Essay on Control in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

Essay on Control in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

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Control in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

Ken Kesey?s masterpiece novel One Flew over the Cuckoo?s Nest uses many themes, symbols, and imagery to illustrate the reality of the lives of a group of mental patients. The element of control is a central, arguably the largest, and the most important theme in the novel. The element of control revolves around the two main characters of the novel, Randle P. McMurphy, and Nurse Ratched. These two characters are the exact antithesis of each other, and they both seek to get their own way. They both realize that in order to get their own way, they must gain control over their rival and the ward. McMurphy and Nurse Ratched have different methods of attaining and using what control they have. They have different motives for seeking control over others. They also have different perceptions of the amount of control they possess. Throughout the novel, these two characters engulf themselves in an epic struggle for the most control. This struggle for control proves to be futile for both characters as they watch what control they thought had collapse like a house of cards. The element of control in Cuckoo?s Nest contains a certain definition. Control as it applies to the characters in Cuckoo?s Nest means that one character has substantial influence over the actions of another character. This control can influence another character?s attitudes, emotions, reactions, or even how they live their day-to-day life. The character of Chief Bromden provides an excellent example of how strong an influence control has over a character in Cuckoo?s Nest. The Chief has multiple delusions in which he imagines society as a dreadful machine he calls ?The Combine?. The Chief believes The Combine uses se...


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...s control through power, authority, and fear. In the end, they believe they have control over the other, but they do not realize that they both have lost control until it is too late. They both pay a harsh penalty for their struggle to gain control over the ward. Nurse Ratched forever loses her precious power status and authority over the institution, while McMurphy loses the friends he tired to help, his personality, and eventually his life. Throughout the novel, these two characters relentlessly fight to control each other. They both realize that control can never be absolute. This idea does not occur to either of them until after they have lost everything they sought to control. This is what makes the element of control such an important theme in One Flew over the Cuckoo?s Nest.

Works Cited:

Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. London: Pan, 1973.

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