In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, do you agree with Harding’s assessment that the men on the ward are rabbits and that McMurphy is a wolf? Explain.

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This section of the novel is particularly interesting because of the way in which the nature of the patients is explored, and in particular how the patients view themselves as being rabbits, or helpless to avoid the situation they are in. McMurphy, interestingly, says at one stage to Harding, after he has explained his philosophy of rabbits:

You mean to tell me that you're gonna sit back and let some old blue-haired woman talk you into being a rabbit?

Harding, by contrast, believes that he and the other patients are essentially rabbits, in the way that he says he was "born a rabbit." Because McMurphy refuses to accept this rabbit role that is being forced upon him, he is, according to Harding a "wolf." What becomes clear as the plot develops and McMurphy helps the various characters to challenge the role that is forced upon them by Nurse Ratched is that there is no such thing as being "born" a rabbit: these are roles that Nurse Ratched and the various forces ranged against the patients convince Harding and the others are essentially part of them. The way in which McMurphy challenges this and encourages the various patients to reject that role and to express their masculinity in unfettered ways shows that Harding's assessment is incorrect. It is also this role of McMurphy as being a "wolf" that brings him into conflict with Nurse Ratched.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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