One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Laughter Analysis

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In his comedic novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey uses Chief Bromden, a Native-American man suffering from schizophrenia, to tell the story of an intense struggle for power between the Big Nurse and a new patient. Named McMurphy, this admission brings an aspect to the ward that is noticeably absent under the Nurse’s reign: laughter. The introduction of humour to the ward disrupts the atmosphere of conformity and submission crafted the Big Nurse. Throughout the book, the two engage in a series of battles as the Big Nurse attempts to prevent the McMurphy and the rest of the men from laughing and while more abstractly aiming to eliminate their autonomy. Battling back, McMurphy tries to teach the men that they themselves can use laughter to fight back against this …show more content…

Through McMurphy, Kesey shows that because laughter is human, it can be used to freely express one’s true self and in doing so, overcome authority. Prior to McMurphy’s arrival, the Big Nurse uses her power to ensure the ward exists in a state of silence to prevent the men from exercising their will. One afternoon, the Big Nurse makes the decision to reduce the amount of cigarettes each patient can use. This renders the men unable to play poker, a social game. Describing the state of the ward following this decision, Chief says, “It’s quiet in the tub room, just the sound of the speaker drifting in from the day room. It’s so quiet you can hear that guy upstairs in Disturbed climbing the wall, giving out an occasional signal… like a baby yells to yell itself to sleep” (Kesey 120). Kesey intentionally repeats the word “quiet” to emphasize the absence of conversation, laughter, and other human elements from the ward. Additionally, he describes that the Disturbed patient moans “like a baby”. This metaphor is of note as mothers typically dictate the actions of babies. In this instance, the mother can be compared to the Big

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