Fog can be described as ominous, unpredictable and rather spooky, but to Chief Bromden, it’s all he knows. The story opens in the late 1950s, Chief has been living on a psychiatric ward for many years as what is considered a “chronic”, for how many and what exactly is his diagnosis is unknown to the one who is reading. Compared to the other chronics featured in the story, Chief greatly differs from them. It almost seems as if he is aware of where he is and what it means for him to be there. He is so invested in this idea, he has been pretending to be unable to speak or hear in order to avoid certain situations such as conflict that might rise on the ward. A side from this Chief often seeks refuge from his surroundings within his mind and often hallucinates. A recurring vision he has “being trapped in the fog” , there is often a pattern seen when this happens. When Chief begins to think more or fall into a deeper state of his illness, the fog grows thicker causing him to get frightened and uncomfortable with his surroundings. In instances when Chief is minding his own business such as sweeping or standing silently, the fog is nowhere to be found. The author, Ken Kesey created the fog as a metaphor for how society treats the non conformists. Once society discovered people like Chief (the fog appears) they are put away to essentially be seasoned in order to be what society wants them to be (the fog disappears). Chief’s case is a little different. True he is mentally ill, but unlike the other Chronics, Chief understands the system and how it treats everyone and everything that is considered different or abnormal so much so he often refers to it as the combine. A machine that sorts and cleans wheat.
When one thing isn’t necessarily like the other, will society turn the other cheek and reject it. This idea has been instilled from childhood, people are taught to “cross out” what’s “different” and do nothing to those that “belong”. When Chief is speaking about the fog he recalls it as an uncomfortable and rather frightening experience. In other words Chief is wandering around in society being discriminated against, due to his illness, he is aware he is being treated differently socially therefore it affects his level of comfortability. “Sometimes I got lost in it anyway, got in too deep trying to hide, and every time I did, it seemed like I always turned up at that same place, at that same metal door” He then goes on to say “ I’d wander for days in the fog, scared I’d never see another thing…” (131) At first Chief is not aware of the situation he just minding his business going on about his day. Then he is discovered as being sick, trying to hide himself for reasons of hiding his condition and ends up at the metal door. In this situation the “same metal door” is literal, it’s the door in the mental hospital that leads to where he and other patients on the ward get occasional and sometimes regular treatment by ways of electroshock therapy.
Getting treated for a condition is a rather normal part of every healing process no matter the condition. Treatments are prescribed as an effort to make one feel better, according to their own personal preferences. As time passes while living on the ward, Chief continues to receive treatment, however it is unknown to the reader who has given the hospital permission to advise said procedures. “ So I used to try not to get in too deep, for fear I’d get lost and turn up at the shock shop door…. They kept making the fog thicker and thicker, and it seemed to me that, no matter how hard I tried two or three times a month I found myself with that door opening in front of me.” (132) After receiving many treatments Chief has an epiphany “then I discovered something: I don’t have to end up at that door if I stay still when the fog comes over me and just keep quiet.” (132) Chief understands how the treatment is affecting him so he does what society wants him to do to. By pretending he is deaf and mute no one knows the true diagnosis, therefore Chief is escaping the treatment he so loathes and he blends in with society. After creating his disabled facade Chief ultimately comes to terms with who he is. “ I figured that anything was better’n being lost for good, even the shock shop. Now, I don’t know. Being lost isn’t so bad”.(132) Although it is against society’s wishes Chief accepts his fate a chronic, despite this very crucial detail on his character development, he does show a few signs bit of conformity. By pretending he is deaf and mute he isn’t perceived as “crazy” as his fellow chronics living on the ward, therefore he is beginning to fit the bill for what society wants.
Chief Bromden is a victim of a system that doesn’t embrace flaws in individuals. There is evidence showing that he is mentally ill and none what so ever supporting the claim that treatment he is receiving is necessary for his condition or that he wanted it. In fact there is more evidence supporting the claim that he understands how the system treats those who they consider different. Chief is a prime example of how society, (both during the time the novel takes place and now) refuses to appreciate those who are different. An individual might be comfortable with themselves and how they are living but the outside looking in want them to change in order to create a “normal and just world”, it may be what they consider right but it morally and ethically wrong