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An Analysis of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

 

 

        One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey, is about patients

and doctors in a mental institution.  The author talks a lot about what

goes on in this institute.  The main points in this book deal with control,

be it the character of McMurphy who is unable to handle control, or Nurse

Ratched the head nurse on the ward whose job requires her to be in control.

The world of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is dark; it is a place where

control leads to destruction, but the novel shows through the character of

The Chief that there is still hope if the people who are being controlled

have the power to resist.

 

      Nurse Ratched is a mean woman whose job revolves around control.

She depends on people who are less fortunate than her to make a living.

Her need to control others is an unfortunate trait that she has because it

makes people unable to think for themselves and it also leads to

destruction.  One example of this is when Nurse Ratched caught one of the

patients (Billy Bibbit) with a woman.  The nurse feeling the need to

control Billy threatened to tell his mother.  Billy begged Nurse Ratched

not to tell her but when his requests were refused Billy slashed his neck

with a broken bottle and killed himself.  Billy's life was destroyed

because of Nurse Ratched's need to control others.

 

      Another place that we see the dark world is when we examine the

relationship between Nurse Ratched and R.P. McMurphy.  McMurphy is a happy

and rebellious man.  He is not used to being controlled, so when he gets

into the institution he refuses to be controlled by Nurse Ratched, "I can

get the best of that woman- before the week is up-without her getting the

best of me".  Nurse Ratched constantly feels the need to control McMurphy.

Ever since the moment that McMurphy walks into the institute Nurse Ratched

tells him what to do, when to sit in the circle, when to eat, when to take

his medicine, and so on.  At first McMurphy tries not to listen to Nurse

Ratched because he doesn't want anyone to feel stronger than him, "A man go

around lettin' a woman whup him down till he can't laugh no more and he

loses the biggest edge he's got on his side.  First thing you know he'll

begin to think she's tougher than he is".  Near the end of the novel when

Billy Bibbit commits suicide, because of Nurse Ratched, McMurphy strangles

her while attempting to kill her.  At that point the nurse realizes that

there is no way to control McMurphy, so McMurphy is then given a lobotomy

and is no longer able to function as a normal human being.  McMurphy's

freedom to live was taken away, he was left as a lifeless human being

because of Nurse Ratched's inability to control him.

 

      Throughout the novel we see people being controlled, lives being

destroyed, and people being brainwashed. We also see one character who is

able to resist, to hide from,  and totally ignore the Nurses, Doctors, and

the others trying to control him.  His name is Mr. Brombden  but goes by

the name of Big Chief.  Chief pretends that he his deaf and dumb so that he

doesn't have to answer to the authority figures on the ward. In his mind he

has an idea that there is fog all around him, and whenever he is told what

to do or where to go he hides behind the fog.  The fog is the chief's

escape "you can slip back in it and feel safe".  When McMurphy comes into

the ward Chief starts to worry, he is afraid because McMurphy is making

things tougher on the patients because of his fights with Nurse Ratched

"That's what McMurphy can't understand, us wanting to be safe.  He keeps

trying to drag us out of the fog, out in the open where we'd be easy to get

at".  At the end of the novel when McMurphy is given a lobotomy, Chief

realizes that he is not so safe.  Chief escapes from the institution and

runs away to Canada.  Chief is a figure of hope in the novel he shows us

that there is still a way out for those who are being controlled.

 

      The novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest shows us darkness, and it

shows us a world where control leads to destruction.  It shows us lives

destroyed, people who are so obsessed with control that they do not think

of others even if their job requires them to do so.  However, it shows us

hope.  Hope for those who are being controlled, hope for those who just

can't take the harsh strict rules that are imposed upon them.  The world of

One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest is like a dark grey cloud, a dark grey cloud

with a silver lining.

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