One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


Chief Bromden

Chief Bromden, the son of a Columbian Indian Chief and a white woman, is the narrator of the novel. Although his narration centers on Randle McMurphy, the novel’s protagonist, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is also the story of Chief’s personal transformation. Chief is a paranoid schizophrenic whose life has been filled with traumatic experiences. He was a soldier in World War II, and also watched his father’s slow and painful demise after the forced sale of their village to government developers. His experiences have led him to see society as a massive, mechanized Combine that dehumanizes its members through oppressively enforcing conformity. At the beginning of the novel, Chief believes himself to be small and weak, although he is actually a towering man, over six and a half feet tall, with incredible physical strength. He has been hospitalized for a decade and subjected to more than 200 electroshock treatments. His emotional strength has been systematically sapped, and he perceives himself to be adrift in an almost perpetual fog. McMurphy’s powerful presence on the ward has the effect of diminishing this fog, and ultimately leads Chief to rediscover his own sanity and power.

For many years, Chief has pretended to be deaf and mute, which makes him privy to conversations which he would otherwise be unable to hear, such as those between the members of the hospital staff. He is incredibly observant and perceptive about human nature and motivation, making him an ideal narrator for the events of the novel. Although he often suffers from his terrifying hallucinations, they also enable him to perceive the underlying truth about the oppressive nature of the hospital and society at large. Chief’s perception of the Combine serves as an effective metaphor, providing the reader with insight into the effects of systemic oppression.

The institutional forces that have weakened Chief and the other patients over the years are powerfully challenged by McMurphy’s fierce individualism and rebellious spirit. McMurphy reintroduces...

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Essays About One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest