Trap of Provocation

Throughout the story, the author Ken Kessy, through Bromden’s extraordinary detailed narrative descriptions, emphasizes the communicative power of the character McMurphy. For instance, the identity of McMurphy’s speech is presented and analyzed under absolute and aggressive values. By doing so, it’s clear that with the way he’s communicating, he’s able to describe his ideas so fundamentally that his ideology is portrayed clearly for anyone that wishes to understand and follow him. Saying something bizarre in the beginning, almost comically, then changing the dynamic swiftly into a moment of explanation, guiding the reader to view him positively. This way of expressing himself expands further from McMurphy himself, and onto the political leaders of today.

First, it is important to identify the sections of the story that emphasize this type of communication by McMurphy. One such section, a memorable one at that, occurs during McMurphy and Harding’s feud between their views of the Big Nurse, happening after the group therapy ‘pecking party.’ (51) on Chapter 5 where McMurphy would describe the Big Nurse as a ‘ball-cutter.’ (53) This was an incredibly odd response, puzzling both the readers and Harding. It seemed to be irrelevant to the argument at hand, but then McMurphy would go on to explain it: “…people who try to make you weak… And the best way to do this, to get you to knuckle under, is to weaken you by gettin’ you where it hurts the worst.” (54) This explanation transitions that irrelevancy to relevance, allowing the readers, me included, to view the original bizarre statement as a comical solution to Harding’s inability to express how he really felt about the Big Nurse. And, considering that this is a ward with a majority, if not primarily, men, it makes his message that much clearer to the people of the ward.

Furthermore, by Chapter 6, as McMurphy’s character becomes more known to the narrator Bromden, Bromden would then characterize McMurphy to a ‘bull’ when it comes to his unwillingness to succumb to the Big Nurses measures of control, especially with the idea of fog: “(They haven’t really fogged the place full force all day today, not since McMurphy came in. I bet he’d yell like a bull if they fogged it.)” (69) This bull-like way of confronting problems, never falling back on his words, makes characters like Cheswick fall head over heels for him. Following his every idea whether it be to use the space of the therapeutic discussion area for a different purpose or to add baseball to the TV channel. And, it’s not only Cheswick, his clear following would be clear during the voting results of whether or not the ward should add baseball to the TV channel.

During Chapter 15, McMurphy was able to bring over twenty votes out of forty patients to plead his case of baseball. And, apparently, there happened to be a rule stating that to change a ward policy, you need a majority vote. Since, it wasn’t necessarily a majority, but a half and half, it would be Bromden who would go on to shift the scale in McMurphy’s favor. At first, Bromden was convinced that McMurphy made him raise his hand for a vote forcefully, but soon, he would push aside that thought, claiming the following: “No. That’s not the truth. I lifted it myself.” (123) With all that being said, even though McMurphy expresses his thoughts in a, at first glance, seemingly provocative and negative way, he is still able to bring so many people together, and to his side, much like our politicians today.

A primary example of such a politician is Donald Trump, our 45th president. Our 45th president has an extensive list of quotes that are outrageous, but it’s also true to mention that these quotes may have raised awareness for the individuals included in such outrageous claims. For instance, when it comes to instances of racism, he said the following on a telephone interview with Fox and Friends: “…I am the least racist,…” [1] Sure, he may be the least racist, racist person. Since when it comes to racism nowadays, those who hide their intentions through a false mask. Those who hide their racism through innocence and act as if they are not what they are, are in fact more racist. In addition to that, when it comes to the issue of the border, and trying to ‘build a wall,’ it provided awareness for people who were illegal immigrants. I managed to hear a lot of stories during the event of such a controversial message. So, when it comes to Trump’s relation with McMurphy, they’re both very strict in their messages, talking with absolute and aggressive terms. One more agreeable than the other, of course, but they are able to garner support through such provocative language.

However, there is a reason all of this works so well. People use such provocative language to set a trap. It’s to get a reaction they know you’ll have, and then they take you on a journey to tell you that the reaction you had was wrong, and you should have a different reaction. That’s how I felt as I read the whole book. I originally thought that McMurphy would come out as an enormously unagreeable character who had nothing but evil in his every action, but that was not true. And, it was also true that I fell in the trap of thinking that, so that once that was not true, my immediate reaction was to view him positively. So, in that regard, by reading this book, although it may be a bit overthinking on my part, I’ve learned to be more aware of those intentions, especially when it comes to putting my hands into future political atmosphere’s as I come of age.

[1] - Gass, Nick. “The 15 Most Offensive Things That Have Come out of Trump’s Mouth.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 9 Dec. 2015,