Throughout life, one is taught that there are certain things that are right, and other things that are considered wrong. Amongst these teachings, one of the first lessons that a human being learns is to obey authority. A child is initially taught to obey his parents, and as he grows older, this authority figure changes from a parent into a teacher into a boss. However, amongst every group or community, a few figures stand out as people who refuse to obey the authoritarian figure simply because they are expected to: rebels.
Whether one may admit it or not, rebellion is a central theme in society today. It can be seen within any group of people, whether it be a classroom or a sect of a religion. Naturally, this idea of rebellion also extends into the culture of a society. In the novels One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest and A Clockwork Orange, as well as the film Cool Hand Luke, rebellion is a constant theme that eventually establishes the influence of the central characters in the stories. In Ken Kesey’s novel, McMurphy is the constant embodiment of rebellion against authority.
The ease with which he damages the machine created by Nurse Ratchet within the ward is a perfect example of the influence a rebel can have within the community. Between the time of his arrival and his death, he turns seemingly incurable mental patients such as Chief Bromden into functioning human beings by simply giving them the hope that they can think for themselves once more, and do not have to rely on a nurse for their every whim. However, McMurphy’s rebellion changed as he stayed at the hospital for an extended period of time.
At first, the rebellion was only to annoy the too strict nurse who he felt was a nuisance. As time passed however, his rebellion gained a purpose to give the other patients hope and believe in themselves so that they could break away from the nurse’s mind controlling machine. This is indicated several times throughout the novel as the fog surrounding Chief Bromden clears up throughout the novel, eventually giving the Chief the courage to escape. McMurphy’s rebellion had a colossal impact on the hospital as his legend took away the ultimate mental power from authority, and gave the patients a reason to believe once more.
Although Kesey’s novel gave victory to the rebel over the authoritarian figure, the same cannot be said in A Clockwork Orange. After reading through the novel, it is clear that Alex’s continuous rebellions did nothing but steer people away from him. For example, from the time that Alex is first arrested to the time when he is released, Dim goes from being a rebel to being a cop. Also Pete ends up giving up his life of crime in order to settle down. These examples show that although Alex may have rebelled against authority, he was not a leader despite his two stints at leading a gang.
It is significant to also note that not only did Alex lose his friends to authority, he lost himself to the authoritarian figure as well. Instead of fighting till the very end like McMurphy or Luke, Alex decides in the end that the violence and rebellion was not worth the effort on his part because his rebellion truly had no purpose to it. This lack of purpose is why Alex’s rebellion against authority ultimately failed. Luke’s rebellion in Cool Hand Luke is a mirror image of the one staged by McMurphy in One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest.
This being said however, Luke’s efforts only gave the prisoners mental strength instead of spurring them on to escape themselves. Luke first gains the respect of his fellow prisoners by eating fifty eggs in an hour. This respect is what gives Luke the continuous motivation to try to escape the prison. Even after being tortured following his first attempt at escaping, Luke is able to escape once more in order to keep hope within the hearts of the prisoners. His final stand which defied the sheriff’s allows Dragline to keep Luke’s legacy alive at the camp as the prisoners continuously dream of an escape.
It is unclear whether or not Luke’s rebellion had any real impact as the prisoner’s are unable to escape. However, Luke’s defiance until the very end shows that Luke did defeat authority as he lives on past his physical death as a legend at the prison. All three stories give an example of the different affects a rebel can have when fighting the authority within a society. In the case of McMurphy and Luke, it clear that they beat the authority as they died without submitting control and giving up on their rebellion.
Alex on the other hand gives in as he eventually gives up on his fight and submits to having a normal life within the expectations of community. These stories demonstrate the concept that a rebellion is acceptable as long as there is a justifiable purpose, hence why McMurphy and Luke succeed while Alex fails in their respective rebellions. Even though all three rebellions did not succeed, they all proved that even though some rebellions will not have a lasting influence on society, all rebellion will have immediate impact on the lives of people.