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One Flew Over The Cuckoos

’s Nest Essay, Research Paper

One Flew Over the Cuckoo?s Nest is a novel, which depicts the lives of the

classified, mentally insane in a struggle against the authority of a hospital

ward. Over the course of the novel, the hospital ward turns into a place of

rebellion while the wise-guy hero, tries to reform the institution while

dignifying the people within. The story is told in the first person point of

view by Chief Bromden a huge patient who is sharing his mental hospital

experience. He is a disturbed man who has fooled all of the other patients and

the staff into believing that he is deaf and can?t speak. He thinks of the

hospital as a place of fear, rather than of a place of healing. This partly has

to due with the head of the hospital ward, Nurse Ratched; a woman who believes

in order at all times. She is viewed as the hospitals most powerful person, in

turn, the least liked by the patients. In order to escape the Nurse, Chief

Bromden thinks back to his childhood in an Indian village, but this also evokes

the Combine force, which sends his mind into a deep fog. Early on in the story

Kesey, introduces the character Randolph McMurphy, a newly admitted patient. He

is a boisterous man with much self-confidence and a very friendly personality.

He claims that he?s only at the hospital to enjoy an easier life compared to

the life he was living at a state farm. McMurphy quickly familiarizes himself

with the people surrounding him and tells stories to all of the patients. His

humorous personality enlightens the patients and the ward in general. However,

Nurse Ratched doesn?t like this change because she feels McMurphy is a

manipulator. Her controlling personality clashes with his easy going personality

and as expected she tries to enforce rules, while he is ready to rebel against

them. Nurse Ratched has dealt with people similar to McMurphy by punishing them

with electro-shock therapy or with lobotomies. Both are to degrade the

?offender?, the latter of the two makes the patients feel inferior to

society on account of their sexuality. McMurphy is greatly disturbed by the

Nurse?s antics. He is dissatisfied by the way she treats the patients at the

daily Group Meetings. She decrees the patients self esteem so greatly that she

furthers them all into a state of depression. McMurphy decides that he?s going

to take a stand and he bets Harding, a patient who is intelligent, but is

ashamed of his effeminacy, that he can make the Nurse loose control of the ward

without getting in trouble. During his fight against the ward, McMurphy

entertains the patients with his skirmishes with the Nurse. They all appear to

be on his side, until an issue concerning watching the World Series on the

television arises. McMurphy takes a stand, but only one man stands by his side,

Cheswick. In order for the patients to watch the baseball game they would vote

on it at the next Group Meeting. McMurphy needed one more vote to secure the

game, so he turned to Chief Bromden, who was in a deep fog. McMurphy?s

personality forced the Chief back to reality. However, McMurphy still wasn?t

allowed to watch the game. Yet, he raised the spirits of the patients and he

became somewhat of a hero to them. Soon, McMurphy comes to the realization that

the only way he was going to get out of the ward is if Nurse Ratched releases

him. Thus, he begins to obey the rules set forth by the Nurse. He also learns

that the majority of the patients were sent voluntarily to the ward. This

inspires him to destroy the fear that has entrapped the patients. McMurphy

begins by planning a fishing trip that was successful and proved to the Nurse

that these insane people were really capable of more than she gave them credit

for. McMurphy is suspicious of Chief Bromden?s deaf and dumb act and finally

breaks through to him. The Chief describes to him the Combine, which consists of

people like the Nurse, the government, and his mother. Generally anybody that

destroyed tradition, nature, and freedom. After this talk that ended the years

of silence, McMurphy makes a deal with Chief Bromden. If he grows strong enough

to break the Nurse?s control panel; McMurphy will let him go on the fishing

trip for free. McMurphy at this point has helped nearly all of the patients by

bringing them back to a more natural state of being. However, he has worn

himself down and seems as though he is worst off than when he originally came

into the ward. After getting in trouble with Chief Bromden for sticking up for a

man who was mistreated, they both had to undergo shock treatments. Once they

returned, the patient?s were attempting to plan an escape for McMurphy, but he

wouldn?t leave until Billy Bibbit had a date. By the time, that this happens,

McMurphy is too worn down to escape from the Nurse. The Nurse has continued her

relentless attack on the unstable and makes Billy feel extremely guilty and this

leads to Billy?s suicide. McMurphy is now completely disgusted with Nurse

Ratched and attacks her. She is so completely humiliated that she could never

regain control of the ward. Thus, she orders a lobotomy on McMurphy and he

returns a ruined man. The setting of the hospital ward in Oregon is a microcosm

of the world outside. The mental ward follows the expected cruelty, which has

always existed in mental hospitals. This is seen through Nurse Hatched?s use

of mental and physical abuse used to punish those who misbehaved. This ward is

seen as a microcosm because outside Indian villages were being burned and

conformity of homes and families were being formed. Like the hospital ward, any

action against this conformity or abuse on the less fortunate is simply regarded

as insane and never occurs. This is known as the workings of the Combine. These

comparisons of both worlds provokes a feeling of helplessness because the reader

relates to the outside society, yet it is so closely paralleled to the victims

of the ward that it becomes a common and relatable issue. Throughout the novel

there are many themes presented that put great closure to the book. One of which

is that people will always live their lives differently, yet some people are so

set down and stubborn with their ways that they perceive others as being wrong.

Kesey portrays this through Nurse Ratched and McMurphy. McMurphy is a man who is

often portrayed as the frontier hero. He is his own man and is a true

non-conformist. While Nurse Ratched represents order and obsessive control

during all circumstances. Sexuality is a prominent issue among the characters of

the ward as well. Nurse Hatched uses this issue to manipulate the patients, most

notably Harding and Billy. They are both partly in the hospital because of their

sexual shortcomings. Nurse Hatched denies the sexuality of her patients and even

herself. This inferiority to the rest of society does not help in the betterment

of the patients. The characters have already been reduced to such incompetent

people by the Combine, Nurse Hatched, and especially society that the fear and

vulnerability that lies within these characters is what makes them victims of

society. One of the most powerful themes which runs through this novel is that

of laughter. McMurphy is such a strong man partly because of the way he can

laugh off mistakes, the world, and most importantly himself. In the opening of

the novel, McMurphy walked into a world where nobody could laugh, but with his

help and example he broke through the patients? insanity barriers and got them

all back to laughing. The level of a character?s ability of laughter can be

related to their level of insanity. McMurphy?s personality was a shining

beacon on the faces of the patients. His attitude inspired other patients and

gave them the strength that they needed to face the reality of their lives. In

Conclusion, Ken Kesey?s One Flew Over the Cuckoo?s Nest is an incredibly

inspiring novel that at face value tells the story of a hospital ward, but in

thematic terms portrays society?s way of dealing with the undesirable things.