Corruption in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Corruption in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Corruption in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

 

 

As Lord Acton put it in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." This is the truth that is evident both in Ken Kesey book One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. His main characters Nurse Ratched and Randal McMurphy are in a subtle underground war against each other's accumulating power, and corruptness. This idea of great men being bad men is evident in Kesey's book, my experiences, and society in general.

 

Ken Kesey appears to show disgust for people of power in his book One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Throughout the novel, Nurse Ratched, the lady within whom lays all the power of the staff in a mental institution, frequently sends people who she has behavioral problems with off to the disturbed wing, like she did Maxwell Taber. It is there that they experience the pain of either electroshock therapy, or a full frontal lobotomy. Nurse Ratched uses this and her natural dominance to inspire fear in her patients. She tends to agree with old school of thought that a healthy dose of fear makes people easier to control. Thus she was able to easily putdown any uprising against her totalitarian rule before Randle McMurphy. Nurse Ratched tries to use the power that has been given to her as head nurse to change the patients as she sees fit. As Bromden puts it, "Working alongside others... she is a veteran of adjusting things" (p. 30). But to do this she has created a living hell for them. McMurphy, one of the rare man that dares to vocalize his opinion, shows his negative sentiment towards Nurse Ratched when he tells Harding, "Hell with that; she's a bitch a ball cutter..." (p. 58). The entire ward can see how power has corrupted Nurse Ratched into the pseudo-megalomaniac/sadist she now is.

 

I agree with Kesey's view of power. I once had a teacher who would grade harder for people he didn't like. As a result if he disliked one of his students, they were guaranteed a `C' or lower. His abuse of power went unchecked and unchallenged due to his seniority and the difficulty of proving his crime.

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It is this power given to teachers, that is so great that many fall to corruption. Corruption isn't just limited to the present; empirically power has always led to corruption. For example, Communism originally started off great under Lenin, but Lenin was an Idealist and was quickly replaced by the pseudo-dictator Stalin. Under Stalin's rule all human rights were done away with, dissenters frequently disappeared, and general chaos seemed to rule the lower masses. What started off as a good thing, turned horribly wrong because one man had all the power.

 

Though there are some differences between views, they are essentially the same. Kesey seems to believe that powerful people are automatically dangerous, while I choose to believe that they are victims of there own power and personal beliefs. They seemed to want to restructure the world as they see fit. But in doing so the crushed all those who opposed them. Our views our identical about how this relates to society. In that everyone bears some resentment against those more powerful than, them, for an inevitable misuse of power. There still exist some idealists that believe power doesn't corrupt, but this is due to a lack of real world experience.

 
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