A Conversation for Diagnosis of R.P.McMurphy from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

Insightful Analysis

Post 1


I was curious tonight what the general consensus is on whether the character of Randall McMurphy is considered to be mentally-ill.

As a person with brain damage and acute symptoms of some several personality disorders stemming from both neurological and behavioral causes, I find your analysis very insightful.

Yes, McMurphy IS mentally-ill in the truest sense - he's utterly unable to fit in with the human systems he is required to fit in to. He tries consistently, and fails genuinely.

I think what throws a lot of people off in their analysis of the character and the movie is that the systems surrounding and assessing McMurphy are very obviously dysfunctional in themselves. By contrast, he seems to make a lot of sense. Even the other other patients, deemed "really" mentally-ill are found to be self-admitted, surprising McMurphy completely. Why would anyone CHOOSE to be there? The fact they would is nuts, but then so is the world.

One has to really grasp this juxtaposition to see that McMurphy's inability to grasp the fundamentally irrational but socially compulsory as a very genuine mental-illness on his part. He's genuinely clueless that fitting in might have some value.

I think you're very perceptive to see the core of various antisocial disorders in this character. Often, the antisocial characteristics are ultimately quite sane. Unfortunately, society is not in reality quite sane. It's sometimes sane, and sometimes not, but must be successfully navigated regardless.

As an aside, rhetorically, I'm curious about your analysis of the character Karl Childress (Chlders?) in "Sling Blade." I think there's quite a similar reversal in that movie. Karl is actually quite brilliant - he's read the Bible some few times, and understood "a great deal of it." More than most average intelligence people can accomplish! He's a master of fixing small engines, evidently self-taught. He's perceptive to the emotional contexts of all the characters around him, even keenly so. And again, as in "Cuckoo's Nest" we see that it's really the flaws in his surrounding social context Karl has any difficulty with. Even the crime for which he is committed - ultimately insane - is seen to have been a very correct response in terms of the rules of his world at that time. Irresponsible sexual reproduction and bringing unwanted children into the world has caused the murder of his little baby brother, and Karl was left to deal with the aftermath of the situation. The character of Jesse, who Karl talks about - cruel to him, and found to be risking once again causing an unwanted child, endangering the situation of Karl's mother - presumably the only person who was decent to Karl at any level.

I don't know. I just think that just as McMurphy is genuinely and subtly mentally-ill in Cuckoo's Nest but surrounded by a system that can't even truly recognize that or respond to it appropriately, Karl is genuinely and subtly intelligent in a system unable to recognize or respond to that. He's quite genuinely sane.

I really think that's the real power of the two movies.

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