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Mental illness refers to a certain psychological anomaly (normally shown in a person’s behavior), generally linked with the disability to form normal development in the society. It features actions, feelings, perceptions and thoughts of a person and is always associated with specific regions of human brain. This paper focuses on analyzing “Chief” Bromden, the main character of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He will be studied according to Dr. Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis.

The main character is featured as the son of a white mother and a Native American father. The half-Indian character acts the narrator, who has been the patient of Oregon Psychiatric hospital for ten years. Not only does “Chief” Bromden tell his story about the events in the hospital, but he also highlights the entire journey of his life towards gaining sanity. He is constantly paranoid and bullied, having been surrounded most of the time by hallucinating fog; it symbolizes his state after medication as well as desire to escape the reality of matters. The movie depicts Bromden as a hopeless person lacking self-belief. This is evident when he is portrayed as 6 feet and 7 inches tall; but, since people had been belittling him for a long period of time, which was opposed to his self-awareness of being big, he begins belittling himself too. In addition, he feels oppressed from his childhood. This feeling is fuelled by his former experience when 3 government officials came to witness his father purchasing land in his tribe; but, since Bromden was alone at home at that moment, the officials ignored him. This sowed the seeds of withdrawal into himself as well as initiated him into the treatment of the world as though he was truly deaf and dumb.

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According to Sigmund Freud, the approach of understanding psych delineates that development of a person must be established by looking into the events surrounding their previous lives apart from the inherited constitution of the individual personality. Other tenets stipulated by Freud include: determination of cognition, human behavior, and experience by irrational unconscious drives, bringing the discovered drives into awareness to conform to a defense mechanism. In addition, conflicts arising between conscious and repressed material can cause mental disturbance such as anxiety, neurosis, depression and neurotic traits among others; moreover, it is only possible to achieve liberation from the overall effect arising from unconscious material by exposing the material to a conscious mind.


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Borrowing from Freud’s theory of psychological fixation, Bromden’s life is shaped by the anal stage of his psychological development. In this stage, the child learns how to be able to control anal simulation. It is at this point where ego develops. In the movie, Bromden is disturbed during his childhood after witnessing the decline of his father due to the horrors of World War II in which emasculating authority is involved. The figures of authority gave Bromden fodder for his dark vision of society to be a conglomeration which he refers to as combine.

In addition, the character expresses conflicts between id and ego. Id, which requires immediate gratification, takes the better part of him. This is evidenced by the fact that, after entering the hospital, his sanity slipped away to immediately gratify desires of the mind. In relation, his sanity slipped after receiving rumors that he was to undergo 200 electroshock treatments performed under heavy machines.

In conclusion, based on the definition of mental illnesses and Freudian analysis, “Chief” Bromden’s case can be qualified as a case of a mental illness. This is because he suffers hallucinations and paranoia as a result of conflicts between the conscious and unconscious material, which is one of the key tenets for psychoanalysis.

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