The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead


Most of the current research shows that, in the whole world, there are more than estimated one billion Christians. Most of them belong to different denominations and independent churches, talking different languages. With such vast number of followers of Jesus Christ, and possibly much more, with various level of understanding of whom he was and what he stood and activated for.

It is in this context that Ken Kesey relates some of his work with Christianity, in the work one Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He inserts some spiritual representation. Various opinions have been put forward for Kesey’s insertion of Christianity in the works, with some saying it was for Kesey’s own choice and a hint of personal thoughts and experience with Christ. However, it is not surprising that the spiritual model has brought an extra ordinary association between the readers and the novel. The similarity between the novel and Christ is enhanced as every person reading the novel finds an event, which they can relate to their lives. The similarity of character between Christ and Murphy is analyzed, and the outcome used in helping understand the themes.

Even for persons with little knowledge about Christianity, after reading the novel, it is remarkably easy to see the religious content in the novel. This connection is seen when McMurphy takes his patients to a fishing trip, as Chief Bromden says the twelve of them were led towards the ocean (Dodd & Spaulding 2000). This brings to mind Jesus Christ and the twelve disciples, even more astounding is that they have gone fishing. Just like in the bible Christ encouraged his disciples to be fishers of other men. Another obvious reference to the Bible is when McMurphy looses consciousness and ESP has to be administered. It is said his body is latched on the ground like a cross which is how Christ was crucified on the cross. Another reference to Christianity is noticed when McMurphy asks if he will get the thorn crown (Dodd & Spaulding 2000). This can be related to Christ when he was being crucified a crown made of thorns was put on his head. These last events can be related to Jesus Christ’s last days on earth; in Christianity Jesus Christ is betrayed by one of his disciples and subsequently crucified. In Kesey’s novel, Billy Bibbit is the traitor by saying that McMurphy is the one responsible for the events of the previous night. As a result, McMurphy is sentenced to lobotomy, right after Billy Bibbit tells this to Nurse Ratched he cuts his throat and dies just like Judas from the Gospel who commits suicide by strangling himself.

Even though Billy Bibbit death caused uproar, Ratched goes ahead, and orders McMurphy to be lobotomized which is death in itself as McMurphy is not able to do anything. The numerous events in the novel, which imitate how Christ himself laid his own life for the sake of Christians, has connected people even more to the novel, as it reminds them of Christ’s life. The similarity between the life of Christ and McMurphy have attracted more readers, who want to know more about the implication of similarity and the outcome it has on Murphy’s character. He is so much like Christ (Dodd & Spaulding 2000). The various qualities that McMurphy Shares with Christ include his capability to use his intelligence to ask questions, which could demoralize, and defy Nurse Ratched power. Christ was also ever asking questions which in themselves were defying the authority of his time, to prove to them every now and then that their actions were not right. McMurphy is the same, as it comes out in the whole novel where he questions everything he thinks is not being fair to him. Such as the reasons why the patients are not allowed to watch the world sports series, why the music should be played on a high volume and the reason why the toothpaste that they are supposed to use must be locked in the cabinets every morning.

McMurphy was extraordinarily active in defying the authority by using witty questions, and it is not a surprise that he gained popularity, and the support of so many people further enhances this fact. McMurphy was exceedingly experienced at, weakening the authority of those who he thought were unfair like Ratched. The same way Christ was, McMurphy has authority inside him. He is brave, no matter whom he is talking to, and always says what is in his mind. This trait is seen the very first time he walks into the ward, and demands to know who is in charge of the place (Dodd & Spaulding 2000). In the room which is occupied by hardened criminals, he displays no fear by asking for the leader of the ward. This is the same power that Christ Wielded.

While McMurphy and Christ shares various qualities. The characteristic that stands out from the rest is, they both dedicated their lives to helping those people who surrounds them. Despite the fact, that McMurphy was no sincere and a schemer, especially while playing poker with the fellow patients. Deep down he always wanted the best for his fellow patients, He was a source of encouragement, to the other patients. He always told him they were not acutely sick as people thought (Dodd & Spaulding 2000). He was there to give the other patients hope, even when they were destined to fail. Just the same way Christ came to give hope to mankind and deliver them from the eternal fire. McMurphy was a person who was willing to help other patients who were in need without expecting to be paid in return. Christ in the gospel teachings agreed to be crucified, not that because he expected to be paid but, he did it in order to save mankind.

An incident, where McMurphy tries to teach the other patients is when they were in the tub having their bath; He talks of escaping from the ward, despite the other patients doubts he tries for along time to break free and fails, even so he tell the other patients after all he tried (Dodd & Spaulding 2000). With that, he shows all other patients that no matter what the situation one is faced with, self belief and never ever giving up one can achieve anything. Another trait of McMurphy is portrayed is self sacrifice; there is a high possibility that McMurphy intentionally stayed behind rather than escaping with the prostitutes. Even though at the in his mind he knew that he would be punished, McMurphy knew by not running away, he was sending a clear message to the other patients that they were strong enough to fight back. Eventually, he is lobotomized, and that enhanced his message to the other patients (Dodd & Spaulding 2000). McMurphy dies a truly happy man knowing that he has accomplished his duty. Just as Christ who died happily knowing that his death had saved mankind. McMurphy portrayed as Christ like person. The readers are given a deeper view of his character and his importance in the novel. Like Christ, he dies but, not in vain as his death brings redemption to those who he leaves behind.

As have been shown above from the explanations, McMurphy and Christ are alike, although in their own unique way. Kesey brings out Murphy as a character whose traits, and life history is very much familiar to that of Christ does not suggest that the views are similar to Jesus view. Kenny is trying to bring out the picture that just like Jesus, Murphy is also radical, and it does not go down well with all people just as many people were not happy with Jesus. Many attacked the opinion and beliefs of Christ. The nurse was not happy with McMurphy not because he was wrong but, it is because he always took the decision that were radial, and was never afraid to tell what he felt like saying.

McMurphy frequently faulted the ostensibly subjective systems, and the astringent rules in the ward where he stayed. This habit of being defiant annoyed the nurse in charge. He tells of the nurse after he is denied the time to watch an ongoing world series. His constant challenging of the authority in charge brings out the theme that one can fight oppression. Both Murphy and Christ were brave enough to do things that were not regular the society. The fact that Murphy had an extremely difficult life at times; he always had his own way to counter his personal problems. Christ also had his own share of problems that he dealt with by praying, and on the other hand, McMurphy would laugh, and the magnificent humor helped him counter his problem. This trait of McMurphy is seen while they were on fishing, and Bromden hurts his thumb, McMurphy laughs so loud, to help Bromden understand that at times laughing at something that hurts someone helps to keep one keep in balance (Dodd & Spaulding 2000). By using a character like McMurphy who shares more similar traits like Christ, the readers can see the reflection of Christ in McMurphy, and this draws them more to this Character.


The best works at times are like rock for one to get the minerals; it holds one has to dig through the rock. In Kesey’s work, he brings out Christ as the diamond that people have mistaken for a rock with no value, a few traits of Christ can be seen, although some few people can see the significance of Christ and how his presence changes the novels general outcome. But after cutting the tough surface and looking keenly at the text to see the various events of Christ life, the similarity of the character traits between McMurphy and Christ is evident, and it is this similarity that brings out the themes in the book. In that the jewel, which is the message that Kesey is trying to bring out is achieved.


Dodd, D. G., & Spaulding, D. (2000). The Grateful Dead reader. New York: Oxford University Press.