Transformation In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

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It is often said that in order to gain something of value, something of equal or more value must be sacrificed. Throughout Ken Kesey’s book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, many things are gained, such as relationships, power, self-confidence, and independence while many things are lost to compensate for that gain, such as power, identity, control and people. The last chapter of the book brings the issue/conflict of gain and loss to a resolution. In chapter 29, the patients complete their transformation into independent and self-confident men with the help of McMurphy and the loss of the Big Nurse’s power, while McMurphy completes his transformation into an immortal ideal, rather than an individual. The independence and self-confidence gained …show more content…

When Harding and McMurphy had a conversation on society and its treatment of people, Harding said that “‘There’s something else that drivers people, strong people like you, my friend, down that road’” (308), and that, “It is us” (308). Harding is trying to say that the guiding hand if often bitten by the ones that it helps. This is shown in multiple imageries, once when Chief mentions that the sound McMurphy made was, “the last sound the treed and shot and falling animal makes as the dogs get him” (319), and then when Chief tries to wear McMurphy’s hat and finds that it is too small for him. These images symbolize the heavy burden that falls on McMurphy. McMurphy had been close to breaking down, evident in Chief’s description, “He looked sick and terribly tired,” and Harding’s description, “It was us that has been making him go on for weeks, keeping him standing long after his feet and legs have given out, weeks of making him wink and grin and laugh” (318). McMurphy breaking down would have destroyed what he had worked so hard for, so before he broke, his golden image, his ideas had to be preserved through his death. Chief also says that what happened would have happened and that McMurphy, “Would have had to come back” (310), and that, “he could no more have sat around outside the hospital, playing poker in Carson City or Reno or someplace, and let the Big Nurse have the last move and get the last play, than he could have let her get by it rough under her nose. It was like he’d signed on for the whole game and there wasn’t any way of him breaking his contract.” The fact that McMurphy would have come back no matter what shows that his sacrifice was meant to happen, something that was unavoidable. McMurphy’s sacrifice shows that in exchange for an immortalized version of him, he had to give up his own

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