McMurphy Laughing and Game Playing
! As the old proverb goes “Laughter is the best medicine”. Everyday we take part
in simple acts called laughter. We laugh at comedians jokes as well as jokes from our friends and at our own, there is humor all around us. However, it is often disguised as something tragic or depressing. This rings true in Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Ken Kesey takes us into a rigid mental hospital in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was a different time than the comforting institutions like what we have today. The society standards weren’t tolerant of people who couldn’t function in the real world. Laughter and joy didn’t exist in the mental hospitals. Until McMurphy showed up to the “party”. Randle Patrick McMurphy is no ordinary patient at the ward. For example he had faked his mental illness to get out of a work farm and preferred to hang with the crazies at the hospital. Chief Bromden listens as McMurphy doesn't “ slides scared along the wall” and realizes “ he is no ordinary admission (15)”. Bromden watches him closely and as he “ stand their waiting, and when nobody makes a move say anything to him he commences to laugh” (16).He was a prankster with a great sense of humor who was determined to make his hospital stay an entertaining one for himself and others. The chief says (22) “ I see he is making everybody over their own easy, with all of his kidding and joking.” “The Acutes are grinning now not so uneasy anymore glad that something out of the ordinary is happening”(23). Throughout the novel the readers see how McMurphy’s laughter and sense of fun has brought joy to the otherwise oppressed patients of the ward, thus changing the asylum forever.
It is obvious in the novel that McMurphy’s laughter and entertainment is a way of
letting the hospital know that he isn’t going to conform to their rules. Chief Bromden states before McMurphy’s arrival “the air is pressed in by the walls to tight to let loose and laugh”. The ﬁrst thing he does at the ward is calling Mrs Ratchet who is the Head nurse at the ward and was nicknaming “Ratchet the Hatchet”. When he ﬁrst started nicknaming he was turning her orderly world of drugs and electro shock therapy upside down. His laughter and sense of fun became contagious to the other patients and they started to have fun and laughter through entertainment and rebelled against the head nurse. The second thing that McMurphy and the patients do is gamble. They gamble for money even though its against the rules of the ward.The patients start to show improvement because of their ability not just to laugh but to laugh at themselves. Chief Bromden observes how McMurphy’s laughter spreads throughout the ward. "Nobody can tell exactly why he laughs; there's nothing funny going on. But it's not the way that Public Relation laughs, it's free and loud and it comes out of his wide grinning mouth and spreads in rings bigger and bigger till it's lapping against the wall all over the ward. Not like that fat Public Relation laugh. This sounds real. I realize all of sudden it's the ﬁrst laugh I've heard in years" (12). Chief Bromden one time as a child when is father made fun of some government ofﬁcials and he realizes how powerful his laughter was. “ I forget sometimes what laughter can do”. McMurphy uses laughter as a defense mechanism against society and its a technique for survival. He was getting other members to participate in the pranks, therefore Mrs Ratchet is losing control over them. Things ﬁrst started getting really out of hand when McMurphy brought some patients on
the ﬁshing trip to bring joy and happiness to their lives. It was against the hospital rules to leave the ward without Mrs Ratchet permission. He is “spreading his laugh across the water – laughing at the girl, at the guys, at George, at me (Chief) sucking my bleeding thumb… and the Big Nurse and all of it. Because he knows you have to laugh at the…