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Comparison of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest and F. Kafka’s Metamorphosis Essay


Being an individual means making decisions independently from social opinion. At the same time, a strong commitment to society deprives people of individuality and identity.

In the movie called One Flew over the Cuckoo Nest, society takes control over people and, using modern technologies, it suppresses any displays of individuality, as well as natural impulses.

In this respect, the film expands on the theme of authenticity and being an individual, which also brightly represented in Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Specifically, the author sheds light on the consequences of full obsession with the social environment, leading to a loss of connection to the self.

In the movie, the story also takes the readers into deeper deliberation on personal identity, as well as the threats of neglecting individuality and authenticity.

Thus, loss of individuality has been pressures imposed on the community, inability to communicate with the outer world, as well as the loss of personal identity.

The main protagonist in the film, Randle Patrick McMurphy is transferred to a mental hospital institution to monitor his behavior and evaluate his psychological state.

At the hospital, the hero establishes his dominance over another mentally impaired patient to persuade them they could be independent of the pressure imposed by medical assistants, particularly by Nurse Mildred Ratched.

The protagonist’s reluctance to communicate with the external world is similar to the changes that occurred to the hero of Kafka’s Metamorphoses.

Gregor Samsa is detached from the external environment both through evident physical transformations and through the loss of communication.

When the hero tries to respond to his family’s questions, his voice breaks and changes, which makes others believe that the protagonist turns into an animal.

Misunderstanding with the external world creates the gap between inner life, which is genuinely human and the outside community in which physical appearance matters.

Indeed, physical appearance changes Gregor’s perception, as well as his individuality because now he is considered an insect, not a human, despite the presence of features of human behavior.

In the movie, McMurphy realizes that society dictates the rules for existence, which discourages individuals to express their identity.

The film underscores the importance of languages as one of the components of human identity and individuality. Hence, if a person is deprived of the possibility to speak, he/she loses everything that makes him/her human.

Language crisis, therefore, becomes the cornerstone of understanding between the members of the hospital.

The failure of communication between nurse professionals and patients closely correlates with the confrontation between Gregor who is placed in the room and the family members that represent the outside world and impose certain pressure on the hero.

Losing his identity makes him frustrated because McMurphy’s genuine nature does not coincide with the norms and values accepted in society. In this passage, Kafka pays attention to Gregor’s fight for reconciling his human past and adjusting to the new life of an insect.

Therefore, as soon as the hero turns into an animal, his thoughts and behavior begin accommodating to the demands of his new physical appearance.

As it turns out later, the main hero of the movie realizes that he feels much more comfortable when communicating with mentally ill people because the outside community is less concerned with those whose mindset differs from the generally accepted one.

These transformations also signify that the hero’s mind is ready to accept the new changes and adjust to a new environment.

While depicting gradual alienation from the community, Kafka forwards the message about human degradation to the alienation that makes individuals avoid external truth and neglect social duties.

At this point, the movie also justifies Kafka’s existential views on McMurphy’s separation from the community, living him face-to-face to his identity and lost individuality. At the same time, the hero strives to create a new identity which would reveal his authentic nature.

His naturalistic impulses can help him reconcile his inner world beyond the socially accepted standards.

According to Kafka, failure of authenticity is considered the greatest sin from an existential viewpoint. Inability to define the identity of the main character makes him suffer from uncertainty of his physical and psychological state (Kafka n. p.).

Therefore, McMurphy believes that the hospital could be a perfect match for shaping his individuality both at the intellectual and sexual level.

Thus, the hero’s maturity is identified with the natural state whereas the civilized society requires to restrict his freedom for the sake of the created social norms and values. Once again, the theme of authenticity and search for self-discovery is brightly represented in the film.

Although the hero becomes the leader in the hospital and communicates with new people, he does not see the opportunity of practicing normal communication outside the hospital.

Additionally, McMurphy also recognizes that his identity and individuality can also be fulfilled while being within the medical establishment.

Similar to McMurphy, Kafka also believes that community often shapes norms that are not congruent with the genuine psychological and emotional state of an individual. In Kafka, novel, the protagonist recognizes his identity and individuality only when he chooses a solitary life.

His family and clerk have always put pressure on him, leaving no space for personal growth and self-development. At this point, the metamorphosis that occurs to him is the only way to get rid of the undesired influence.

Gregor, thus, is mentally satisfied with these changes because they provide him with freedom from the obligations imposed by society (Kafka n. p.). At this point, Kafka emphasizes that losing individuality would mean Gregor’s conscious alienation from society.

In the film, although McMurphy does not undergo tangible physical changes, his emotional and psychological states change significantly as soon as he is transferred to the hospital.

Indeed, this only places when he fined the sense of life because all his choices in life were made by other people so far. What is often seen as unacceptable and inappropriate by society does not imply that this phenomenon does not have the right to existence.

Within the context of Kafka’s existential model, the movie also focuses on the false sanity of the main hero, as it is recognized at the hospital.

Throughout the film, reasonable actions of the main characters contrast with the insane reactions of the medical institution. So, when McMurphy and other patients organize a protest against Mrs. Ratched, the latter becomes outraged and start behaving similarly to emotionally unstable patients.

Such a condition proves the existence of alternative patterns of perception, which are often accepted in society as deviations from norms. Therefore, the insane reaction of some of the patient could be considered insight into society’s deceitful power over people with mental disabilities.

All these representations are congruent with Kafka’s ideas about the societal influence on individuality and authenticity. In the novel, the chief clerk embodies all vices of society, although he does not experience any transformation because the community needs these vices to rely on.

Therefore, the hero also insists on the importance of the job in human life because it contributes to his self-determination.

The matter of social status is emphasized because an individual is deprived of respect and a sense of belonging as soon as he/she is disregarded by other members of the community.

Becoming alienated does not mean becoming inhumane. Rather, it renders the existential message of the film that describes insane people as mindless creatures searching for nothingness.

There is always a slight psychological gap between normal, accepted behavior and the one that is denied in society.

MrMurphy and other patients from the institution are regarded as hopeless individuals who do not deserve to be full-fledged members of the normal and psychologically adequate community.

However, imposing frames and limitation on individuality present the heroes from expressing their self. Such a position is also accepted in Kafka’s deliberation on the importance of conformity.

According to his existential assumptions, physical appearance matters for society because it influences their attitude and perception of the person’s self.

Once the individual does not meet the accepted norms, he is considered an outcast of the society whose deviated principles and behavior should suppress. At the same time, McMurphy realizes what it is like to behave normally and by socially accepted rules.

Society is not able to recognize the unique attitudes and responses of patients toward the surrounding world and, as a result, they feel rejected.

Braben’s hallucinations about the powerful machines controlling people imply the evidence of overwhelming power of technological progress of natural impulses, as well as on the effort that people make to suppress individuality.

Gradually, the protagonist world becomes more restricted. At the very beginning, McMurphy’s further transformations discourage him from joining the external world.

Similar to Kafka’s her whose attempts become closer to the community fails, McMurphy also rebels over the existing system that is reluctant to recognize alternative perceptions and lifestyles. Collective power hinders the hero’s attempt to self-determine and define his place in society.

Therefore, the hospital becomes a little world in which his goals could be accomplished. In the film, McMurphy dies, which proves the impossibility to confront the majority and introduce changes to the firmly established social system.

In conclusion, the film One Flew over Cuckoo’s Nest focuses on the quest of individuality and authenticity through the hero’s alienation from society.

On the one hand, social environment imposes curtails rules and restrictions on individual freedom, as well as dictates people how to behave and what decisions they should make.

On the other hand, humans are incapable of living outside the social medium because they lose all their qualities due to the lack of communication and interaction. More importantly, his loss of identity and belonging is due to the impossibility to adjust to the social norms.

At the same time, McMurphy is ready to accept the changes because they provide him with freedom from the outside world. Most of the changes he undertakes make him feel more comfortable because he does not need to communicate and justify his social status.

The absurdity and hopelessness of the situation approve the existential perspectives and highlight the necessity to introduce change to social structure.

Works Cited

Kafka, F. “Metamorphoses”. Gutenberg Ebook. 2005. Web.

One Flew over Cuckoo’s Nest. Ex. Prod. Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas. US: United Artists. DVD. 1975.

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"Comparison of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest and F. Kafka’s Metamorphosis." IvyPanda, 17 Apr. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-of-the-movie-one-flew-over-the-cuckoo-nest-and-f-kafkas-metamorphosis/.

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IvyPanda. "Comparison of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest and F. Kafka’s Metamorphosis." April 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-of-the-movie-one-flew-over-the-cuckoo-nest-and-f-kafkas-metamorphosis/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Comparison of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest and F. Kafka’s Metamorphosis." April 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-of-the-movie-one-flew-over-the-cuckoo-nest-and-f-kafkas-metamorphosis/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Comparison of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest and F. Kafka’s Metamorphosis'. 17 April.

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