Figurative Language In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

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More Than Meets the I Maybe one is perusing a book store, looking for a novel to purchase and read. And, lo and behold, a very unique title catches one’s eye. Certainly, a book with a name like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is worth a look, one thinks to him or herself. Keister down and feet up in one’s favorite recliner, one delves into this novel and discovers that it is a captivating read. One should also realize that beneath the surface narrative, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest contains more nuanced meaning, and that such meaning is better appreciated in light of Thomas Aquinas’s thoughts on Scriptural subtext.
According to Aquinas, one may use language to communicate truth and wisdom while also being somewhat duplicitous …show more content…

To begin, similar to how Aquinas asserts that spiritual truths in the Scriptures are related through the use of figurative language, Kesey’s work utilizes figurative language to enrich and more effectively express its thematic content. For instance, consider when McMurphy, who provides much wisdom to both his fellow patients and the reader, dramatically imparts to the men the virtues of selflessness and sacrifice. Late in the novel, McMurphy is provided with a difficult ultimatum—he may apologize to Nurse Ratched, but lose the esteem of the men and, consequently, all of the progress he has made in building up their self-esteem, or he may suffer electroconvulsive therapy until he is willing to come to heel. McMurphy, of course, chooses martyrdom for the sake of the men. The importance of selflessness and sacrifice is effectively communicated to the reader by McMurphy’s decision, but this lesson gains more import as a result of McMurphy being developed as a symbol for Christ. Not only does McMurphy’s sacrifice make him similar to Christ—the ultimate martyr—but Kesey deftly incorporates details to reinforce this symbolism. For example, graphite salve is applied to McMurphy’s temples before he receives ECT. He inquires about this, is told that it is “conductant,” and …show more content…

The novel does provide the reader with a relatively straightforward narrative that is worthwhile due to its entertainment value; however, similar to one who derives moral lessons from Scriptural allegory, the reader who endeavors to uncover sophisticated subtext in Kesey’s novel is similarly rewarded. Take, for instance, Bromden’s obsession with the “Combine.” The surface reader will either take Bromden at his word and accept that in the narrative, there exists a nefarious organization whose goal is to make everyone the same through the means of robotization or determine that Bromden is an untrustworthy narrator and, consequently, give up on a seemingly meaningless novel. The more industrious reader will realize the truth of Bromden’s statement: “[I]t’s the truth even if it didn’t happen,” which is to say that when Bromden speaks of something as unlikely as the Combine, he is speaking metaphorically (8); the Combine, the more astute reader discovers, represents society and how it pressures individuals to conform. Such a realization can only be made once a reader of a work like Kesey’s moves beyond the literal into the

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