Throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, McMurphy is presented very much as a Christ figure, often in quite heavy-handed ways. Think about why Kesey does this and how he does this. Here is one student’s response:
The Jesus/saviour figure consists of a collection of ideas, symbols and images that originate from the world’s best selling book; the bible.
Mac can be closely paralleled to this “Christ” figure in many ways.
- He speaks his mind and is a strong orator, able to convince people
- “Is crucified” for his/others’ sins
- On the fishing trip he takes twelve people with him – twelve disciples? (Jesus had something to do with fishing in one of the stories)
- Is betrayed by a Judas (i.e.-Billy)
- Has a close relationship with a prostitute (Candy – Mary Magdalene?)
- Is racially stereotyped. Mac is Irish, Jesus was a Jew
- Wears boots while most patients are barefoot (Jesus was barefoot in a sandaled world)
- Is a manipulator, able to turn/use people who are willing to follow blindly.
- Is a labourer, Jesus was a carpenter
- Is proclaimed to be “extraordinary” by a doctor, Jesus was called “king of men”?
- Performs “miracles”. e.g.- getting Bromden to talk
These symbols/images/ideas give us a strong picture of Mac as a saviour, without needing every biblical reference explained. The “Christ” idea is so ingrained in Anglo-Saxon literature/”history” that most people understand the martyr idea. This allows Kesey to deal with other aspects of the story more carefully.