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McMurphy as a Christ Figure

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Christ comes from the name Yahweh which means God’s salvation and rescuer. Ken Kesey creates a character in his novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, that represents a figure like Christ that rescues and saves the patients at the ward. Randall Patrick McMurphy, the protagonist in the novel, takes on the role as the rescuer and saver. The novel mirrors Christ’s life through McMurphy’s life at the ward. There are four main events in the novel that allude to the story of Christ: the arrival of McMurphy, the fishing trip, McMurphy’s electroshock therapy, and McMurphy’s death.

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Christ saved us from sin by dying on the cross whereas McMurphy died to save the patients from Nurse Ratched and the institution. McMurphy arrives at the mental institution with vivacity and happiness. He enters the ward by being boisterous and full of laughter. His laughter is noticed by all the patients because it is the first laughter they have heard in years.

Chief Bromden recalls that his relatives used to mock the government officials by laughing and comments “I forget sometimes what laughter can do,” (pg 95).

McMurphy is noticeably different than the other patients at the ward. Most of the patients are languid and shielded from the outside world. He walks in and declares that he is going to be their leader and show them how to have fun. Christ entered the world in a similar way. He was a man who was visibly different than the other Jews and he wanted to show others his Father’s teachings. He was full of life and wanted people to achieve inner peace. The Gospels preach that the way to find inner peace is through laughter.

Christ wanted to be a model and leader for his disciples just as McMurphy wants to be a model and leader for the other patients. As McMurphy settles in and realizes that many of the men’s sickness are their lack of confidence, he makes it his duty to inspire confidence in all of them. To help inspire confidence and show them that the outside world can be fun, McMurphy takes twelve patients on a fishing trip. Both McMurphy and Christ step away and show their men that they can take care of themselves and overcome obstacles. Everyone was shouting at him to do something, but he wasn’t moving. Even the doctor, who had the deep pole, was asking McMurphy for assistance. And McMurphy was just laughing,” (pg. 248). The patients realize that they are men and not rabbits that have to follow orders from Nurse Ratched. McMurphy also shows his men that they can survive and have meaningful lives without him leading them. The end of the fishing trip is characterized by all twelve patients laughing and enjoying themselves.

They are sharing in the laughter that they once thought was peculiar. It started slow and pumped itself full, swelling the men bigger and bigger,” (pg. 250). This shows that McMurphy’s effort in helping the men to recover is working and that the men are finding peace within themselves. The twelve patients going on the fishing trip allude to the story of Christ testing his twelve disciples when they are on a lake and a storm comes. The disciples realize that they do have faith in God and themselves to overcome any obstacle in life. The disciples learn that they do not need Christ to be physically present with them to be good men.

As McMurphy is making progress with helping the patients find their inner peace and confidence, Nurse Ratched, knows that McMurphy is disrupting the equilibrium of the ward. She finally gets a reason to perform electroshock therapy (EST) on McMurphy when he refuses to admit that he was wrong. McMurphy does not want Nurse Ratched to think she has power over him so he is prepared to take the consequences of his actions for the good of the other patients. As the nurse is preparing him for his EST, he is strapped down to a table in the shape of a crucifix and McMurphy states “”Anointest my head with thy conductant.

Shall I get a crown of thorns,”(pg. 283). This signifies that McMurphy is fully aware that this is a sacrifice to benefit the other patients and is one again using humor to survive this traumatic event. This event in the ward is similar to when Christ refused to deny that he was the son of God. He did not want Pontius Pilate and the Romans to think that they had power over Christ. Christ wanted to show his people that his sacrifice would benefit mankind. The last allusion that Kesey makes during this event is when a tall bony man states “I wash my hands of the whole deal,” (pg. 276).

This is an allusion to Pontius Pilate’s disassociation from Christ’s death. Even though McMurphy does not die from the EST, this event is a foreshadowing of his death. The last event in the novel that alludes to the life of Christ is McMurphy’s death. McMurphy decides to throw a party in the ward in the middle of the night. They invite Candy and Sandy, who bring alcohol, and have a celebration. The next morning when Nurse Ratched discovers what had happened she asks Billy Bibbit who was responsible for the party. Billy blames the whole thing on McMurphy and betrays him and the other patients.

Billy ends up committing suicide and Nurse Ratched tries to use his death as an example to the other patients. McMurphy realizes what Nurse Ratched is doing and knows the only way to prevent her from ruining the progress with the patients, is to expose her. McMurphy knows he will be punished and accepts the consequences for his actions “We couldn’t stop him because we were the ones making him do it. It wasn’t the nurse that was forcing him; it was our need that was making him…” (pg. 318). He ends up dying to better the lives of the patients.

This event can be related to the Last Supper and Crucifixion of Christ. Christ had one last celebration with his disciples because he knew he was going to be betrayed in the morning. Billy Bibbit’s betrayal is an allusion to how Judas betrayed Christ and the other disciples by telling the Romans Christ’s location. Both Judas and Billy are responsible for the deaths of their leaders, however; Christ and McMurphy did not blame Judas or Billy for their deaths. Christ and McMurphy accepted the responsibility of their purpose in life. Like McMurphy, Christ died to better mankind.

Both Christ and McMurphy’s sacrifices inspired their people to live better lives. “She couldn’t rule with her old power anymore… she was losing her patients one after the other,” (pg. 321). McMurphy’s sacrifice inspires the other patients and they finally have the strength to know that she has no power over them. These four main events allow McMurphy to show the patients that there is a life outside of Nurse Ratched and the institution. He wants the patients to find their inner peace, be confident, and feel liberated. He sets the example by living his life with all these characteristics.

He shows his individuality and allows the patients to see that they do not have to be rabbits and follow the orders of Nurse Ratched. They can go out into the outside world and live meaningful lives. Christ exhibited the same wants for his disciples and all of mankind. He wanted his disciples to be the ones to help spread the word of God after he was no longer on earth. He wanted mankind to be inspired and to live a life of love and laughter. Kesey wanted McMurphy to be a beau ideal to the patients of the ward and he used Christ’s leadership and inspiration as a model.

Cite this McMurphy as a Christ Figure

McMurphy as a Christ Figure. (2017, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/mcmurphy-as-a-christ-figure/

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