One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is a 1959 novel by Ken Kesey. The novel is written against the backdrop of the Oregon asylum, seeking to mainly moot the study the human mind and institutional processes. Though the novel was published in 1962, by 1975, it had already been adapted into a film, thereby wining five Academy Awards. The novel has also enjoyed the status of being among the 100 best English language novels in the time between 1932 and 2005, by Time Magazine. The title of the book is a pun or wordplay adopted from the last two lines of the nursery rhyme "One flew east, one flew west; one flew over the cuckoo's nest."
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Summary of the Plot
The story is told by a big but mellow half Indian inmate by the name, Chief Bromden. The main focus of Bromden is Randle Patrick Murphy, an inmate with a penchant for rebellion and later feigns insanity so as to serve out his sentence in the hospital. The hospital in turn is run by inadequate skills and a tyrannical nurse, Ratched. McMurphy, the short name by which Randle Patrick Murphy is known, comes to this hospital to make up ways by which he may successfully break out of the prison (Kesey, 1962).
Macmurphy, the main character of One Who Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, is a Christ-like figure.
Analysis of the Veracity of the Theme In Relation To the Story
The main character in the story is McMurphy. Him being likened to, or being assigned a Christ-like figure can only be analyzed in a manner that pertains to his deeds. Therefore, the lucidity of the standpoint that McMurphy deserves a Christ like figure is mainly a virtue that is attributable to the result of his action. It is his vicarious action that he carries out in his own volition, which allows him to break free from the hospital jail. Like Christ's redemptive and vicarious work on the cross which led to the emancipation of many (as a matter of fact, all humankind), the artful artifice that McMurphy employs is able to lead others, his fellow jail birds to make an escape into their freedom (Searles, 44).
Specifically, this takes place when he attacks the nurse, making the nurse dumb. Finally, upon Ratched the nurse returns, McMurphy smothers her using a pillow, throws the shower room control panel away at and through the window, and makes an escape too easy out of the hospital.
The above development resulting from McMurphy may also be seen to have some sense of parallels with the Passion narratives in which with one final attempt, Christ was able to deal the devil, evil and death the coup de grace, thereby opening a way of escape for mankind. Just like Christ, McMurphy is acting against all odds, including an institutional system that is backed by the judicial system, security enforcers, instruments of coercion, and a hostile community of administrators. Nevertheless, against all odds, he is able to emerge triumphant. On the other hand is Christ, who was alone in the Passion story, surrounded by a mute but merciless judicial system, and diverse councils such as the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, the Scribe, and the Sadducees- all parties that had been infiltrated in their mindset with Satan's blind hate and callousness. Nevertheless, by enduring the deepest sense of grotesque pain, humiliation, lampoonery and rejection, Christ was able to emerge triumphant, but for humanity- unlike McMurphy who triumphing is for his benefit first, and then to the benefit of others (Sullivan, 75).
McMurphy may also be seen as a Christ-like figure, since like Christ, he carries out the work of freeing (himself and possibly, other inmates) from prison. In the Passion, Christ is taken to prison to be examined by scourging as a way of inquisition at the time. It is from the jail that He is violently and brutally marched through the streets so as to face the cross.
Like Christ who has wrought victory and freedom by dealing the enemy (who by sin and death held humans captives) one fatal blow, by smothering Ratched to death and subsequently breaking the shower room control panel, he and any other person willing enough can jump out of the window and other barriers into freedom.
It is important to note that the comparing of McMurphy to a Christ-like figure is based on circumstances that surrounded him, and the concept of freeing that he brought about. To this effect, it may not be tenable to place the two on the same pedestal. For instance, while McMurphy is in jail because of being a lawbreaker and wants to get out in order to have his freedom back, Christ's case was different in that He was one, blameless personality in whose nature, divinity and humanity had been equally tampered so that He in His Passion, He may serve as the Propitiation of mankind to God.