Mac as Jesus

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.


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