The only constant is change. It is inevitable that every person throughout their life will transform in some way—for good or for bad. Changing for the better usually starts with a selfish, egotistic person who is trying to be less interested in him/herself, and more interested in others. In the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, this type of transformation is easily recognized. “When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness~Joseph Campbell. McMurphy parellels the previous quote by Joseph Campbell, and by examining his actions and relationships, the reader is able to see that he is transformed from an originally selfish man into a self-less hero. Randal Patrick McMurphy is introduced as an extremely selfish man who will do anything to benefit his own personal gain. This is evidently displayed through the description of his past actions, and also through the way he treats the other patients on the ward.
Motivated by self-interest throughout his life, McMurphy’s past can not only be labeled as that of a criminal, but of an egotistical criminal who completely disregards the feelings of others repeatedly. “McMurry, Randle Patrick. Committed by the state from Pendleton Farm for Correction. For diagnosis and possible treatment. Thirty-five years old. Never married. Distinguished Service Cross in Korea, for leading an escape from a Communist prison camp. A dishonorable discharge, afterward, for insubordination.
Followed by a history of street brawls and barroom fights and a series of arrests for Drunkenness, Assault and Battery, Disturbing the Peace, repeated gambling, and one arrest—for Rape. ” (Kesey 44) The charges that Randall proudly displays while he is introducing himself manifests that his character is irresponsible on account of his behaviour for Drunkenness, violent—shown through Assault and Battery charges, and deranged which is evident in his arrest for Rape. Each of these characteristics that make up his criminal personality can be associated with that of an extremely selfish and negligent man.
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Furthermore, McMurphy displays his mercenariness when it comes to his repetitive gambling. Not only was McMurphy charged for this in the past, but his disregard for the rules and his lack of sensitivity for the well being of others allow him to continue to gamble with the patients in the Oregon asylum. McMurphy is constantly hassling the patients to gamble with him on subjects such as poker, the Chief lifting the control panel, and McMurphy driving Big Nurse insane—with the knowledge that he is going to win.
Many of the patients in the ward are in debt because of McMurphy. “How much did you lose, Bruce? Mr. Sefelt? Mr. Scanlon? I think you all have some idea what your personal losses were, but do you know what his total winnings came to, according to deposits he has made at Funds? Almost three hundred dollars. ” (222) Treating his fellow patients like this and disregarding the consequences that they will face due to his gambling, McMurphy show’s the reader that he is only there to benefit himself.
The once selfish personality that McMurphy heavily displays in the beginning of the novel is starting to undergo change. The fishing trip that McMurphy plans for the patients is a distinct event where the reader is able to see a transformation because he shows characteristics of his selfish side, but also of his new self-less personality. Before going on the fishing trip, McMurphy cheated the other patient’s by charging them too much money. “Seventy dollars? So? I thought you told the patients you’d need to collect a hundred dollars plus ten of your own to finance the trip Mr.
McMurphy. ” (197) Big Nurse questions McMurphy until it is completely obvious that he was making money off of taking the patients on this trip. Contrasted to this act however, while on the boat McMurphy helps each of the men to act for, and stand up for themselves. He teaches them to laugh, fish, and act like a man even though they have been suppressed from their ability to do so with Big Nurse. “They could sense a change that most of us were only suspecting; these weren’t the same bunch of weak-knees from a nuthouse that they’d watched take their insults on the dock this morning. (215) McMurphy set aside his time to help these men because he could tell they needed to learn for themselves—it was only then that they would be able to stick up to Big Nurse. He is becoming more and more aware of the responsibility he has on teaching and leading the men. Another event where both sides of Macks’ (McMurphys’) personalities are displayed is through the simple action that he takes by standing up to the Nurse. Cheswick takes great pride in McMurphy’s actions and starts to follow them. However, when McMurphy finds out he is committed, he completely disregards the importance of his status, nd stops helping Cheswick— who commits suicide right after he says “I do wish something mighta been done though.. ” (151) After this incident, McMurphy’s rebellious nature goes from self-interest to devotion of helping the other inmates, and he enshrines himself in being an example for them so that nobody ever gets hurt like Cheswick did. Once McMurphy realizes how important the power and responsibility that he has put on himself is, the transformation from a self-interested criminal into a respected hero was complete.
He dedicates his time, and well-being to aid the others patients who could not do so for themselves. McMurphy was their hero. In the showers one day, George—a germophobe—was having a tough time with the black boys and could not defend himself. In seeing this, McMurphy stepped in: “I said that’s enough, buddy” (229) McMurphy repeatedly argued, and fought with the boys’ until he was taken away by aides of the Disturbed ward. The punishment: Electroshock Therapy. In this situation, McMurphy was not previously aware of the consequences, but still gave himself to helping another.
Following this incident, McMurphy is well aware of the consequences he would face—but still made a conscious decision to do all that he is able to for his friends. A hero is considered to be a man noted for nobility and courage; especially one who has risked his life. McMurphy is a hero; a martyr; a figure of Christ. After Billy had slit his throat due to the tyrannous power of the Nurse, McMurphy attacked her. Knowing full well that this action would result in a lobotomy, he did it anyways for Billy and the others on the ward.
Even though he sacrificed his own life, he stood against oppressive powers and displayed to the others his bravery and loyalty. “We couldn’t stop him because we were the ones making him do it. It wasn’t the nurse that was forcing him, it was our need that was making him push himself... It was us that had been making him go on for weeks, keeping him standing long after his feet and legs had given out, weeks of making him wink and grin and laugh and go on with his act long after his humour had been parched dry between two electrodes. (267) Easily compared to Christ, McMurphy acted as a saviour and saint to his fellow men. His death was dignified, and it was for other people. A truly heroic transformation was completed throughout McMurphy’s commitance at the Oregon State Asylum. He started out as a self-involved criminal who was treating the fellow patients poorly, and slowly became more herioc as he showed signs of helping the men, mixed with his old selfish ways. Ending off, Randal P. By examining his actions and relationships, McMurphy is finally seend as a man who sacrificed himself for a greater cause; he evolved into a hero.
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