater insight into both Nurse Ratched and the perceptions of McMurphy.

 

The next step towards Bromdens self-realization is his awareness of the outside and watches the dog outside the window it shows he can conceive of existence outside of the institution, as he could not before. McMurphy is a catalyst for this change.

 

Chief Bromdens stories about his childhood demonstrate that he too suffered from a domineering female figure. Bromdens intimidated by his mother, whom he describes as "twice as tall" as his father, who was himself, a large man. Bromden indicates that his mother dominated him and his father, contributing to the problems they both faced. The story that Bromden tells McMurphy contributes a great deal to a psychological analysis of the character. He appears to be deaf and dumb primarily because he has been intimidated by others around him, whether callous inspectors or his domineering mother. Yet Chief Bromden reasserts himself once McMurphy shows him some degree of kindness and respect. Bromden is perhaps the best example that Ken Kesey gives of the beneficial effect that McMurphy has on the patients in the institution. McMurphy then gives the idea that Bromden may be able to lift the control panel and throw it through the window allowing an escape.

 

In the final chapter Bromden realizes all that had happened throughout the story was inevitable. McMurphy is lobotomized, Bromden cannot stand to see what has happened to him and smothers him with a pillow to put him out of his misery. It is then Bromden is told he has to leave; he escapes by lifting the control panel and throwing it through the window.

 

The story's end culminates in a fantastic victory for Nurse Ratched but an ultimate triumph for the martyred McMurphy. It is through McMurphy that Bromden gains strength and freedom to make independent choices that McMurphy proposed. Chief Bromden has regained his voice and makes his final step of self-realization at the story's end, by moving the control panel he fulfills McMurphys wishes and reasserts himself as a member of society.

 

"I felt like I was flying. Free." "I been away a long time" (Chief Bromden p.254)

 
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