Cultural Identities of the West

cultural-identity-1The suppression of (or mere attempts at obliterating) the identity of the characters in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest can perhaps represent American society in terms of how, historically, minority groups and subcultures have been dealt with. The methods applied have never exactly been what one might call integrating, but violent and extinctive instead; thus making the mixture of cultures impossible by causing the bigger, more powerful one to engulf and absorb the rest, which, eventually, will lead to the extinction of the subcultures. Bearing this in mind, many instances in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest constantly remind us of the phenomenon in which the bigger, stronger culture limits the existence of the subcultures, leaving no room for them to subsist:

“The ritual of our existence is based on the strong getting stronger by devouring the weak.” says Randle McMurphy, the main character and believes that it should be that way because he thinks that everyone needs to accept that it is the way of nature.

In the novel, the reference to the oppression Native Americans have had to endure since the time of colonization is portrayed by Native American Chief Bromden and his father, who was a tribal chief. This cruel oppression, which results in identity loss among characters like Chief, his father, as well as other inmates such as Bill and Harding (although a different kind of oppression/suppression, not based on ethnicity but on social traits), constitutes a stigma in American culture and history.

The inability or unwillingness to accept religious or political dissent by the Puritans in the early colonies of New England, and the way they rejected other religious practices and different views on how to interpret the Bible have, over the centuries, mutated into intolerance toward people that are different in terms of culture and ethnicity; in other words, minorities.