Theme Of Madness In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Madness

1326 Words 6 Pages
McMurphy’s apparent madness or irrational behavior in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest plays the important role in the novel of being the devil’s advocate highlighting the ills of the mental institutions of the 1960s. His eccentric behavior was despised by the Big Nurse and other authority figures at the mental institution, but McMurphy’s behavior might be judged reasonable if one considers the dehumanizing, sterile, hostage-like situation that the institute’s patients were subjected to on a daily basis. Furthermore, McMurphy 's “madness” not only drives the plot of this novel, but serves the purpose of showing how poorly equipped the institution was to assess and treat individuals suffering any type of distinguished mental disorder …show more content…
As the book progresses, it is evident that he has set this selfishness aside to act on the behalf of the other patients as he sees their restoration of manhood to be more of a priority. This action is not the action of a person who suffers from “madness”. Even the Big Nurse realizes her inability to control him and understands that he is not seriously deranged. Despite this fact, she remains devious in her plans to force him to submit to her will. It is therefore an interesting side note throughout the novel plot to observe her delusional and eccentric behavior to force the submission. She intends, literally, to make it a struggle to the death. McMurphy dominates the ward, and even when he tries to conform after he learns that his dismissal will only be at the Big Nurse’s approval, the patients are no longer willing to accept the authority as status quo. When McMurphy realizes that the plight of his fellow patients is more important than his own escape of this institution, he sets about to bolster their own manhood and self confidence to make them able to regain lives in society again. In this contribution to make others successful, the term “madness” becomes more ridiculous as an adjective assigned to McMurphy’s nature. While some may view McMurphy as insane or suffering from “madness” in the process he uses to heal the other patients, he is only giving them something to …show more content…
His exploitation of this label proposes a view from the patient’s standpoint through the eyes and actions of McMurphy vs. the label designator characterized by the Big Nurse. Interestingly, this theme of “madness” drives the work as a whole and gives the reader an opportunity to decide which irrational behavior is more disturbing and dangerous to society. It is this back-and-forth reflection which Kesey uses to illuminate the stigmas associated with those individuals in our society who do not physically, socially, or psychologically fit the norm. How these individuals are often dehumanized to force conformity is played out by the directives of the Big Nurse and the institutional staff as they use any discerning technique in their arsenal to control those who do not wish to be transformed to their standards. The significance of “madness” becomes a trite stereotype as the reader recognizes the consequences of pitting nature vs. institution. Kesey forces the issue that nonconformity is not

Related Documents