Rebellion in Fight Club and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
All societies have a basic structure, and in order to function well with others, a person must conform to the laws and regulations of said society. In the novels Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, a variety of themes are discussed, with the major theme being rebellion. The main characters of both these novels struggle with the established structure they are living in and are unwilling to conform to its rules. They both rebel by openly defying laws, and disobeying authoritative figures. The novels’ main characters are furthermore comparable because they not only rebel but also guide others to do the same. The men whom they lead carry on their acts even after their guides have stopped, either on their own accord (in the case of Fight Club) or after they are stopped by an antagonist (as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). In a comparison between the two novels, the ideas of a “system,” emasculation, monotony, and self-sacrifice showcase the central theme of rebellion.
The narrator in Fight Club, along with Tyler Durden, creates a club where other men who also feel discontent with their lives experience a sense of freedom through fighting. “ …by exposing himself to the mortality of others…every moment of his life becomes more valuable” (Suglia par. 1). When he is still discontented, he sets out to destroy his boss and rebels by punching himself and receiving a settlement from his company; this enables him to have fight club seven days of the week. His company pays him to stay quiet, and he beats “the system.” He also rebels by working for himself and making soap out of human fat that he steals from liposuction clinics. He sells fat back to the same ladies who get it taken out surgically and beats the system once more. “Tyler and the narrator form a masculine unit that exists apart from the feminized support groups, which are populated by man-women such as Bob, an estrogen-saturated former weight lifter who sprouts what appear to be mammary glands…as well as Marla Singer who appropriates the narrator’s support groups and eventually unsettles their homosocial bond” (Suglia par. 4). The main purpose of the fight club is to take back the men’s masculinity, which the capitalist world has diminished. This is the reason for the phallic imagery throughout the novel (Tyler inserts his penis into a dish of orange mousse, and while working as a projectionist he splices images of penises into family films). Almost all of the men who are unhappy and affected by the capitalist way of life are “blue collar” workers; thus Tyler and the narrator have allies infiltrated everywhere: The people you’re trying to step on, we’re everyone you depend on. We’re the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you’re asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life (Palahniuk 166).
In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nurse Ratched, who dominates the ward in a tyrannical manner, represents the “system.” “The hospital is a place, essentially, for the rejects of a matriarchal, increasingly technocratic and fanatically collective society” (Sassoon par. 2). Chief Bromden calls the institution “The Combine” which represses everyone’s individuality (Fick). “McMurphy teaches the inmates of the insane asylum to create their own truths and identities. He teaches them to replace an imposed identity with an imagined identity of their own creation” (Fick par. 2). The group therapy sessions that the patients undergo work towards eliminating all secrets and thus completely eradicating the men’s individuality. This especially affects Harding, who is already the least confident of the group. The discussions they have blur personal...
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