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What are some of the motifs in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?

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km555 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 22, 2009 at 2:44 AM via web

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What are some of the motifs in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?

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goreadabook | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted December 12, 2009 at 4:13 PM (Answer #1)

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Ken Kesey's impeccable writing talent means that One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is packed with symbols and motifs.  One of the most prominent motifs in this novel is laughter.  The power of laughter is a theme that develops throughout the novel beginning with McMurphy's resonant laugh during his first few moments in the hospital.  As McMurphy's influence upon the patients becomes stronger, the increasing amount of laughter symbolizes the men's reconnection with their individuality and humanity.

Another motif would be size.  Bromden is constantly having issues with his perception of people's sizes.  Anyone who is domineering or powerful in his eyes appears to be much bigger than they truly are.  At one point Bromden tells McMurphy that he is a much larger man than himself, even though Bromden is most certainly taller and wider than McMurphy.  By the end of the book, Bromden feels that he has grown in size, symbolizing the inner strength and sense of self-respect that he has found.

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