Laughter In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

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The age old adage that “laughter is the best medicine” appears as a recurring theme in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Laughter is proven throughout the novel to be a symbol of the strength the men of the ward acquire through McMurphy’s influence. The occurrence and genuinity of laughter among the patients evolves throughout the book, paralleling the evolution the men experience due to McMurphy’s revolutionism.
R.P. McMurphy as a character is representative of the individualism and autonomy that the patients lack. From the moment he is introduced, he is depicted as a powerful, unrelenting force. His physiognomy evinces this claim with his well built, muscular body, corresponding directly to his headstrong attitude and independence, …show more content…

Chief hears it and remarks it as the “...first laugh I’ve heard in years.” (Kesey 12) This moment is significant because it initiates laughter in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as a symbol of strength. As previously explained, McMurphy has resolve the patients do not, thus granting him the ability to laugh boldly and unadulterated exemplified in “He laughs til he’s finished for a time … Even when he isn’t laughing, that laughing sound hovers around him, the way sound hovers around a big bell that just quit ringing-it’s in his eyes, in the way he smiles and swaggers, in the way he talks” (12). This quote demonstrates the symbolism of laughter, because like the way McMurphy exudes strength, he is also emblematically exuding laughter, thus further connecting the two. The reason Chief can’t recall a “real” laugh is because he, Billy Bibbit, Harding, and all the other men have never felt strong enough under the nurse’s rule. She controls the men through her manipulative and authoritarian attitude, creating an atmosphere of unease, consequently making the idea of laughter completely unfathomable to the patients seen in “The air pressed in by the walls too tight for laughing.” She is able to belittle the men to the point that she chips away at their self esteem and self image proven by the fact Chief believes he is a small man,

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