One Flew Over the Cuckoo\'s Nest and The Scarlet Letter: To Live With Fear


To live with fear and not be overcome by it is the final test of
maturity. This test has been "taken" by various literary characters. Chief
Bromden in Ken Kesey\'s One Flew over the Cuckoo\'s Nest and Reverend Arthur
Dimmesdale in Hawthorne\'s The Scarlet Letter both appear to have taken and
passed this test.

It first seemed as though the Chief was going to fail this test of
maturity in the mental ward that he was committed to. He had locked
himself up by acting deaf and dumb. He had immense fear of the "Combine,"
or society, that ruined things and people and treated them like machines,
giving orders and controlling them. Soon enough to "save" the Chief,
McMurphy arrived. He was lively, and not scared; the complete opposite of
the Chief. This courage eventually passed on to the Chief. At a meeting,
when McMurphy was holding a vote to prove that the patients wanted to see
the World Series, the Chief voted for it. At first he said that McMurphy
controlled his hand. Later on he admitted that it was he who raised it.
He even talked to McMurphy one night, and began laughing at the situation
at hand. One day when McMurphy and the Chief tried to help another patient
who was being taken advantage of by orderlies, they were caught and
sentenced to electro-shock therapy (EST). The Chi usually blacked out in a
fog when confronted with problems; however, this time (he had endured over
200 EST sessions previously) he did not. However, McMurphy was
deteriorating, and the two seemed to be reversing positions. McMurphy
eventually was sentenced to a lobotomy, which left him as a helpless,
pathetic person, as the Chief had once been. The Chief now had the courage
to put McMurphy out of his misery, despite what the head nurse, Nurse
Ratched, the symbol of the combine to the Chief, would do to him. He
smothered McMurphy, and afterwards, escaped by lifting the control panel,
which McMurphy told him that he could lift but the Chief saw himself as
"small," a symbol of his strength against the combine, and breaking a
window with it. The mere fact that the Chief could lift the panel was
proof that he had become "bigger," even than McMurphy, who could not lift
it. By confronting his fear and dealing with it, the Chief passed his test
of maturity.

Reverend Dimmesdale also lived in fear. Fear that one day he would be
found out as the father of the child of Hester Prynne, and an adulterer. If
he was found out, he could not serve his purpose on this earth: Relaying
God\'s word to the people. He feared that if found out, he would be
humiliated like Hester was. Also, he feared that Chillingworth, Hester\'s
husband, would take revenge upon him for corrupting her. Dimmesdale
eventually faced his fears, and in front of the townspeople, he, Hester,
and Pearl, their daughter, got up on the scaffolding that was used to
punish Hester, and confessed to his crimes. He passed his test of maturity
because he confronted the fear, and was not overcome by it, (although it
almost did overcome him: His health was failing rapidly due to his guilty
conscience). He knew that he would be humiliated, and that he was to leave
town with Hester that very day, but he confessed anyway. His confession
shows his maturity and proves that he "passed" the test.

A test of maturity is whether or not one is overcome by the fear they
live with. The Chief and Dimmesdale are two literary characters who lived
in fear and overcame it. Therefore, they both passed their test of
maturity by doing so.