Today the manner in which he self-identifies. Bromden also

Today I will be discussing how Bromden experiences internal conflict and
explores his self-identity while being torn between two opposing cultures.
However, I would like to start off my presentation by watching a short clip
from a music video by a Canadian electronic music group, A Tribe Called Red. A
Tribe Called Red draws on the aspects of both cultures and blends western
dubstep with First Nations music. Please think to the relation between these
two cultures both audibly and consider the contrast that this present.

 

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Similarly seen in this clip, Bromden is caught between
a desire to maintain his Indian heritage while adapting to the norms of the dominant
white culture within North America. This internal conflict spans well beyond
Bromden’s ten years at an Oregon Mental Institute and includes a lifetime controlled
by questioning of identity. Many critics consider Bromden to be struggling with
deliberate psychosis which is a condition of the mind that involves loss of
contact with reality. Common symptoms include hallucinations and delusion. Bromden’s
impairment can be observed in his practice of silence.

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Oppression has been prominent in Bromden’s life since
childhood, being the son of Chief Tee Ah Millatoona and Mary Louise Bromden, a
white woman. Bromden comments that “I’m born into a name – Bromden” (pg. 246) which stresses the
belittlement of Bromden’s Native heritage since an early age and makes the
reader question the manner in which he self-identifies. Bromden also known as
‘Chief’ is first introduced to the reader as a “deaf and dumb” Indian (pg.23) that immediately
associates a persona of weakness within his character. Kesey chooses to exclude
Bromden’s first name from the novel which has traditional implications for the
son of a Chinook Indian Chief. Within many Native American cultures, names are
hereditary and assume spiritual personality. Without this information given, the
reader can sympathize with the lack of integration that Bromden seems to
experience as a half-Indian by origin.

 

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Another factor in Bromden taking his maternal surname
includes social simplicities.
“Papa says that name makes getting that Social Security card a lot easier”
(pg.246), clearly shows that his father despite motives to preserve
their heritage realizes the social advantages of disguising his son within a
‘white man’s world’.  This realization is
one of the first humiliations of the Combine.

–      
Bromden taking Mary’s surname greatly symbolized her
dominant force as white woman and her influence that she can possess not only
over her husband, but the tribe itself. This power ultimately encourages the
dismantling of Bromden’s tribe for economic access to the falls and allows for
his mother to be perceived as “Bigger than Papa and me together” (pg. 188).

 

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Disregarding Bromden’s name, serious tension can also
be observed in assumptions made by Western culture to Bromden’s physical
complexion. Physical size becomes an important concern
to Bromden, with memorable idolization of his father since childhood. Bromden
holds a conception of full-blood Native Americans being giants and himself in
comparison as smaller even though he is six feet seven inches (205cm). Bromden
is also self-conscious to his facial features that he assumes people consider
as funny; specifically, “an
Indians face and black, oily Indian’s hair” (pg.22). When Bromden is
first introduction to the reader as the narrator it is easy to see the extent
to which social conditioning has allowed him to hold little self-respect.

 

–      
McMurphy is quick to realize the implications of a
white woman and a Native American man marrying in that “When a town woman marries an Indian that’s marrying
somebody beneath her, ain’t it?” (pg.188) The complexities of a mixed
marriage at this time in America stirred much social confusion and allowed for
imbalanced power dynamics within the household. However curiously, Bromden’s
family choses to live on the reserve which stereotypically is associated with
drugs, alcohol and domestic violence. Bromden’s father is the typical
assumption of a product of living on a reserve. Bromden’s
recollection of his father includes “and the last I see him he’s blind in the cedars drinking” (pg. 189)
which follows his narration of taking his father to hospital in Portland and
watching him die due to alcohol poisoning. Bromden recollects this with little
emotion. This lack of emotion can be connected to the little respect that is
given to life on reservations and a common western mentality of “Can you imagine people wanting
to live this way” (pg. 180).

 

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One crucial memory that
arguably stems the belittlement of Bromden’s self-worth is that of three
government officials coming to his home on the reserve to speak to his father
about buying out the tribe’s land. With much harassment and sway from his wife,
Chief Tee Ah Millatoona succumbs to selling the land to build a hydroelectric
dam destroying any/and all the scaffolding for traditional fishing. Following
this event, Bromden sees his father’s strong figure diminish by being
overthrown by the white government. This instant is the catalyst for the
Combine which I believe is a mechanical approach to Western assimilation. The
Combine inferred as machinery, has direct collation to the destructive
machinery that would be used on the river destroying all the scaffolding
holding Bromden’s youth and identity “it wanted us to live in inspected house. It wanted to take the falls. It was even in the tribe”
(pg.188)

 

–      
Invisibility is an important element for Bromden
throughout the majority of the novel with relation to pretending to not
understand his surroundings as to melt into the background and surrounding
himself in fog. Noted in the Introduction by Robert Faggen, tricksters are
widely prevalent in North American Indian literature and are noted for
subverting all sense of hierarchy and expectations. The irony of this trickery
lies in fooling not only those around the individual but fooling them themselves.
I believe connection can be then drawn from the trap that Bromden has placed for
himself and how he struggles to find a manner in which to reclaim himself. “it wasn’t me that started
acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to
hear or see or say anything at all” (pg.178). This realization is the triggered
by McMurphy and is the first step in the disassembling of Combine and the
retrieval of his inner self.

 

–       Bromden watching the “Canadian honkers” flying South is insight to
the awareness to the outside world that Bromden recovers by the end of the
novel. Having had his natural impulses and connection to the land been
disregarded for more than twenty years, I believe Bromden feels a need to physically
return home. The Columbia river and memories of salmon fishing and hunting guide
Bromden in finding an inner balance and clarity of the mind that allows for
some hope seen on page 280, “I’ve even heard that some
of the tribe have took to building their old ramshackle wood scaffolding all
over the big million-dollar hydroelectric dam…I’d give something to see that”
(pg.281)

 

 

 

To conclude I believe that it is clear that
environment and upbringing were two elements that significantly altered
Bromden’s self-imagine and allowed for some exploration of his truest self.

Although I do not believe Bromden clearly
identifies himself as “Indian” or “half-Indian” by the end of the novel, I
believe that he is determined in finding some balance that is fitting for
himself.