Christ Figures: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest Essay
The Christ figure is a recurring symbol in American literature. Throughout Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, various interactions and events portray McMurphy as a Christ figure. There are frequent visual and concrete references to Christ throughout the novel.
Also, the reader discovers that the other patients view McMurphy as an inspiration and someone they wish to emulate. This cooperation enables him to oppose Nurse Ratched and do what he thinks is best for the patients. Visual and concrete references strengthen Christ imagery in Kesey’s novel.For example, on the fishing trip, he goes with twelve other patients, an obvious reference to Jesus and the twelve disciples. In addition, there is some degree of betrayal of McMurphy by the patients. In order to control McMurphy, Nurse Ratched confronts him directly and tries to sow discontent between the patients and their savior.
By stating that McMurphy is a con artist who is only interested in money, she convinces a few of the weak-minded mental patients that McMurphy did not mean well when he came to the ward.Another symbol is the cross-shaped table where McMurphy is given shock therapy, a definite reference to the crucifixion of Jesus. Just as Jesus suffered on the cross, McMurphy goes through immense pain during shock therapy primarily for the patients; most of his punishments were administered because of his actions done to help the patients. Frequently in the novel, the patients support McMurphy in his actions and adventures.
This enables him to oppose the nurse and to improve their lives.For example, when McMurphy wants to temporarily change the schedule to accommodate the baseball games during the week of the World Series, the nurse exercises her power over the mental patients by using an unfair and corrupt voting procedure. Though the patients are not allowed to watch the World Series, McMurphy, in order to challenge the nurse’s authority, McMurphy pretends that the World Series actually visible on the blank television screen. The combined actions of all of the patients show how they put their faith in McMurphy instead of the institution.
Although the nurse has seemingly won because the patients were not able to achieve their primary goal, in reality, their real victory is their combined resistance against Nurse Ratched. The adventure on the fishing boat also exhibits how the patients aid McMurphy in his rebellion. Though he charges them for their endeavor, they once again decide to accompany him and go against the institution, further implying their admiration for him and his cause.Even though McMurphy knows that the nurse will likely punish the twelve other patients severely for lying and leaving the ward with a prostitute under false pretenses, he does so anyway, showing that he will risk great punishment to help his “disciples.
” Finally, the patients support the party that McMurphy has in the ward with alcohol and the two prostitutes. The main reason behind this event was to ensure that Billy Bibbit, one of the patients on the ward who lacked self-confidence, got to have a date with Candy, one of the prostitutes whom Billy liked.This event is another example of how McMurphy would risk trouble for himself for the betterment of others and how they supported him in his actions. Thus, Kesey’s imagery, McMurphy’s charisma, and his attitude to help the patients at all costs strengthen McMurphy’s role as a savior. Just as Christ before him, he sacrifices himself for the betterment of mankind.
The story of McMurphy shows how much of an impact an individual can have on society.