The theme of leadership in the ward does not mirror the outside world very accurately, as in contemporary society a leader of a society or an organisation is almost always accountable to a person senior to him. This is not seen in the novel, as Big Nurse seems to be answerable to no one, in fact, it is arguable that everyone answers to her. A hierarchy or class system operates inside the ward which can be clearly seen throughout the course of the novel. Patients living within the ward are ‘classed’ according to the state of their mental health or to the condition of which they suffer from. Chief describes the method of discriminating patients from one another:
‘Across the room from the Acutes are the Chronics… Not in the hospital, these, to get fixed, but to keep them walking the streets…’ (17)
Patients are divided into two categories of Acutes & Chronics:
Chronics are those patients who have a condition which is untreatable, ’machines with flaws which cannot be repaired’ (17) and can only be controlled with medical methods. They will spend the rest of their lives inside the ward of the hospital. Patients who are seen as being likely to recover from their illness, and will return to society.
Acutes are those patients e.g. Harding, who are seen as being likely to recover from their illness, and will return to society. Chronics can either have full use of their bodies or can be again sub-categorised into Wheelers and Vegetables; Those whose movement is impaired to such an extent, they can only move by being pushed around in wheelchairs. Vegetables are patients who, through excessive ECT ‘Shock Shop’ (18) or through t...
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... the rules.
Although many countries have abolished the use of corporal or capital punishment for serious crimes, North America is one such a country where, depending on the state, a person may face capital punishment by lethal injection, electric chair or gas chamber. The ward applies corporal punishment in the form of the ECT and it may be argued that a lobotomy is a form of capital punishment because the patient has little or no quality of life left after the procedure, so they might as well have been killed.
Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest mirrors, in the behavior of it’s characters, contemporary society very accurately and can still be relied on, as a contemporary text, an accurate display of the treatment of patients within a mental hospital today.
Kesey, Ken. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. New York: Viking, 1962
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