The Role Of Fog In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest By Ken Kessey
The mental ward in the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kessey, isn’t at all what a typical ward would look like, but more of a strict monarchy run by Nurse Ratched. Throughout the book, numerous restrictions and completely unreasonable actions are put in place to supposedly help out the patients. But in reality, Nurse Ratched is practically brainwashing these mentally ill patients so that they will never leave her kingdom. Nurse Ratched uses these restrictions to maintain control over the patients.
The fog is a mental ideology present in all of the patients in the ward. This acts as a safety valve and as a wall between conformity and nonconformity. The fog prevents ward patients from rebelling against Nurse Ratched and from accepting reality or preserving any form of sanity. Chief Bromden describes the fact that “Nobody complains about all the fog. I know why, now; as bad as it is, you can slip back in it and feel safe. That’s what McMurphy can’t understand, us wanting to be safe.” He explains how a sense of security is provided by the fog. Patients 'slip back,' and withdraw to feel safer. What these innocent patients don’t know, is that they are just falling deeper and deeper into Nurse Ratched’s trap. Although Chief Bromden believes McMurphy “can’t understand, us wanting to be safe,” McMurphy is the only person who is arguably sane, and Bromden is the person who needs to understand. It's not until the arrival of Randle McMurphy that this mist starts to dissipate. McMurphy is the only one who chooses to step out of the haze, see the truth, and take action against the prevailing asylum oppression. McMurphy serves as a catalyst when it comes to the fog, eventually allowing Bromden to liberate himself. In a sense, he “opens the door” for Chief.
The fog is closely intertwined with the mindset of Bromden as he would remember military encounters where commanders would begin to fog the field in preparation for an invasion or covert action. In the beginning, the stress of war and constant fear influences the mental state and personality of Chief Bromden; he sees himself as an invisible person who merely creeps beside the wall completing his daily tasks. Most commonly, Chief deals with his miserableness by slipping into the mist of the haze. It dulls the intensity of his suffering once the fog is dense, brainwashing him into a fake ideology of protection: “Nobody can help. And the more I think about how nothing can be helped, the faster the fog rolls in. And I'm glad when it gets thick enough, you’re lost in it and can let go and be safe again”. Chief separates himself from his comrades, shrouded in the mist.
Although the fog can be seen as a negative impact on chief, his connections to the fog and the military were a key factor to his escape out of the ward and into reality: “You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself.” Living during the battle, Bromden was manipulating the mist that was used as a military strategy, and he is implementing the valuable lesson he gained. The decision whether to struggle and see distinctly in the fog and endure effort and sacrifice, or surrender to the fog and accept self-satisfaction and security. Bromden reveals that he is going to fight on the ward. The haze allows Bromden to hide from the ward's reality around him in this situation. The haze is a safety zone in which most people stay so that they do not conflict with the authorities. It reveals the mentality of Chief Bromden by causing him to think back about his experiences from the military such as the fog as a military tactic and trauma from war.