In the book, Beloved, by Toni Morrison and the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, featuring Jack Nickolson, both share a common theme of love and loving oneself. Morrison’s character, Baby Suggs, is the source of love for her people. Similarly, Jack Nicholson’s character McMurphy tries to give the men confidence, so that they can love themselves. To be loved is to be supported, whether succeeds or fail. This support gives the confidence needed to go day to day. In both situations, deprived characters have experienced traumatic events, which have made them unsure of what love is or even feels like. The roles of McMurphy and Baby Suggs are to show these characters that despite their troubled pasts, they can make it in the world, with proper support and love.
Before McMurphy arrives to the institution all of the other men depended on Nurse Ratchet. The reason some of the patients are in the ward is because they need support to survive day to day. Nurse Ratchet is a dictator that is controlling, and manipulative. The patients could not get better under the power of Nurse Ratchet. Instead of giving them love and support, she reminded them daily of their shortcomings. The patients needed someone to give them hope for the future, and make them believe in themselves.
The instant McMurphy is brought into the mental institution, the other men notice his energy. McMurphy is a man that likes to fight power. He originally was in jail for getting in multiple fights. When he gets to the hospital, he tries to go against the power of the Nurse Ratchet. First, he tries to get Nurse Ratchet to put the World Series on TV. The other patients are afraid of what is going to happen if they go against her power. McMurphy attempts to show the men that they can have an effect on what happens in the ward. He gets a vote to watch the series, but Nurse Ratchet makes sure that McMurphy does not win. By not letting them turn on the game, Nurse Ratchet reaffirms that the patients do not get to decide their activities because they are not capable. Again, McMurphy shows the men that they can. Even though the game is not on, McMurphy pretends that it is.
The Sacred Language of Toni Morrison
The Sacred Language of Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison makes a good point when, in her acceptance speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature, she says, “Narrative . . . is . . . one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge” (7). The words we use and the way in which we use them is how we, as humans, communicate to each other our thoughts, feelings, and actions and therefore our knowledge of the world and its peoples. Knowledge is power. In this way, our language, too, is powerful.
In her acceptance speech, Morrison tries to communicate the idea that we must be careful with how we use our words. She analogizes the use of language to the life of a metaphoric bird in a tale of a wise, old, blind woman. Toni Morrison opens her speech by referring to a tale of two young people who, in trying to disprove the credibility of this wise woman, ask the question, “ ‘Is the bird I am holding [in my hand] living or dead?’” (11). Of course, being blind, the woman does not know and must say so. However, she adds that, “ ‘What I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands’” (11). In saying this, she tells the youngsters that the fate of the bird’s life is their responsibility. The bird, in this case, represents language. Morrison explains, “So I choose to read the bird as language and the woman as a practiced writer” (12). The bird has either been found dead, been killed, or has the ability (if it is alive) to be killed, much as language, being looked at as a living thing, can live or die; be saved or destroyed. Language is “susceptible to death, erasure; certainly imperiled and salvageable only by an effort of the will” (Morrison 13). That will is the responsibility of those who …
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…ossible lives of its speakers, readers, writers,” (20) Morrison describes. The limits of what language can do are indefinite, unachievable, and inaccessible. For, really, there are no limits to language–no limits to knowledge–no limits to power–the power of the mind. “ ‘The future of language is yours,’” (23) Morrison tells us. It is in our hands. This is why we must hold the life of language sacred–the life of this bird, which has wings to make it soar.
Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth. “The Claims of a common Culture: Gender, Race, Class and the Canon.” Writing as Re-Vision: A Student’s Anthology. Ed. Beth Alvarado and Barbara Cully. Needham Heights: Simon