"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - McMurphy analysis

Essay by jack_blackHigh School, 11th gradeA+, March 2006

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1) Ken Kesey implies that some of the inmates have machine-like qualities by describing their hands as dead mechanical birds, that they are 'wonders of tiny bones and wires'- they seem to be physically made of bits and pieces of metal. All the patients react in a rather unwelcoming manner, making the reader believe that they are all thinking on the same wavelength, and that they seem to be a group of robots that are programmed in the same manner. This is because even after McMurphy's cheerful attitude and attempts to dig out a laugh, the patients can only stand in shock, unable to comprehend the happiness McMurphy seems to radiate. The big nurse's unwillingness and frustration at deviating from routine shows that she is somewhat mechanical, being comfortable with the same thing over and over. We can tell this through the way she tells McMurphy "everyone must follow the rules."

The comparison of the nurses lips to a doll's lips "are in that triangular shape, like doll's lips", highlights the artificiality of the nurse, and the lack of any traces of humanity- portraying her as more machine than human.

2) The Big Nurse calls McMurphy McMurry in order to show that he is unimportant, and that it doesn't matter if she gets his name wrong. This tells us that the nurse is authoritarian, and has thinks little of those below her in the social hierarchy of the psychological institute, i.e. she thinks herself superior. Although the nurse says McMurphy's name wrong, she still speaks in a precise and formal manner, addressing him as "Mr McMurry.", instead calling him by his first name. McMurphy on the other hand is seen as a warm, open figure through his casual manner of speaking. He speaks lightheartedly, and tries to put a humorous...