April 9, 2014
Is freedom a choice or is it a reward? Is it earned or is it given? Is it a strength or weakness? In the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey, the narrator shows us the world through his eyes with his descriptive observations. The story takes place during the 1950’s in a mental hospital in Oregon. Throughout the story it describes the conflicts and changes between the two opposing forces, the ward and staff (Nurse Ratched), which are a representation of that period’s society versus the individual characters, and how those conflicts shaped Chief Bromden.
Chief Bromden, the narrator of this story, is the son of the chief of the Columbia Indians and a white woman. He suffers from schizophrenia, paranoia and hallucinations; has received multiple electroshock treatments within the institute; and has been in the hospital for ten long years, longer than any other patient in the ward. Since he was a little boy, he was disregarded and was considered ”invisible” to others. This was also displayed in the institute where the other inmates think that he is deaf and mute, but instead Chief Bromden chooses not to speak, at first because others ignored him and then out of fear of their head nurse, Nurse Ratched. Bromden sees himself as a weak, small, powerless being within the shackles of the Combine and surrounded by the “fog”. Bromden tells the story of the mental ward while developing his emotional abilities and regaining a sense of himself as an individual.
The narrator struggles with his lack of masculinity, determination and condition throughout the beginning of the story. Chief finds comfort in the “fog” that seemingly comes from machines in the vents. This “fog” represents his fears and confusion that make him feel uncomfortable, he hides and forgets about what he’s feeling when the fog surrounds him. Bromden is then exposed to McMurphy, a new patient admitted into the institute, and immediately watches his behavior and how he responds and acts towards the dominant force, Nurse Ratched. He decided to follow Mack’s lead and then loses the safety of the fog for the privileges of human choice. On page 187 he constantly repeats how small he is compared to McMurphy because of his lack of confidence in himself as well. Because of his constant dismissal from his peers and hospital staff, he was known to be “deaf and dumb” and was entrusted with sweeping duties all around the hospital, which allowed him to hear secrets, thus makes him a powerful narrator. But because Bromden is schizophrenic, the information and details he gives us may not be completely reliable and 100% true.
With the influence and lead of a stronger character like McMurphy in his life, he changes in many ways. Later on in the novel the “fog”, that seemed to be a comfort to Bromden, disappears after so much time with McMurphy it seems as though he escapes the confinement of the institutes rules and finds his emotions again. A major event that displays Bromden’s development of character is when he accepts the gum from McMurphy in part 3 where he thinks, “And before I realized what I was doing, I told him Thank You.” At this point, Bromden finds his voice again and becomes more courageous as he later on escapes the Combine with his strength after Mack defies Nurse Ratched for the last time and she loses all her power.
Chief Bromden sees modern