One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest : America's divided self



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Bromden, the narrator of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the novel's protagonist rather than McMurphy. As the child of an Indian father and a white mother, he embodies the conflicts created by the American experience in his schizophrenia; unable to cope with his mechanistic environment, the "Combine," he withdraws completely and becomes a "deaf and dumb" Indian. On the mental ward he is treated according to the medical model of psychiatry. Since the reason for his illness is an existential rather than a medical one, this treatment remains without success. McMurphy, the anachronistic Western "hero," functions as a catalyst for Bromden. He cures the "deaf and dumb" Indian by accepting him as he is and by helping him to restore the connections with the past, the below, and the above (heritage, earth, and spirit) which had been cut off by the mechanistic and spiritually empty "Combine."