The intricate nature of the human mind, temper and ambitions has always been a subject to numerous inspired researches and discourses. The peculiarities of human behavior within the society which increasingly values adaptation and conformity are thus a diverse and versatile matter. The present essay is aimed at exploration of the different patterns of behavior and personal reactions of the two distinctive fictional characters, the Monkey King from Monkey: A Journey to the West and McMurphy from the film One Flight over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in similar situations.
According to the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, each human being is first and foremost an individual and should pursue the life in its original simplicity. Lao Tzu advocates the primary importance of individual spirituality. People’s opinions and constant urge for action prevent them from perceiving the nature and create internal disharmony. Conversely, by being quiet and following the ways of nature, people spontaneously discover what is true and eternal. Lao Tzu also recognizes the fact that every significant spiritual transformation is always accompanied by an inner struggle. This struggle is a natural human reaction to the things that are difficult to comprehend or agree with.
The Monkey King is a very dynamic and energetic character. He is determined, eager, proud, impulsive, and daring. He has a lively inquisitive mind, demands attention and desires to achieve success. His original ambition being to achieve power, authority and immortality, the Monkey King went to Heaven aiming to become one of the immortal creatures.
The Monkey’s ardent and often impetuous behavior disturbed the prudent and sensible heavenly residents. The Jade Emperor, although the readers might have expected him to be more composed and tolerant, intended to deal with the Monkey by means of battle. However, the spirit of the planet Venus suggested granting the Monkey the title he desired to have. Although the status would provide no actual authority, it would also prevent the Monkey from continuing to disrupt the harmony in Heaven. The wisdom of this approach was clearly revealed on pages 53 – 55, and proved that giving Monkey a pretense title and a place of honor in Heaven also provided the authorities with an opportunity to supervise his behavior.
Furthermore, the Jade Emperor ordered a separate palace for the Monkey, situated next to the Queen Mother’s peach grove. The Emperor stressed that the Monkey was ‘to look after the Garden of Immortal Peaches. I will expect you to give this your full attention. It is an important position, not to be taken lightly.’ (55). On page 56, we read that ‘One day [the Monkey] saw that a group of trees in the back garden bore fruit that was beginning to ripen. Monkey was very curious to sample the taste of these immortal peaches.’ This reveals the Monkey’s anxious mind and curiosity. He did not yield to the temptation of tasting this beautiful magical fruit and gradually ate up all the best peaches from the trees. One day the Seven-Gown Immortal Maidens came to pick peaches for the Heavenly Peach Banquet and from them the Monkey learned that he was not invited to this grand festival, thus realizing that he has been deceived and neglected. His pride was deeply insulted, and he decided to attend the Banquet anyway and disrupt its course. Eventually, he stole all the peaches, drank great amounts of wine and wandered into the laboratory where the sage Lao Tzu packaged the immortality elixir he invented into pills. The Monkey ate all the pills he managed to find and realized what trouble he had gotten himself into only after sobering up. However, he did not detest what he had done and believed that he was absolutely right and that his actions were fully justified.
A similar theme of a rebellious character protesting against the oppressive regular order and attempts of the official authorities to govern his life is depicted in The Fly over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The main character, McMurphy, a free-spirited man with a criminal past arrives at the hospital for mentally disabled people and makes continuous attempts to disrupt the social order he dislikes and live up to the alternative, which he believes to be more suitable, humane and impartial. McMurphy seems to sympathize with patients and strive for his persuasions. This is best revealed when during the Christmas celebration he initiates the escape from the overbearing institution in an attempt to free the minds of his fellow patients and demonstrate them that there is much more to life than concrete rules and the compulsion of being ‘mentally stable’.
Both McMurphy and the Monkey reveal strong anti-authoritarian attitudes. They do not tolerate conformity and strive for self-affirmation. It is my belief that these two characters are greatly similar in their nature representing allusions of the rebellious spirit that exists inside every human being. However, whereas the Monkey also desires to achieve immortality, absolute authority and power, McMurphy seems less ambitious. He strives to pursue the natural flow of life, and have the right to make mistakes and learn from them on his own, intuitively, rather than being compulsively taught things with which he does not necessarily agree.
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In my opinion, according to the concepts advocated by Lao Tzu, McMurphy could be described as an individual going through the necessary transformations in the process of acquiring spiritual harmony. On the contrary, The Monkey during the Banquet of Immortal Peaches reveals far less ethical ambitions.