Essay on Dissent Into Madness

Submitted By 199520082018
Words: 581
Pages: 3

Madness is a prevalent theme in both Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with both authors defining madness in relation to powerlessness. In Hamlet, the prince of Denmark discovers he has been betrayed by his uncle with the murder of his father. As a result of this, he is left with an overwhelming sense of powerlessness over deciding a course of action with his inability to make a finite decision ultimately driving him insane. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the protagonist McMurphy is institutionalized in a mental hospital and is therefore powerless over the decisions of his life as well.
Originally, McMurphy used the façade of madness as a way to escape hard jail time. However, once he is institutionalized, his inability to control his life accelerates his dissent into madness. Like McMurphy, Hamlet uses madness as a strategy when dealing with the grief and political intrigue that surrounds his father’s murder, often using madness as a mask to hide behind in order to hide his own motives and conflictions. Yet, for Hamlet and McMurphy, the act of madness becomes all too real when they realize that they are both powerless to take meaningful action against the challenges that they face. However, at the end of both stories each character is able to regain power over themselves and therefore avoid true insanity. In act five Hamlet comes to terms with himself and is able to act without hiding behind the mask of madness, and therefore is able to face his enemies. McMurphy on the other hand is punished for his perceived madness and receives electric shock therapy, thus effectively breaking him. However, he is given back power through his friend Bromden who kills McMurphy so that McMurphy does not have to endure a life as anything less then who he is. Thus Bromden gives McMurphy back his dignity.
Two supporting characters that also convey a meaningful struggle with a lack of power transforming into feelings of madness are Billy Bibbit and Ophelia. Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a patient at the hospital who is constantly emasculated and kept in a perpetually docile state by his mother. His inferiority and powerlessness over his own life and choices last…