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This essay offers a re-reading of an American classic—Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—that rejects the conventional interpretation, one which positions the white protagonist McMurphy as the secular iconoclastic hero bravely enacting an existential drama. Instead, this reading pursues an interpretation that explores the implications and ironies of Kesey’s choice to narrate his novel from the perspective of the Native American Chief Bromden. By choosing a traditionally marginalized member of society to offer a social critique, Kesey is able to redirect our attention away from an interpretation that focuses on the incoherent ramblings of a presumed schizophrenic and towards a multi-vocal perspective intrinsic to the traditional worldview that Bromden inherited as his Chinook birthright. This reader, therefore, suggests a reconsideration not just of Kesey’s novel but of the way we read any text that engages an indigenous point of view. This interpretation is supported in several ways but primarily by the example of the Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday, whose memoir The Way to Rainy Mountain provides a model for a reading Kesey’s novel through indigenous eyes.


This article was published by the Department of English at the National Taiwan Normal University, and can be accessed at: