IV The Emperor
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Emperor card is one that deals with self-asserted power. It is aggressive authority, creating it's
own environmental control with an innate instinct and skill to do so. Others are drawn to follow the
emperor, and respect his leadership. It is a card of great traits, like power, command and experience
but the emperor is also subject to boredom, restlessness and impatience.
I chose McMurphy from the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and as I reread Ken Kesey's masterpiece
it's meanings breathed within the lines and pages. Randle McMurphy was the emperor of the asylum. He
made that clear in his first minutes entering the hospital. He greeted all the patients (regardless of
whether they be acute or chronic) and let himself be known. He told them he
liked to know who he'd be playing (cards) with.
He quickly challenged whoever was the "bull goose loony" of the place, and
explained that he was accustomed to being top man. Since Harding seemed to be loosely the leader of the
group, McMurphy let him know clearly there was only room for one bull goose loony, and
that he was so crazy, he not only voted for Eisenhower last election but that he was planning to vote for
him again next election!
I think initially it was more about dominance for McMurphy, but ultimately he found
himself becoming a true leader. He inspired those around him to be who they really were, and to care
about living. He got not only respect but great love from those around him, and they believed he
believed in them. He gained true power, and for the first time was a threat over the enemy, Nurse Ratched.
In the end McMurphy made the biggest sacrifice in the emperor's fight and lost his mind. The chief
understood this and suffocated him so his legend would survive longer than his body. In this
illustration, we have McMurphy at his throne, playing cards with some of the other patients in the
asylum feeling pretty good about himself.