One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Chief Bromden Book Review
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a novel narrated by Chief Bromden, often read as a significant tale about mental illnesses and questioning if insanity itself can be faked. An overriding theme in the novel is Rebellion against Authority. The novel focuses on a ward run by Nurse Ratched and the hostility between her and Randle McMurphy. McMurphy’s main goal is to make her lose her temper and undermine her, making her the same as the men in the ward. There are numerous times he succeeds in degrading her power and times when he deals with consequences for doing so. Ken Kesey uses McMurphy to delineate a strong-headed man to contrast to the other patients who are weak and controlled. While there is power to keep the men in control, McMurphy breaks this cycle through his rebelling actions against the combine as he realizes the ward is ameliorating them, not aiding them.
McMurphy analyzes the source of Nurse Ratched’s power and quickly learns that it comes from the men’s insecurities due to her manipulation. By maintaining power over the men, she can get the outcome she desires. McMurphy decides to bring light to her crude tactics through rebellion and defiance. A significant act of rebellion in the novel is McMurphy breaking Nurse Ratched’s glass. He is denied by the Nurse to leave the ward, his reaction is to shatter the glass as defiance. The glass is a meaningful symbol of Nurse Ratched’s authority and by breaking it he is breaking her influence on the men. This event is also an example of irony since the nurse manipulates the men through the fog, McMurphy manipulates her as well. He does this by breaking her transparent barrier and making it very noticeable that her authority is damaged. The following quote from the novel “he ran his hands through the glass. The glass came apart like water splashing” (Kesey 146) illustrates how subtle yet notable this rebelling act of McMurphy’s was. The aides then put up cardboard as they await a replacement for the glass as Nurse Ratched does her best to conceal how it affected her. The reader is able to view the events through Chief Bromden's use of literary devices to emphasize imagery and word choice. McMurphy does not just defy authority through only violence, he is capable of affecting many of the patients and inspiring them to rebel on their own.
McMurphy learns that there are men in the ward that have admitted themselves willingly due to their belief that they are unable to abide by society's norms. Chief Bromden who is faking being “deaf” has lived a majority part of his life in the ward controlled by the fog. The Chief describes the fog in the following lines, “as bad as it is, you can slip back into it and feel safe” (Kesey 120). His mindset is fixated like this because Nurse Ratched makes him think this will help him from facing harsh realities. McMurphy attempts to make Chief aware of his big figure and strength by motivating him to escape by lifting the heavy levers to escape the ward. However, the Chief is insecure and does not believe he is strong enough. McMurphy is very kind to Chief Bromden and his simple act of offering him gum impacted him greatly. Without realization, the Chief thanks him and is startled by his response. Chief is caught off guard by how well McMurphy treats him and he feels comfortable not having to lie about being deaf. This interaction makes the Chief realize he has not sincerely laughed in a very long time. At this moment the Chief is aware of his power and he is released from the fog as well as Nurse Ratched’s power. McMurphy influenced the Chief to take a stand and not be afraid. Following McMurphy’s death, Chief Bromden gains the motivation to escape the way McMurphy taught him to. This is essential to McMurphy’s rebellion against authority and the lasting effects it had.
Along with a great deal of changes, McMurphy was able to achieve in the ward he presented a fishing trip. He begins recruiting patients to join him and Nurse Ratched begins to hang clippings about wrecked boats to petrify the patients. When her endeavor fails, she tells McMurphy they can not go without another chaperone. However, Dr. Spivey steps up and sides with McMurphy representing a clear situation where she is powerless. On the trip Candy, an escort develops a relationship with one of the patients Billy Bibbit. McMurphy encourages intimacy between Candy and Billy leading to them having sexual relations knowing that this will make Billy feel empowered. Nurse Ratched and her aides take roll and find Billy in bed with Candy and degrade him but he is not ashamed. She then asks what his mother will think of this incident and Billy begins stuttering and he is lead to the doctor’s office where he commits suicide by slitting his throat. Nurse Ratched quickly blames his death on McMurphy and he attacks her. McMurphy exhibits his greatest act of rebellion at this moment. He rips her uniform and strangles her, almost killing her until he is pulled off by the aides. This leads to McMurphy being lobotomized and put out of his suffering by the Chief. His rebellious acts caused Harding to sign himself out of the ward and left an impact on the rest of the men.
Despite McMurphy being a brave and noble man in the novel, his rebellion leads to many painful disciplinary treatments such as electroshock therapy until finally, his disobedience results in him getting lobotomized. As a reader, the author displays a strong theme of rebellion against authority through the characters and events throughout the story leaving them with a lasting thought to ponder upon. By learning that the combine is harming the patients, McMurphy breaks the cycle of authority controlling the men by his mutinying actions. By breaking the glass, strangling Nurse Ratched, and encouraging patients to escape, McMurphy is seen as the hero who was able to stand up to authority when no one else would.