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Symbolism In Cuckoo

’s Nest Essay, Research Paper

Religious Symbolism and Allusion in One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest

Ken Kesey s novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest , can be based upon some religious form of literary criticism. The general theme was that seemingly helpless individuals could be delivered from the vicious environment they had subjected themselves to. The deliverer can be religion itself or the object of religion such as Jesus Christ or as in the novel, Cuckoo s Nest, Randle P. McMurphy.

Many parallels exist between One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest and traditional Christian doctrine. The main character, Randle P. McMurphy, was a Christ-like figure. Both McMurphy and Christ were influential and had a small dedicated following. Christ often the Jewish ritual of the law and blamed the scribes and pharisees (the beings with power) for being hypocrites. In the same manner, McMurphy often caused a stir be confronting the system on the ward and its authoritative figures. An excellent example of this was when McMurphy demanded to watch the World Series and caused a major disturbance on the ward.

Another similarity was that Christ and McMurphy were outsiders in the world they became a part of. Christ was a God-man made flesh. His home was eternal in heaven and he would forsake this to come to this world. He sacrificed his home in heaven and his life of perfection to come into an imperfect world. Christ was placed in a world of full of sin; although, he knew no sin which separated him from everyone else. McMurphy, on the other hand, was not of the world of the insane. He was a very normal man who had planned to escape life on the work farm by coming to be evaluated on the ward. In fact, McMurphy was totally different from the other patients. The patients on the ward suffered from a range of illnesses which none could actually be diagnosed as mental illness. The patients were victims of oppression because they cannot function within society. McMurphy and Christ were functional figures in society and led their followers to freedom from their different types of conflict. Christ healed the sick and delivered the bondage while McMurphy helped restore a sense of being to the patients. An example of this is when the control panel was used by McMurphy to restore the Chief back to his original state of

being strong. McMurphy asked, will you promise me that you can lift the panel if I get you big as you used to be and you not only get my special body-building course but you also get a ten buck fishing trip free! This type of reasoning eventually freed Chief from low self-image.

Chief referred to McMurphy, as a savior by thinking if he d touch him it would renew him. When the woman at the well touched Jesus, she drew strength from him. Chief said, I just want to touch him because he s who he is , a stronger force than the Chief was.

Ken Kesey uses the fishing trip as symbolic of Christ with the 12 disciples. This symbolic role focused on McMurphy as he led the twelve on the boat out toward the ocean. He possibly led them to be fishers of men as Jesus had done with his apostles.

R.P. McMurphy sacrificed himself for the other patients as Jesus did for us. McMurphy knew that through his efforts alone could the patients be redeemed from the control of the Combine. McMurphy saw himself as a religious allusion by telling the orderly, anointest my head with conductant and saying, Will I get a crown of thorns? . Kesey shows that McMurphy knows he s bigger than the Combine and only his submission to receive shock treatments will eventually liberate the patients. For this, McMurphy can be called a loving person. As Christ exemplified in his sacrifice of self, what greater love hath no man than to give his life for a friend.

Kesey s use of the character R.P. McMurphy allowed the patients to focus more on him than themselves. By doing this, McMurphy diverted their thoughts away from their preoccupation with self to a greater reality. Compare this to the religious factor of casting you burdens upon the Lord. As a result,

patients like Chief, Billy Bibbit and Cheswick (before his death) learned a sense of independence and the ability to make a stand for themselves. McMurphy being lobotomized is the symbolization of Christ

being crucified. There is little belief he s gone; although, they actually see his limp and bruised body. As Christ life so spoke for itself in death, McMurphy s life also grew greater after crucifixion (lobotomy). His spirit as Christ s will live on in his followers.

In conclusion, analyzing One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest , in the form of a religious criticism allows me to think that no matter how degrading society is, one can find freedom in a Christ-like figure or through their faith or belief in a higher being. Indeed, the contributions of Jesus Christ and Randle P. McMurphy will go unnoticed by a society too concerned with itself to notice anything else, much less than the truth.

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