One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Chief Bromden the narrator

In the novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, the author, Ken Kesey, chose a patient suffering from schizophrenia to narrate the story that is based on Kesey's own experiences. The first-person narrative of a patient, Chief Bromden, makes the asylum setting ordinary, and encourages the reader to invest in the personalities of its inhabitants instead of perceiving the characters as mere poke and shallow. Kasey’s inclusion of Bromden's delusions within the narrative itself, which are at first a disruption to the reader used to linear narratives of the real, become merely another narrative model for the reader as the novel progresses. Demonstration thought allows the reader to discover that while Bromden's disability makes him different, it is not debilitating for him as a narrator, nor, more importantly, as a man. Such insights into Bromden and the others initiate in the reader a reassessment of potentially unexamined perceptions of mental institutions, their inhabitants, and lead the reader to review the origins of concepts such as blind and speechless.

The novel is seen through the eye of Chief Bromden and how he interprets the world he lives in, which he calls "the Combine." Bromden has a very observant eye and gives detailed descriptions. His peer’s false assumption of Bromden's hearing gives Chief the ability to spy, revealing foreshadowing details. Although these characteristics make him a reliable source and a high-quality narrator, because of Chief's hallucinations and paranoia, some of his opinions and visions are misleading. If the story were told through a sane character, such as Randal McMurphy, the distinction between reality and illusion would have been more lucid. Using Chief Bromden as a narrator puts limitations on the reader’s interpretations, but also gives a very reliable and creative perspective of the events in Ken Kesey's, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Very detailed descriptions make a scene seem more real. Chief Bromden is a very descriptive narrator and he describes his world uniquely. "It's still hard for me to have clear mind thinking on it. But it's the truth even if it didn't happen (13)," said Bromden. Though what he describes sounds unrealistic and impossible, it, metaphorically, is true and gives the reader a better understanding of the context, even if it didn't actually happen. When Nurse Ratched became very intense, Bromden described her as "swelling up, swells till her back's splitting out of the white uniform (11)." A person cannot swell and rip out of their cloths in a matter of seconds and this example shows how exaggerated and animated Bromden narrates. This description gives the reader a clear picture of how mad and furious this woman can get. When Bromden witnesses McMurphy encounter the nurse in the hallway wearing only a towel, Chief describes the big nurse's reaction as he interprets it. Bromden explains the nurse's reaction as going from a beastly scary size to a small intimidated size."Just as she's rolling along at her biggest and meanest, McMurphy steps out of the latrine door right in front of her, holding a towel around his hips-stops her dead! She shrinks to about head-high to where that towel covers him, and he's grinning down on her. Her own grin is giving way, sagging at the edges (86)."

Bromden explains how the nurse felt extremely threatened by McMurphy exposed sexuality in a very creative and effective way. Metaphorically, what he saw is true. Bromden's unique way of understanding and then explaining events helps emphasize important details in the novel and having this ability makes him an informative narrator. Along with his unique eye, Bromden has a very interesting way of eavesdropping that also makes him a great narrator. Chief Bromden's lack of speech created the impression that Chief was "deaf and dumb" to the other patients and workers on the ward. "Just a bi-big deaf Indian,"(26) this is how the stuttering Billy...
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