Examples Of Individualism In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Essay example

Examples Of Individualism In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Essay example

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The novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey tells a story of Nurse Ratched, the head nurse of a mental institution, and the way her patients respond to her harsh treatment. The story is told from the perspective of a large, Native-American patient named Bromden; he immediately introduces Randle McMurphy, a recently admitted patient, who is disturbed by the controlling and abusive way Ratched runs her ward. Through these feelings, McMurphy makes it his goal to undermine Ratched’s authority, while convincing the other patients to do the same. McMurphy becomes a symbol of rebellion through talking behind Ratched’s back, illegally playing cards, calling for votes, and leaving the ward for a fishing trip. His shenanigans cause his identity to be completely stolen through a lobotomy that puts him in a vegetative state. Bromden sees McMurphy in this condition and decides that the patients need to remember him as a symbol of individuality, not as a husk of a man destroyed by the system. Bromden suffocates his only friend with a pillow so that his unconstrained ideas of individualism can live on. He then throws a heavy control panel through one of the windows to escape the institution. The novel ends with Bromden being freed from the institution, but begins with him recapping the events that occurred in the institution as he is narrating the story from within the institution. Kesey uses this confusing paradox to establish the idea that society is inescapable and it punishes those who do not conform to the widely accepted rules and expectations.

Nurse Ratched’s iron-fisted authority and extensive regulations are a direct representation of the way society uses rules and social norms to control the individual. Everything about Ra...


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...res society employs to keep people docile and impressionable are punished. Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a prime example of those perspectives. Nurse Ratched used rules and psychological abuse to chip away at the individualism of her patients and gain power over them. McMurphy showed these oppressed people how to combat their oppressor and think for themselves. He was punished by Ratched, but served as a martyr for freedom and inspired Bromden to reject his imprisonment and escape the institution. However, we are forced to question whether Bromden actually escaped and on top of that, whether or not escape is even possible. The open-endedness of the story leaves the reader to question their individual essence, how they are being affected by their society, and if human beings are able to completely reject society while maintaining their individuality.

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