One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Laughter Symbol Analysis

Laughter Symbol Icon
After Randle McMurphy arrives, Chief Bromden notices that his laughter is the first genuine laughter he has heard in years. The longer McMurphy is on the ward, the more the men begin to laugh. Laughter becomes a symbol and an active representation of the men’s freedom, even though they are basically imprisoned by the ward and by society. They can still find pleasure in their small rebellions and jokes, and this happiness—as embodied by laughter—cannot be taken from them.
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Laughter Symbol Timeline in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The timeline below shows where the symbol Laughter appears in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part One
Institutional Control vs. Human Dignity Theme Icon
...only hear his loud voice, which reminds Bromden of his father’s once booming voice. McMurphy laughs, for no identifiable reason, and Bromden realizes it’s the first laugh he’s heard in years. (full context)
Institutional Control vs. Human Dignity Theme Icon
The Combine: Machine, Nature, and Man Theme Icon
Emasculation and Sexuality Theme Icon
...introduces himself to everyone in the day room as a gambler and a fool, still laughing. He says he requested a transfer from the Pendleton Work Farm so that he could... (full context)
Institutional Control vs. Human Dignity Theme Icon
Emasculation and Sexuality Theme Icon
...most unsettling thing for him walking into the ward was that he hasn’t heard anyone laugh. He claims without laughter you start to lose your “footing,” and if a man lets... (full context)
Sanity v. Insanity Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Human Dignity Theme Icon
The Combine: Machine, Nature, and Man Theme Icon
...them back their confidence by letting them win all their losses back by the end—and laughing all the while. (full context)
Institutional Control vs. Human Dignity Theme Icon
The Combine: Machine, Nature, and Man Theme Icon
...McMurphy has his admission interview with Dr. Spivey, and when McMurphy returns they are both laughing. At the group meeting afterward, Dr. Spivey says that McMurphy’s suggested a plan to fix... (full context)
Part Three
Sanity v. Insanity Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Human Dignity Theme Icon
Social Pressure and Shame Theme Icon
The Combine: Machine, Nature, and Man Theme Icon
...the men who plead with him to pull in the fish; he just watches and laughs. The patients look foolish trying to reel in their fish, and Bromden cuts his thumb.... (full context)
Part Four
Institutional Control vs. Human Dignity Theme Icon
Social Pressure and Shame Theme Icon
...the night before. As Nurse Ratched discovers more and more damning evidence, the patients start laughing uncontrollably, which only makes Nurse Ratched angrier. Turkle opens up the screen on the window... (full context)