One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, By Ken Kesey

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In Sanity and Responsibility, Fred Madden explores themes of self identity from Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The story is told by Chief Bromden, a half Native American and patient of a mental institution. Randle McMurphy, a charismatic man gets transferred into the hospital and creates chaos. Many consider McMurphy as the central character of the novel. When McMurphy is regarded as a hero, his sexist, racist, and violent tendencies are downplayed. Madden opens his essay by dismissing Randle McMurphy as the protagonist, and instead raises Chief as the novel’s principle character. He defends this by claiming Chief is the only character to have not conformed to society. Through this, he is also able to expand upon the importance of self reliance. Independence and self reliance is the most crucial trait for people to have. Madden puts emphasis on the importance of individuality and not conforming. He discusses how easy it is to conform, even unknowingly. He justifies this by pulling an excerpt from the book where Chief thinks back to his life with his family. His father explained to him that people can manipulate, either to …show more content…

Madden acknowledges the accusations against Ken Kesey of being sexist. Kesey’s in depth characterization of McMurphy’s demeaning attitudes toward women does raise some suspicion, like when white people play racist roles a little too well. He also pulls excerpts from an interview of Kesey, writing how his “words seem echoes of Emersonian self-reliance” (Madden 109), a common theme in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Kesey’s own faith in individuality is the same as Chief’s, which is why Kesey has stressed time and time again, “It’s the Indian’s story—not McMurphy’s”. The novel is not McMurphy’s, it is Chief’s, as Chief is the only one to uphold Kesey’s standards of self

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