Theme of Control in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Brave New World"

Theme of Control in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Brave New World"

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley both deal with enclosed cultures tightly controlled by an authority. Cuckoo’s Nest takes place in a psychiatric ward ruled by the ‘Big Nurse’ while Brave New World encompasses a wider society governed by the World State. Both societies function because dissent is prohibited. In each community an outsider appears who attempts to disrupt the control by exerting his free will. In both texts, free will must be eradicated because it is seen as a threat to the authority and stability of the society. By examining the manner in which control is exerted, the outsider as a subversive element and the necessity of the outsider’s death, one can determine the effectiveness of the protagonist’s sacrifice in these two novels.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey presents a situation which is a small scale and exaggerated model of modern society and its suppressive qualities. The story deals with the inmates of a psychiatric ward who are all under the control of Nurse Ratched, ‘Big Nurse’, whose name itself signifies the oppressive nature of her authority. She rules with an iron fist so that the ward can function smoothly in order to achieve the rehabilitation of patients with a variety of mental illnesses. Big Nurse is presented to the reader through the eyes of the Chief, the story’s narrator, and much of her control is represented through the Chief’s hallucinations. One of these most recurring elements is the fog, a metaphorical haze keeping the patients befuddled and controlled “The fog: then time doesn’t mean anything. It’s lost in the fog, like everyone else” (Kesey 69). Another element of her control is the wires, though the Chief only brings this u...


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...lling at opposite ends of the spectrum. McMurphy’s sacrifice resulted in success while the Savage’s did not. There is one key difference that causes this. The attempt at control in Cuckoo’s Nest start late in the inmates lives; they are able to resist it to a certain degree and were able to use McMurphy’s rebellion as a means to gain their freedom. In Brave New World, control starts immediately with life. The people do not rebel because they do not even have the notion of rebelling. Their lives are so programmed they can barely even think for themselves and the Savage’s attempts to deprogram them are doomed to failure. McMurphy was fighting an uphill battle, but the Savage was going up against a sheer cliff.


Works Cited
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: HarperCollins Publisher.

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