“Wanna chewing gum?”

Chief Bromden (Chief Broom) is the narrator of  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The story  is about a madhouse from which he escapes in the end. When the novel begins, Bromden is constantly covered in fog. You believe it are the aides who are spreading it, just because the Chief is telling you so. But it’s not. The more the story develops , the more you see that it’s all in his head. He is seeing this fog, just because he wants to hide from everyone and everything. I think we all recognize ourselves in this, at least a bit. Everybody wants to be invisible sometimes.
Bromden says: “I used to be big” The madhouse made him small, at least he thinks so. But then, McMurphy is introduced. He is a symbol of  hope for everyone. Well, just the patients actually, because Miss Ratched, the Big Nurse, was not at all flattered by his visit. On the contrary, she tries everything to make him feel small. There is a competition starting between the Big Nurse and McMurphy The Big Nurse is similar to Big Brother in 1984   (George Orwell) they’re both oppressive and an all-knowing authority.
To McMurphy, the whole ward is some kind of joke. He’s probably not even insane, just pretending to be. In this way you can do everything you like, without going to prison. You’re free! Or at least, he thinks so. But then he discovers that involuntarily committed patients are stuck in the hospital until the staff decides they are cured. So he is at Nurse Ratched’s mercy, and he starts to submit to her authority. This brings confusion to the other patients, who were beginning to see him as a leader.


Nevertheless McMurphy succeeds to manage a fishing trip for himself and some other patients. The patients experience how it is in the real world, and that it’s not dangerous at all. They catch big fishes all by themselves, for the first time they do something great without any help of anyone else. McMurphy is a kind of savior to them, for them he is Jezus Christ. The patients follow him like his disciples and in the end McMurphy sacrifices himself, he gives his own love, a prostitute, to Billy Bibbit. Billy is still a virgin, and McMurphy wants to do everything to improve the lives of those poor patients.

I’ve found a video of a scene from the movie, where it’s very clear that McMurphy is not insane at all, just pretending to be!


It’s possible that Bromden, just like McMurphy, was sane when he entered the hospital but that his sanity slipped when he received the 200 electroshock treatments. Everybody on the ward knows that Bromden is deaf and utterly dumb. But it is until then that McMurphy and Bromden got into a fight with the aides, they’re sitting on a couch next to the 200 electroshock room, when McMurphy asks: “Wanna chewing gum?” not expecting to get an answer from this deaf fellow next to him, but Bromden says: “Thank you” .

McMurphy can’t belief his ears, all this time he and the rest were fooled! But it was not like that. It was not like Bromden chose for it himself. They made him dumb and deaf, because they ignored his existence as a person, his existence as an Indian.
In the end, when McMurphy is weak, weak from the lobotomy, close to dead, Bromden suffocates him in his bed. McMurphy better  be dead then live like a zombie, obedient to the Big Nurse. That is the end of Randle McMurphy. Bromden feels strong again, he can do anything, even break through a window. And that’s what he decides to do. Back into nature. Where he comes from.

It’s a very good story, not because it’s written very well, but because of the storyline. On one hand, it’s realistic, we all know of weird stories from madhouses. One the other hand, you never expect them to be this weird and absurd. You’re really seeing it through the eyes of the Chief and it took me a long time before I realized that half of what he was seeing, isn’t true at all! And that is what makes a book a good book, if you believe whatever the author wants you to believe.

Veerle Nicolaï


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