Ken Kesey's use of symbolism in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest transforms the novel and the hospital within the novel a microcosm of society, a battle between the sane and insane, the conformist and the non-conformist. Randle McMurphy's arrival influenced the lives of almost every person, whether patient or employee. Whether or not his motives and actions were moral or good-hearted is difficult to conclude, however. On one hand, he undoubtedly saved the patients from losing their souls, so to speak, to Nurse Ratched and her ward. Without him, they would not have been able to stand up for themselves or grow a sense of self-appreciation and competence. On the other hand, there was a price to pay for these freedoms. McMurphy's and Billy Bibbit's deaths showed just how much control The Big Nurse had on her patients. The role each character plays in this showdown symbolizes the realistic confrontations between the mentally unstable and the rest of society that has been going on for centuries.
Randle Patrick McMurphy is a powerful, intelligent man, a true non-conformist. He comes to the mental institution to avoid the tedious work forced upon him at the prison he was assigned to. His playful, jolly attitude towards the patients surprises them since they have not seen such contention since they came to the ward. It is obvious from the beginning of the novel as to McMurphy?s most superficial motives. He is a con man, constantly making bets with naïve, mentally ill men. The fact that he never tries to outsmart or cheat them, however, makes him respected and admired by the patients. McMurphy?s tattoo, a poker hand with ace?s and eight?s, the ?dead man?s hand?, symbolizes both his obsession with gambling and his eventual death. Despite his consistent attempts to make a profit, McMurphy?s main concern is the welfare of his new friends in the hospital. He sees how they can no longer think for themselves or demand their civil rights. Even beyond that, he cannot fathom the fact that many of the patients voluntarily checked themselves into the ward, and may leave at any time. McMurphy starts out as somewhat conceited and self-absorbed. As the novel progresses, he becomes a role model for the other patients, showing them how to take control of their own destinies and rebelling against the overwhelming power of the ?Combin...
... middle of paper ...
...ever, Ratched seems to accept it and sets out to beat him. In the end, Ratched does win by giving McMurphy a lobotomy. This perhaps symbolizes the thousands of deaths of men and women rebelling against the system, doing whatever it takes to win their freedom.
Nurse Ratched symbolizes several different things. First and foremost, she portrays the control of society over what is normal and acceptable. Any resistance to this order will be ?fixed?, using any means necessary to force him to concede. She also represents the views of the author on women. A consistent theme of misogyny exists throughout the novel. Women are seen as either submissive prostitutes or controlling ogres. Whether it be Chief Bromden?s cutthroat mother, the Big Nurse, or Candy, women are never seen as equals to men or even remotely affable.
McMurphy and Nurse Ratched go through a finely crafted and strategic battle of good against evil, man against woman, the individual against society. Although it seems that the individual will never beat society, the sacrifices made by brave people like McMurphy are never forgotten.
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. London: Pan, 1973.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is about the power structure of a mental ward from the perspective of a patient, Bromden. The story takes place during the 1950's in Oregon. Many of the patients on the ward are not necessarily insane however do not fit in with pre established societal norms and have chosen a life away from these norms. The men who are voluntary have given in to the staff and follow them like sheep, however, the men who are committed need controlling according to society so they were sent to the ward.... [tags: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest]
1030 words (2.9 pages)
- Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest The theme of this story “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” according to Daniel Woods is “Power is the predominant theme of Ken Kesey's 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest': who holds power, who doesn't, who wants it, who loses it, how it is used to intimidate and manipulate and for what purposes, and, most especially, how it is disrupted and subverted, challenged, denied and assumed” (http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/cuckoosnest/essays/essay1.html).... [tags: Ken Kesey Flew Cuckoo's Nest Essays]
1184 words (3.4 pages)
- Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey's use of symbolism in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest transforms the novel and the hospital within the novel a microcosm of society, a battle between the sane and insane, the conformist and the non-conformist. Randle McMurphy's arrival influenced the lives of almost every person, whether patient or employee. Whether or not his motives and actions were moral or good-hearted is difficult to conclude, however. On one hand, he undoubtedly saved the patients from losing their souls, so to speak, to Nurse Ratched and her ward.... [tags: Ken Kesey Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest Essays]
1163 words (3.3 pages)
- Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a multidimensional novel with many important messages in which Kesey strives to relay to the readers. Kesey did not write this novel for the sole purpose of entertainment, even though it was very entertaining, but did write it with the intent to show the readers many realities of life. First of all Kesey shows in this book that how people are perceived in society may not really be how that person is and that things are sometimes different than what they seem.... [tags: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Essays]
852 words (2.4 pages)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, written by Ken Kesey in 1962, is a book about a lively con man that turns a mental institution upside down with his rambunctious antics and sporadic bouts with the head nurse. Throughout the book, this man shows the others in the institution how to stand up for themselves, to challenge conformity to society and to be who they want to be. It is basically a book of good versus evil, the good being the con man R.P. McMurphy, and the bad being the head nurse, Nurse Ratched.... [tags: One Flew Cuckoo's Nest Kesey]
932 words (2.7 pages)
- Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a book in which he dealt with the issues of racism, sex and authority that is going on in a mental institute. In the novel, the women are depicted as the power figures who are able to significantly manipulate the patients on the ward. There are four ways of Ken Kesey’s using of “woman” as a subject: Superiority of male sexuality over female authority, matriarchal system that seeks to castrate men in the society, mother figures as counterpart of Big Nurse and “Womanish” values defined as civilizing in the novel.... [tags: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest]
2138 words (6.1 pages)
- Chief Bromden's Escape in Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest How can you be big and small at the same time. In Ken Kesey's novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Chief Bromden is one of the inmates in an insane asylum who escapes the Institution. Many of the other inmates are afraid of the Institution and cannot escape. How does Chief escape. McMurphy helps him break free. He teaches Chief how to be strong and independent again. He listens to Chief and helps him get back his self-confidence.... [tags: Ken Kesey Cuckoo's Nest]
1212 words (3.5 pages)
- Everyone at some point in their lives have felt different or out of place. Everyone has also either had a bully or that one person they just didn't want to be around them or anyone they knew. Furthermore, everyone has had that one person they admired for sticking up for themselves and saying what they wanted, even if it meant sure punishment. In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, these three attributes stick out in the story. A discussion of the setting, theme, and character situations of the story will help one understand how those feelings fall into line with most every person on the streets today.... [tags: Kesey Flew Cuckoo's Nest Analysis]
1294 words (3.7 pages)
- Laughter as Therapy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey Laughter is a therapeutic form. In the novel One flew over the cuckoo’s nest by Ken Kesey laughter represents freedom and an escape from nurse Ratched’s restrictions. Laughter also proves a vital role in helping the patients deal with their problems. Not only does it help them deal with problems but it also gave them the push toward progress on getting out of the institution. Mcmurphy was the one who started making people laughing in the ward.... [tags: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest]
1080 words (3.1 pages)
- Chief Bromden is a character who has to work his way back to being and acting like a real human after so many years of being 'dehumanized' (Porter 49) into a machine created by the evil Nurse Ratched. I. Bromden in the beginning A. Dehumanized by Nurse Ratched 1. structured 2. forbids laughing 3. controlling B. The effect that the Nurse and the ward have on Bromden 1. could not smell 2. thinks of himself as little 3. hides in the fog 4. fears everything 5. sees himself as comic 6. hallucinates II.... [tags: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest]
3215 words (9.2 pages)