James Alexanda Perks A2 – Mr. Reith – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
“It is the truth even if it didn’t happen” – Discuss the function and effect of Bromden’s dreams and distortions
Bromden’s dreams and distortions are the result of wrong attitudes to mental illness. He retreats into these hallucinations for safety and comfort. The effect of the hallucinations is to show literal manifestations of the metaphorical “grilling” of the members of the ward. This serves to convince the reader of Bromden’s mental instability as well as to provide Kesey with a literary means of creating vivid imagery, atmosphere and biting satire.
The fog is a strong image presented by Bromden. The fog represents lack of understanding of the human condition and acts as an escape from reality for Bromden. When the Chief is engulfed by anxiety or is without medication he slips out of reality and hallucinates about the fog. Although frightening at times, the foggy Ward seems to be a safer place because it obscures Bromden’s unfavourable perception of reality. Indeed it represents Ratched’s oppression of the patients. However, when McMurphy arrives he lifts the inmates out of the chains of their emotional repression and fear and thus lifts the fog. The subsequent clarity of thought is shown by the Chief in the line “When the fog clears…I’m sitting in the day room.” The men prefer to be in the fog as they believe they are safer and less easily targeted by the Nurse. However, their institutionalisation is so great that they fail to realise that the fog is actually preventing their recovery from being completed. In this way, Ratched controls the men, but McMurphy can liberate them.