One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

1551 words - 6 pages

An exceptionally tall, Native American, Chief Bromden, trapped in the Oregon psychiatric ward, suffers from the psychological condition of paranoid schizophrenia. This fictional character in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest struggles with extreme mental illness, but he also falls victim to the choking grasp of society, which worsens Bromden’s condition. Paranoid schizophrenia is a rare mental illness that leads to heavy delusions and hallucinations among other, less serious, symptoms. Through the love and compassion that Bromden’s inmate, Randle Patrick McMurphy, gives Chief Bromden, he is able to briefly overcome paranoid schizophrenia and escape the dehumanizing psychiatric ward that he is held prisoner in.
The background of Chief Bromden’s life makes him a likely target for mental illness. Conflict that Chief’s father faced also negatively impacted Chief. His father was Chief Tee Ah Millatoona of the Umpqua tribe and his mother was a white woman. Chief’s father took his mother’s last name, “Her name is Bromden. He took her name” (214). This suggests her domination in the relationship, but it is made clear that her extreme belittling had negative psychological effects: “It wasn't just her that made him little. Everybody worked on him because he was big, and wouldn't give in, and did as he pleased... He fought it a long time until my mother made him too little to fight anymore and he gave up" (220). Just like his father, Chief was a big man crushed into a tiny man by the pressures of society. Chief grew up living a normal life, without schizophrenia, on the Columbia Gorge in an Umpqua village led by his father. The first memorable trigger of Chief’s schizophrenia came when government officials were inspecting his village, which they later bought, and completely ignored him. Chief talks to the officials and, “Not a one of the three acts like they heard a thing I said” (213). The ignorance that these government officials displayed begins Chief’s recess into schizophrenia as well as his act of being deaf and dumb. As a young man, Bromden played football and even, “went to college” (182). Chief Bromden enjoys nature. His love for the outdoors strongly contrasts his delusional view that society is run by machines.
In the ward, Chief has two significant relationships that expose the severity of his illness. Randle Patrick McMurphy is a new patient in the ward and he is, “no ordinary Admission..He sounds big..He talks a little the way Papa used to, voice loud and full of hell” (11). Immediately, Chief compares McMurphy to his father, “he’s broad as Papa was tall, broad across the jaw and shoulders and chest, a broad white devilish grin” (12). The suffocating society that Chief is forced to be a part of slowly drains his power until Chief breaks down into a small, deaf, dumb, schizophrenic man. McMurphy is the treatment to Chief’s paranoid schizophrenia; he shows Chief how to be big again. “I get you big as you used to be..There you’ll...

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