One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest: the Power of Laughter

Topics: Laughter, Laughter in animals, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Pages: 4 (1601 words) Published: January 17, 2011
The Power of Laughter
Jimmy Buffet once said "If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane." When an individual is no longer capable of laughing, he is also no longer capable of being in control of himself. This happens when a greater authority has the power to deny a person of their laughter; which, inevitably, denies him of his freedom. Ken Kesey conveys the idea that laughter and freedom go hand in hand throughout his novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Kesey portrays laughter as a parallel to freedom through various literary symbols and imagery in order to illustrate how the power of laughter can free a man who is under the control of an unjust authority. Through the characterization of Nurse Ratched and McMurphy, Kesey illustrates how the manipulation of others and the challenge of authority is a key component in the ability to laugh.

Through the characterization of Nurse Ratched, Kesey illustrates how one person can manipulate others for her own specific intentions. Throughout the story, it is clear that Nurse Ratched (Bug Nurse) manipulates the patients and faculty to control them so she has all the power. As the book starts, we are immediately brought into this mental ward in the eyes of Chief Bromden. As he walks down the hall, and the aids insult him because he is dumb and deaf. However, little do they know that Chief is the exact opposite. As they continue to speak as if he weren't there and hand him the broom, "They laugh…[it is a] Hum of black machinery, humming the hate and death and other hospital secrets" (10). The laughter of the black aids is not clear and freeflowing like laughter should be. Instead, it is described as a "hum" which illustrates that even the aids do not have the freedom to laugh. They are "black machinery" or descendents of the combine which demonstrates that the faculty on this ward is under the control of Nurse Ratched and the combine. It is also evident that they are all working together because when machines are...

Cited: Buffet, Jimmy, and Michael Moncur, prod. “Quote Details: Jimmy Buffet: If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” The Quotations
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Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. New York: New American Library, 1962. Print.
Tanner, Stephen L. “Salvation Through Laughter: Ken Kesey & the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Southwest Review 58.2 (1973): 55-67. Rpt. in
Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House
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