Christ Figures: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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The Christ figure is a recurring symbol in American literature. Throughout Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, various interactions and events portray McMurphy as a Christ figure. There are frequent visual and concrete references to Christ throughout the novel. Also, the reader discovers that the other patients view McMurphy as an inspiration and someone they wish to emulate. This cooperation enables him to oppose Nurse Ratched and do what he thinks is best for the patients. Visual and concrete references strengthen Christ imagery in Kesey’s novel. For example, on the fishing trip, he goes with twelve other patients, an obvious reference to Jesus and the twelve disciples. In addition, there is some degree of betrayal of McMurphy by the patients. In order to control McMurphy, Nurse Ratched confronts him directly and tries to sow discontent between the patients and their savior. By stating that McMurphy is a con artist who is only interested in money, she convinces a few of the weak-minded mental patients that McMurphy did not mean well when he came to the ward. Another symbol is the cross-shaped table where McMurphy is given shock therapy, a definite reference to the crucifixion of Jesus. Just as Jesus suffered on the cross, McMurphy goes through immense pain during shock therapy primarily for the patients; most of his punishments were administered because of his actions done to help the patients.

Frequently in the novel, the patients support McMurphy in his actions and adventures. This enables him to oppose the nurse and to improve their lives. For example, when McMurphy wants to temporarily change the schedule to accommodate the baseball games during the week of the World Series, the nurse exercises her power over the mental patients by using an unfair and corrupt voting procedure. Though the patients are not allowed to watch the World Series, McMurphy, in order to challenge the nurse’s authority, McMurphy pretends that the World Series...
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