One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Literary Analyis[1]

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Mitchell Bowling Literary Analysis Ken Kesey s One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoos NestIn Ken Keseys One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, McMurphy, the protagonist, is presented as a selfish, narcissistic person. Narcissism is the fascination with oneself. Selfishness is devoted/caring only for oneself. McMurphy shows his selfishness and narcissism through his actions towards others. McMurphy is a selfish narcissist whose self-serving decisions of conning the patients, manipulating the staff, and ultimately his desire for power over Nurse Ratched results in his own death.

First, McMurphy shows his selfish narcissism through his decision of conning the patients. McMurphy made the conscience decision to con the patients out of their money to teach them a lesson. He even brought the chief into his con game. In accordance with Chiefs thoughts, I felt like Id helped him cheat them out of their money. They were all friendly with him as they paid their bets, but I knew how they were feeling inside, how something had been kicked out from under them. (p. 269). Chief became an unwilling pawn in McMurphys quest for power. McMurphy never told Chief that he was really being trained to make money off the losses of his other friends. In short, the Chief was pressured to help McMurphy win and the Chief felt horrible about it, even when he wasnt really given a choice about conning the men. McMurphys pressuring the Chief into betraying his friends is a selfish act.

Mitchell Bowling Literary Analysis Ken Kesey s One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest

In a similar sense, McMurphy reveals his egotistical ways by coming right out and saying that he knows how to work people and he does. In McMurphys own words, The secret of being a top-notch con man is being able to know what the mark wants, and how to make him think hes getting it. I learned that when I worked a season on a skillo wheel in a carnival. You fe-e-el the sucker over with your eyes when he comes up and you say Now heres a bird that needs to feel tough. So every time he snaps at you for taking him you quake in your boots, scared to death, and tell him, Please, sir. No trouble. The next roll is on the house, sir. So both of you are getting what you want. (p. 81). Here, McMurphy has come right out and said that he has conned people before this, at a carnival, for a job. He knows how to read people and figure out what they want and how he can use that to his advantage to make a profit. Basically, this gives McMurpy the ability to con the mentally challenged patients to do what he wants. Undeniable proof that McMurphy has conned the patients is Chiefs observation, He isnt even kidding himself into thinking they fall for that. He let them win, and every one of us watching the game knows it. So do the players. But there still isnt a man raking up his pile of cigarettes cigarettes he didnt really win but only won because they were his in the first place that doesnt have a smirk on his face like hes the toughest gambler on the whole Mississippi. (p. 82). Everyone watching knows that McMurphy let the other patients win, even the other patients. But while they are collecting their prize, McMurphy has succeeded in making them feel like they did it all on their own, even when they know it was all McMurphy, and they feel like they can take on McMurphy again. McMurphy plans this so that they bet even higher and then McMurphy will

Mitchell Bowling Literary Analysis Ken Kesey s One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest

take advantage of them. On the whole, McMurphy uses his ability to con the patients into luring them into a false sense of security. The conceited personality of McMurphy shows in his ability to take advantage of mentally ill people.

In similar accord, McMurphys self-centeredness and care for his own personal gain are shown in his tactics. As Chief saw, , the way he dealt and talked and roped them in and led them smack up to the point where they were just about to quit, then back down a hand of two to give them confidence and bring them along again. (p. 81), McMurphy would do whatever it took to keep winning. McMurphy would beat them until he saw that they were going to quit, then he would let them win in order to help boost their confidence so that they would keep playing and McMurphy would keep winning. This shameless con tactic shows the depth of McMurphys uncaring for anyone other than himself. These mentally ill patients who have enough confidence issues due to the scrutiny of Nurse Ratched are constantly having their confidence torn down around them by McMurphys need for power and his self betterment. In short, McMurphy has shown that he has his own best interests in heart and will con anyone to keep himself on top, exposing his vainness.

Next, McMurphys selfserving actions lead to his death through his manipulation of the staff. McMurphy manipulates a doctor using reverse psychology. In McMruphys first endeavor, he uses the doctor to propose an idea of a carnival on the ward, more than likely at a cost

Mitchell Bowling Literary Analysis Ken Kesey s One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest

following McMurphys desire to make a quick buck. Doctor Spivey says, Anyway to put an end to this maudlin display of nostalgia in the course of our conversation McMurphy and I wondered what would be the attitude of some of the men towards a carnival here on the ward? (p. 108). McMurphys ability to manipulate a doctor shows that he is crafty and will do what it takes to get his way. Furthermore, this is supported by more reverse psychology form McMurphy when he wants to get the tub room for a private room to gamble with, and con, the others. As the conversation between McMurphy and Doctor Spivey went, Not me, Doctor Spivey has. Doc, tell em what you came up with about the hard-of-hearing guys and the radio. Yes, says the doctor. I very nearly forgot. He leans back and crosses his legs and puts his finger tips together; I can see hes still in good spirits about his carnival. You see, McMurphy and I were talking about that ageold problem we have on this ward: the mixed population, the young and the old together. Its not the most ideal surroundings for our therapeutic community, but administration says theres no helping it with the Geriatric Building overloaded the way it is. Ill be the first to admit its not an absolutely pleasant situation for anyone concerned. In our talk, however, McMurphy and I did happen to come up with an idea which might make things more pleasant for both age groups. McMurphy mentioned that he had noticed some of the old fellows seemed to have difficulty hearing the radio. He suggested the speaker be turned up loader so the chronics with auditory weaknesses could hear it. A very humane suggestion, I think. McMurphy gives a modest wave of his hand, and the doctor nods at him and goes on. But I told him I had received previous complaints from some of the younger men that the radio is already so loud it hinders conversation and reading. McMurphy said he hadnt thought of this, but mentioned that it did seem a shame that those who wished to read couldnt get off by themselves where it was quiet and leave the radio for those who wished to listen. I agreed with him that it did seem like a shame and was ready to drop the matter when I happened to think of the old tub room where we store the tables during the ward meeting. We dont use the room at all otherwise; theres no longer a need for the hydrotherapy it was designed for, now that

Mitchell Bowling Literary Analysis Ken Kesey s One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest

we have the new drugs. So how would the group like to have that room as a sort of second day room, a game room, shall we say? (p. 110-111).

McMurphy uses his manipulation abilities to control the Doctor into thinking that the tub room was the Doctors own idea. He did this to be able to get away with it with Nurse Ratched. This power demonstration is an insight into McMurphys egotistical disposition.

In addition, McMurphy reviles his egocentric charisma through his aptitude for manipulation through sex appeal. McMurphy uses Candys appearances to manipulate Doctor Spivey into driving him and the other patients to the fishing trip. As Chief observed, Working together, it didnt take McMurphy and the girl but two minutes and the little doctor was down locking up his office and coming back up the hall, cramming papers in a briefcase. (p.234). This displays McMurphys willingness to do whatever it takes to get his way. He was cornered, with Sandy dropping out of the fishing trip, by not having more space available to transport the other patients to the fishing trip. Then he uses the doctors sexual attraction to Candy to rope him into driving. This display expresses a custom of self-aggrandizement in McMurphy.

Likewise, McMurphy manipulates the staff to have his way. More specifically, McMurphy manipulates Mr. Turkle into letting in Candy and Sandy in exchange for money, alcohol, and the promise of sex form one of the whores, although McMurphy never intends for Mr. Turkle to get any sex on the thought that Mr. Turkle will pass out before that. As McMurphy

Mitchell Bowling Literary Analysis Ken Kesey s One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest

said while trying to manipulate Mr. Turkle, Come on, Turkle. Itll be worth your while. She should be bringing a couple of bottles. (p. 296). Then Mr. Turkle and McMurphy go into negotiating the price of the party. Mr. Turkle settles on having sex with one of the whores. In summary, McMurphy displays his conceitedness through his manipulation of the staff.

In addition, McMurphy shows his vanity through his desire for power over Nurse Rathced. McMurphy, in order to have complete control of the guys, needs to have control over Nurse Rathced. He comes out and says, Just that. A bee in her butt, a burr in her bloomers. Get her goat. Bug her till she comes apart at those neat little seams, and shows, just one time, she aint so unbeatable as you think. (p. 74). McMurphy wants to show that he has power over Nurse Rathced to the point where he can make her blow a gasket when he wants her to. In like manner, McMurphy tries to accomplish this on many occations. One of the more prominent examples is when McMurphy and Nurse Ratched are discussing the fishing trip. As the narrator saw, Good idea, McMurphy said. He closed his eyes and sucked a deep breath though his teeth. Yes, sir! The salt smell o the pounding sea, the crack o the bow against the waves braving the elements, where men are men and boats are boats. Miss Ratched, youve talked me into it. Ill call and rent that boat this very night. Shall I sign you on? (p. 209). Here, McMurphy is trying to fluster Nurse Ratched into blowing her gasket, so that he, physiologically, has the power. This truly shows the cockiness that McMurphy possesses.

Mitchell Bowling Literary Analysis Ken Kesey s One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest

Furthermore, McMurphy tries to gain power over Nurse Ratched by intimidating her. According to Chief Bromden, The Big Nurses eyes swelled out white as he got closeShe started popping her mouth and looking for her black boys, scared to death, but he stopped before he got to her. He stopped in front of her window and he said in his slowest, deepest drawl how he figured he could use one of the smokes he bought this mornin, then rain his hand through the glass. The glass came apart like water splashing, and the nurse threw her hands to her ears. He got one of the cartons of cigarettes with his name on it and took out a pack, then put it back and turned to where the Big Nurse was sitting like a chalk statue and very tenderly went to brushing the slivers of glass off her head and shoulders. (p. 201).

This sent two messages. One was that McMurphy could intimidate Nurse Ratched. The other message was what McMurphy can do. Putting his fist through Nurse Ratcheds only shield form the patients, McMurphy let Nurse Ratched know that he can get to her and cause her harm. This is a great example of the ego that surrounds McMurphy.

Even more important, McMurphys final ace-in-the-hole in accordance with desiring power over Nurse Ratched. After Billys suicide, the other patients told Mack that it wasnt his fault. McMurphy saw it as his fault though. He wanted to deliver a final blow to the Big Nurse that would insure that she would lose her power over others and he would win their little battle. As the scene was described, Only at the last after hed smashed through that glass door, her face swinging around, with terror forever ruining any other look she might try to

Mitchell Bowling Literary Analysis Ken Kesey s One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest

use again, screaming when he grabbed for her and ripped her uniform all the way down the front, screaming again when the two nippled circles started from her chest and swelled out and out, bigger than anybody had ever imagined warm and pick in the light only at the last, after the officials realized that the three black boys werent going to do anything but stand and watch and they would have to beat him off without their help, doctors and supervisors and nurses prying those heavy red fingers out of the white flesh of her throat as if they were her neck bones, jerking him backwards off of her with a loud heave of breath, only then did he show any sign that he might be anything other than a sane, willful, dogged man performing a hard duty that finally just had to be done, like it or not. (p. 318-319). McMurphy did the last thing he knew would work to gain power over Nurse Ratched, using physical force. Mack was so self-absorbed with himself and what would happen if he did nothing, making the Big Nurse the higher power, that he set up his own demise. Making the other patients think he was some hero for assaulting the Big Nurse, especially Chief, made them not want their hero to be used as an example, thus causing his own death, all because of selfishness.

In conclusion, Macks own egocentric disposition leads to his . Due to McMurpys desire to con the patients, he forms an honor bond with them by building up a trust and feelings of accomplishment during their gambling games. This bond is further strengthened by McMurphys ability to manipulate the staff. As a result, they get privileges such as using the tub room and going on fishing trips. This in turn creates a sense of debt among the patients towards Mack. Then, when he is being used as an example by Nurse Ratched, Chief fulfills the debt he feels towards Mack. In short, McMurphys death is a result of three critical points: McMurphys

Mitchell Bowling Literary Analysis Ken Kesey s One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest

conscience decision to cheat the other patients in a way that makes them feel like they are the ones cheating Mack; Macks desire for getting his own way by controlling the staff; and ultimitly McMurphys quest for authority over the Big Nurse.


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