McMurphy as Christ in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
In “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” McMurphy is successfully perceived as a heroic Christ figure. Kesey uses foreshadowing and images, the fishing trip, actions and feelings of other characters to develop this character.
Foreshadowing clues and images are used to contribute to McMurphy as a figure of Christ. In the beginning of the novel McMurphy is baptized with a shower before entering the ward. The reader is also introduced to Ellis, a character who spends the entire novel in a cross position “nailed against the wall, arms out,” (page 20). Another clue to McMurphy’s developing character is presented during the electroshock therapy. McMurphy willingly lies down on a cross shaped table, ending up in the same position Ellis foreshadowed. McMurphy also asks for his crown of thorns. Before the therapy a schizophrenic patient approaches him and says “I wash my hands of the whole deal”, as Pontius Pilate said to Jesus before sentencing him to death. Jesus was also friends with a prostitute named Mary, just like McMurphy was friends with prostitutes.
The development of McMurphy as a Christ figure deepends, when he leads the patients on a fishing trip. McMurphy takes the “twelve of us [patients] towards the ocean,” (page 203) just like Jesus’ 12 disciples, to test and strengthen their faith in him and empower them. Fish have also been an important religious Christian symbol, as the fishing trip is an important symbol of the novel. When the trip is over, the Chief describes the sense of change that most of the patients had and even claims that they “weren’t the same bunch of weak-knees from a nuthouse anymore.” (Page 215). This really shows the way McMurphy is starting to guide and lead the patients, just as Jesus lead his disciples.
Finally the actions and feelings of the other characters successfully shows the development of McMurphy as a Christ figure and hero. Clearly smiliarities can be drawn between McMurphy and Jesus’ healing. Jesus, made blind men see and mute men speak. McMurphy is the one who prompted the Chief to speak for the first time in years, when he says “Thank-you.” (Page 184) and eventually, McMurphy “heals” Chief of his `deafness’ and `dumbness’. Billy Bibbit was also aided and empowered by McMurphy. As a disciple however, Billy does not show gratitude and betrays McMurphy claiming “McMurphy did it!” (Page 264) and blaming an entire mess on him. As a result of his betrayal, Billy takes his own life just like Judas did when he gave Jesus to the romans for crucifixion. Even though McMurphy had been betrayed, he still made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure Ratched could not use Billy’s death to take away what he had taught the patients and what they had gained. His sacrifice became an inspiration to the other patients and they finally had enough strength where the nurse could no longer “rule with her old power anymore” (page 269).
In the conclusion of the novel, the Chief brings to remembrance the things Mac had taught them. In doing so, he shows the reader that a major part of McMurphy’s life was helping others, just as Jesus’ life was devoted to bring goodness to others. In concluding with this evidence, McMurphy’s character was successfully developed as an important and heroic Christ figure.
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“McMurphy as Christ in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” 123HelpMe.com. 08 Oct 2016
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