Hero of the Ward: Randle P. Mcmurphy
“With great power comes great responsibility” was the advice given to an all-time favourite superhero, Spiderman. However, a hero is not defined by the power one has but what one does with the power they are given. Power can come in a variety of forms such as wealth, physical capabilities or mental strength, and two powerful characters usually results in an epic battle for ultimate authority where one is seen as a hero and the other a villain. “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” written by Ken Kesey, tells the story of the battle between two strong-willed characters within a mental asylum, Randle P. McMurphy and the Big Nurse Ratched.Randle P.
Murphy is seen as a hero to many of the male patients on the ward and in particular to Chief Bromden, through the actions which demonstrate his heroic qualities. Through the determination he possesses, sacrifices he made and influence he had, Randle P. McMurphy is viewed as a hero in the eyes of the patients of the ward. Determination is an important character trait a hero must possess. Randle McMurphy demonstrates his determination through the efforts McMurphy endured to give his fellow patients their own strength and courage. When fighting the black boys the odds were against his favour, three to one.
His perseverance though this unfair and outnumbered fight was admirable. Even though “McMurphy had red marks on the head and shoulder” he “didn’t seem to be hurt. He kept coming, taking ten blows for one” (Kesey 230). Although it was obvious McMurphy could not win this fight, his strong-will kept his aggression intact which inspired all the patients of the ward. McMurphy’s dedication to the patients gave Chief Bromden the courage to fight alongside McMurphy and McMurphy gained the trust and respect of the other men.
McMurphy’s determined persona is also shown through his devotion to not succumb to Nurse Ratched.Having the knowledge of Nurse Ratched having the ability to execute punishments as she pleases, McMurphy continues to “[challenge] the authority of Big Nurse, the ward superintendent, whose fake smile and feigned concern turns men against one another, preys on their fears and weakens their nerve” (Macdonald). With McMurphy’s continuous outburst or rebellion, Nurse Ratched sentenced him to receive Electroshock Therapy, the second worse punishment patients would receive for misbehaviour. Determined to put on a strong exterior “he insisted it wasn’t hurting him.
He wouldn’t even take his capsules. But every time that oudspeaker called him to forgo breakfast and prepare to walk to Building One, the muscles in his jaw went taunt and his whole face drained of colour, looking thin and scared-” (Kesey 241). Enduring the excruciating experience of Electroshock therapy only heightened the image the other men upheld for McMurphy and contributed to his heroism. Through the fight with the black boys and his fight to stay strong through Electroshock Therapy, McMurphy’s determination was evident to the other patients of the ward. Determination is a critical quality needed by a hero; however a hero must also make sacrifices to achieve greatness.
McMurphy is seen as a hero through the sacrifices he makes. McMurphy sacrificed any chance he had of being released from the asylum; he sacrificed his freedom. With full awareness of him being committed to the ward, McMurphy realised the magnitude of dependence the other men had on McMurphy. The men constantly look to him for reassurance and wanted to be just as self confident and opinionated.
When McMurphy struggled with the knowledge of being committed, he started to conform to the ways of Nurse Ratched, only to realise one he had given up all the other men had given up as well.Just as Nurse Ratched prepared her triumph “he was the logger again… this was supposed to be her final victory over him, suppose to establish her rule once and for all.
But here he comes and he’s as big as a house” (Kesey 172). This act of rebellion ensured Randle McMurphy’s commitment to the men and his loss of freedom of life outside the ward. However, McMurphy’s greatest sacrifice was not the loss of a certain lifestyle he could have had, it was his whole mental state and ultimately his life he gave for the benefit of the other patients. McMurphy needed to show the patients that Nurse Ratched was a human just as they were.The only way to do permanently show the patients this, McMurphy rips open the Big Nurse’s shirt exposing her one visible weakness and “in doing so he dooms himself but gives fellow inmates hope and self-assurance.
Big Nurse ‘crucifies’ this Christ figure with electroshock treatments and then a lobotomy that leaves McMurphy a vegetable” (Macdonald). It was not victory McMurphy wanted for himself which caused him to take that risk. Chief Bromden finally realised “it was [their] need that was making [McMurphy] push himself slowly up from sitting…
t was [them] that had been making him go on for weeks, keeping him standing long after his feet and legs had given out, weeks of making him wink and grin and laugh and go on with his act long after his humour had been parches dry between two electrodes” (Kesey 267). The sacrifices McMurphy made for the other men is undeniably a great factor that contributes to his heroic character. Having determination and making sacrifices is only beneficial if it makes a difference to the lives of others; it is what changed after the hero is gone.McMurphy’s influence on the ward proves that McMurphy was undeniably a hero to all the patients.
His impact on both the staff and men is his spirit living the through the ward. Before McMurphy’ arrival Nurse Ratched held a firm dictatorship with her being the dictator. Patients were terrified of the punishments they could possibly receive and staff members including the doctors would constantly be looking for her approval. McMurphy’s arrival certainly changed the actions of the male patients but had an effect of the staff as well.
When the patients wanted to play sports “the nurse objected, said next thing they’d be playing soccer in the day room and polo games up and down the hall, but the doctor held firm for once and said let them go… She looked at him a while in amazement. So he was doing a little muscle-flexing too” (Kesey 175).
McMurphy’s self-assured and opinionated charisma inspired both patients and doctors to make their thoughts known. McMurphy wanted to inspire everyone in the ward by “[defying] Big Nurse openly, [breaking] her rules and wins the admiration of the men, who slowly begin to join in his acts of defiance” (Macdonald).Male doctors and patients alike are greatly impacted by McMurphy’s presence on the ward however McMurphy’s impact was so immense that he changed the whole ward. After McMurphy was gone and the Nurse returned, “Harding had even got the tub room back open and was in there dealing blackjack himself, trying to make that airy thin voice of his sound like McMurphy’s auctioneer bellow” (Kesey 268). McMurphy influenced Harding to fight for privileges within reason and even inspired him to run card games and attempted to imitate his voice.
With McMurphy gone and Nurse Ratched back in the ward, the influence McMurphy had on the asylum is the constant reminder of his free spirit and heroic charisma. McMurphy is seen as a hero based on his determination, sacrifices and influence he made to the ward. His determination shown through the circumstances he was forced to endure is evidence of his heroic character. By giving the ultimate sacrifice, his life, for the good of the other men proves McMurphy’s selfless heart. However the influence/impact McMurphy had in the asylum is his heroic legacy that will forever live throughout the ward.Although McMurphy “lost” when Nurse Ratched finally had him lobotomized, the Big Nurse Ratched will never obtain the same power and greatness she once encompassed.
McMurphy may have lost the battle but surely won the war.Works Cited Kesey, Ken. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Harmondsworth, Eng. : Penguin, 1977.
Print. Macdonald, Gina, and Andrew Macdonald. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. ” Literary Reference Center. EBSCO.
Web. 28 Nov. 2010. ;lt;http://search. ebscohost.
com/login. aspx? direct=true;amp;db=lfh;amp;AN=MOL9830001025;amp;site=lrc-live. ;gt;.
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