Conformity In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

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In Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the main theme that society embraces people who conform to oppressive standards is reiterated numerous times throughout the book. The book is narrated by a schizophrenic, Native American man named Chief Bromden. He is large in physical stature, but is often treated as if he were invisible. Kesey depicts conformity through Bromden’s lack of perception of how size is related to power, and how Bromden’s view evolves following McMurphy’s arrival on the psychiatric ward. Prior to Randle McMurphy’s arrival on the ward, Chief Bromden spent most of his time in a delusional fog, in which he was able to protect himself from the realization that he is a big person. He views the world as a …show more content…

When McMurphy first arrives, the patients were very confused by his upbeat, loud and confident personality. When McMurphy introduces himself to Bromden, he states, “Chief, you may be big, but you shake my hand or I’ll consider it an insult”(Kesey pg23). Bromden doesn’t know what to make of McMurphy's comment, but he immediately took a strong liking to the new patient. As McMurphy begins to challenge the nurses by pulling off antics such as sitting and watching the blank television, he provides Bromden and the other patients with comedic relief. This is something the men haven't experienced during their time on the ward. McMurphy begins to have a profound effect on Bromden and starts to drag him out of the fog. As a result, Bromden begins talking. McMurphy tells Bromden that life doesn’t have to fit into the combine machine, and that it's better to feel scared then to have shock treatments, which shut down all of your emotions. For the first time in the book, we see Bromden come to the realization that he is big and powerful. He actually begins to feel. Bromden soon becomes very protective of McMurphy and views him as his savior. When McMurphy gets into a fight with the orderlies, Bromden jumps into to help him win the fight. As punishment, the two of them are sent to the disturbed ward to receive electroshock …show more content…

He theorizes, “Maybe, like old Pete, the Combine missed getting to him soon enough with controls. Maybe he growed up so wild all over the country, batting around from one place to another, never around one town longer'n a few months when he was a kid so a school never got much a hold on him, logging, gambling, running carnival wheels, traveling lightfooted and fast, keeping on the move so much that the Combine never had a chance to get anything installed.” (P ). Bromden realizes that McMurphy’s power comes from his lack of attachment to anyone. He does not feel the need to please others, so that is what makes him so dangerous and at the same time truly free. The only way that society can tame him is to kill his spirit, which is what Nurse Ratched eventually does at the end of the book. In the end when Nurse Ratchet has Mcmurphy lobotimized and turned into to a vegtable Bromden has the strength to take McMurphy out of his missery and kill

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