One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

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One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest Cuckoos Nest

There is much strength associated with both speech and silence. One can use either to their advantage in a power struggle. In the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Randle Patrick McMurphy and Nurse Ratched employ the power of speech and Chief Bromden uses the power of silence until the end of the novel when he gains the power of speech. These cases prove that the greatest power is not held in speech or silence alone, but in the effective combination of the two.

Many people believe verbal communication to be a very powerful way of expressing oneself. Words gain there power when the volume is raised and lowered alternatively to make a point. Additionally, the influence of speech can manifest itself in a number of ways. It can be used to humiliate, to intimidate, to flirt and to threaten, all of which are integral and pragmatic strategies to win a power struggle.

McMurphy uses his power of speech to rally his fellow patients against Nurse Ratched who is constantly revoking their privileges. He also uses it furtively to acquire all that he desires, by conning the other patients. Throughout the novel he is very loud and is known for his unwavering ability to speak his mind and confront those that oppose him.

Nurse Ratched uses her voice throughout the novel to intimidate the patients. She is the antagonist of the novel. The patients obsequiously follow Ratched’s command, until McMurphy comes along. They all fear that she will send them for shock therapy if they don’t obey her. Nurse Ratched is the most daunting persona of the novel, due in large part to the use of her voice.

Throughout the novel both McMurphy and Nurse Ratched are continually trying to pull each other down. Nurse Ratched using her dominant speaking skills tries to prove to the patients that McMurphy is conning them with his vocalizations, “Look at some of these gifts, as devoted fans of his might call them. First, there was the gift of the tub room. Was that actually his to give?

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Did he lose anything by acquiring it as a gambling casino? On the other hand, how much do you suppose he made in the short time he was croupier of his little Monte Carlo here on the ward? How much did you lose … I think you all have some idea what your personal losses were, but do you know what his total winning came to, according to deposits he has made at Funds? Almost three hundred dollars”(222). The Nurse begins to convince the patients that McMurphy is harming them more than helping them.

Until the novel’s conclusion, McMurphy and Nurse Ratched are the most authoritative people in the ward. They both have ultimate control over the inmates in accordance with their objectives. McMurphy cons many of the patients into giving him money and had them hanging on his every word. Nurse Ratched struck trepidation into the patients as they were confronted with the possibility that she might physically injure them or refer them for shock therapy. In light of her dominating persona, the patients too follow her command. However, the novel’s close highlights Ratched’s and McMurphy’s loss of power, proving that speech alone can’t be the sole way of gaining control within an environment.

Silence can also be used as a combatant to gain supremacy. “Keeping quiet,” is the best remedy to counteracting an aggressive persona. Rather than attacking, the response of quietude is most effective. It frustrates the hostile individual, causing him to introspect and rethink his belligerent position, and in effect quells the foe. (Silence can also be used to help obtain information that one wouldn’t be able to gain if one is very outspoken. People willingly confide in others who assure them silence and provides them with the solace that “their secret is safe.)

The utilization of silence during a power struggle is prevalent throughout the novel. Chief Bromden uses silence very effectively to his advantage. Everyone thinks that he is deaf and dumb, however, their perception proves to be erroneous, as we learn at the novel’s end. Chief Bromden is a very large man who falsely thinks of himself as being rather diminutive. For him, Chief Bromden’s silence is extremely potent. He is able to hear everything that went on in the meetings where the doctors and nurses discuss the future of the patients. The doctors and nurses don’t think that Chief Bromden can hear what they are saying. They don’t hesitate to say anything in front of him. “They don’t bother not talking out loud about their hate secrets when I’m nearby because they think I’m deaf and dumb”(10). This is very beneficial because chief Bromden knows what takes place in the ward, and knows what it takes to survive.

Silence, however, is not the sole manifestation of control that Bromden utilizes. After Chief Bromden gains all the information that he needs he has no way to act upon it unless he demonstrates the utility of speech. He can protect himself without this ability, but he can’t prevail without it. For Bromden, speech is just as much a key to success as silence is. Thus the combination proves to be the most potent.

McMurphy’s realization that Chief Bromden is not really deaf and dumb marks a significant turning point in the novel. It is the first time that anyone hears Chief Bromden speak since he entered the ward fifteen years earlier. The Chief starts talking to McMurphy and his fog disappears. After the Chief begins talking he relishes conveying tales of his childhood and other experiences to McMurphy. As a child he was treated as though he was invisible, enabling him to perfect his skill of listening and not responding; therefore, his pretending to be a deaf mute is rather facile.
Ever since Bromden’s revelation that he is not the deaf mute he is perceived to be, he slowly gains more power. Conversely McMurphy and Nurse Ratched are enervated.
In the conclusion of the novel, McMurphy loses his sanity and tears open Nurse Ratcheds uniform exposing her breasts. Fortunately, the other patients have recovered, due to his efforts, and do not require his services anymore. Even the Chief is restored to his full mental capacity, acting with both logic and sanity, thanks to McMurphy. However, McMurphy’s fate is not as promising. In light of his violation of Nurse Ratched, McMurphy is subject to a lobotomy. The fact that McMurphy is forced to endure such a surgery is strangely ironic. It is McMurphy who has propelled Chief Bromden’s “Psychological restoration,” and now he, physically, is subject to the same ail nesses that were fallaciously believed to plague the chief.

Nurse Ratched too suffers a similar fate as McMurphy, as she can no longer verbally communicate, due to the injuries she sustained from McMurphy’s attack.
In a paradigm of role reversal, Chief Bromden has become the apex of the ward’s power triangle. He is the sole individual, who is able to utilize both speech and silence. Ultimately, Bromden escapes the ward, effectively fleeing from his past, and is on the path to a more promising future.
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