Salvation through McMurphy - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Essay by Gavin DalyHigh School, 11th gradeA+, April 1997

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'One flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo's nest.' It is from this children's rhyme that Ken Kesey based the title of his book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Set in a 1960s mental hospital, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest focuses on the battle between the fun loving but rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy and the head nurse, Miss Ratched. McMurphy's disciples are the weak patients in the mental ward. Among them is Dale Harding, who protects himself with his intelligence, Billy Bibbit, a stuttering mama's boy, and Charles Chesswick, nervous, but the most open. The narrator of the story, Chief Bromden is also a patient. Using shame and fear, Nurse Ratched strips these men and the other patients of their courage and manipulates them into doing whatever she wants. Seeing this, McMurphy begins standing up to the 'Big Nurse' to prove to the patients that she shouldn't be controlling them.

Although McMurphy's sacrifices begin mainly for himself, they change as he realizes that the others depend on him and look up to him for leadership. When the battle end's McMurphy has lost his life, but has gained his salvation and the salvation of the other patients. In doing this, Randle Patrick McMurphy emerges as a Christ figure.

One example of this comes during the re-vote on the World Series game. 'Big Nurse' allows it in the first place because she's confident that the patients won't have the guts to raise their hands in favor of the game. When the voting begins, the first hand raised is McMurphy's. Then, down the line, other hands slowly rise, 'like that big red hand of McMurphy's is reaching into the fog and dropping down and dragging the men up by their hands, dragging them blinking, out into the open...