"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest" - In what ways and to what effect does Kesey present Mcmurphy as a Christ-figure?

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Sarah Ghalaey

English literature coursework

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest”


In what ways and to what effect does Kesey present Mcmurphy as a Christ-figure?


      Throughout the novel kesey makes allusions to Mcmurphy as a Christ figure. The religious references increase in intensity and number as Mcmurphy’s martrydrom becomes imminent. The use of Christ imagery in “ one flew over the cuckoo’s nest” is overall very effective. Mcmurphy actions frequently parallel christ’s actions. Mcmurphy undergoes a kind of baptism upon entering the ward, and he slowly gathers his disciples around him as he increases his rebellion against Nurse Ratched.

        One of the first Christ like images was the fishing trip, Mcmurphy leaves the hospital with twelve patients, an allusion to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.

This positions Randle P Mcmurphy as a Christ figure in the novel and thus foreshadows future events. If Mcmurphy is a Christ figure, then he will face an impending cruxification. By sitting back and allowing the others to handle the storm, Mcmurphy helps them to prove they are worth something to themselves. This is just like how Christ taught his disciples to be self-sufficient in preparation for his death. The fishing trip is a transformative event for the patients, Mcmurphy is like Christ leading his disciples to sea to strengthen and test their faith in his methods and as a result they return from their journey changed men, worthy of respect. This transformation is due to the patients removal from Nurse Ratched’s control. Freed from her domineering policies, the patients can achieve a sense of self worth that she denies them.

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        Another Christ like image in the novel, just as Jesus could make blind men see and lame men walk again, Mcmurphy cures Bromden of his deafness and dumbness. This is the first time chief Bromden speaks in the novel “ And before I realized what I was doing, I told him Thank you”. Through Mcmurphy enabling Bromden to speak we learn more about his past and background.

        Also in the novel Bromden says that he wants to touch Mcmurphy, another Christ like image. “ I just want to touch him ...

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