Power Vs. Control One Flew Ove Essay, Research Paper
One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest
In the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest, Ken Kesey shows the struggle
between society s control over us to make us all uniform, and individual thought. Kesey
uses Nurse Ratched to represent society, with her control over the patients, and Randle P.
Mc Murphy, the individual, who rebels against her. Kesey also has Chief Bromden, the
oppressed individual, battle against the Combine (society), as a whole.
Kesey uses Randle P. Mc Murphy and Nurse Ratched to present two opposite
ways of living in this world. Mc Murphy stands for the individual, the “savior” for the
patients, who goes his own way and does what he wants, no matter what the rest of
society thinks. Nurse Ratched represents a need for efficiency, order, and control, at all
costs. Anyone who crosses her will face severe consequences.
We see right when McMurphy first enters the ward that he is independent and
looking for change. When he first enters, he swaggers in like a western cowboy, seeming
to tell Nurse Ratched “there s only room for one of us in this town”. We also see that the
Nurse try s to stomp this individual in his place right off the bat by telling him in a polite
tone that “Everyone must follow the rules”.
In the climax of Part One McMurphy tries to rally the other Patients to vote on
having their cleaning duties moved to later in the night so that they may be able to watch
the World Series. In the group meetings McMurphy tries to goes against Nurse Ratched
and her rules by trying to get the votes needed. However the Nurse ends the meeting
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before the final vote needed was counted by her. As a result, the patients are not allowed
to watch the game. However, when it is time for the game, McMurphy stops cleaning
and turns on the television. One by one the other patients follow McMurphy s lead. This
infuriates the Nurse Ratched, and she loses control of her emotions, something she hardly
In Part Two McMurphy realizes that the Nurse is the one who decides when and
if you are released from the ward. So as a result McMurphy starts to lay low and
cooperate with Nurse Ratched and her rules. But at the end he decides that getting out
early it is not worth living with the constricting rules, so he goes up to the Nurse s Station
window and breaks it with his fist. The window represents all the power that the Nurse
has, and by McMurphy putting his fist through it represents the change that will occur.
In Part Three McMurphy constantly defies Nurse Ratched and her rules. One way
McMurphy defies Nurse Ratched is he punches and breaks the Nurse s Station window
two more times. Another way he defies the Nurse is he starts a basketball team and urges
the Doctor to bring a ball back to the ward against the Nurse s wishes. The biggest defile
is when McMurphy organizes a fishing trip. The Doctor allows it, but the Nurse is totally
against it. She tries to get the rest of the men to decide not to go on the trip, but
McMurphy still has the trip.
In Part Four McMurphy throws a party for the patients. After lights out,
McMurphy has two women bring beer for them. This represents the McMurphy s total
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defiance against Nurse Ratched and her rules that make her world. At the end
McMurphy can not take the Nurse and her control over the patients, so he gets up and
rips her uniform off, and begins choking her until he is pried off of her. By him ripping
off her uniform, this shows that the Nurse, just as society, has a weakness and can be
Throughout the novel, Kesey also has the Chief, seemingly the only one, who tries
to fight the Combine. In Part Three the Chief explains to McMurphy how the Combine
worked on his father until he finally gave in to it. He also explains how the Combine will
try to break anyone who stands up against. He tells McMurphy that as soon as they see
that you are big, they lock you someplace until you are “fixed”.
Also in Part Three The Chief remembers a time when he was young where two
men came to his house. The two men wanted to talk to his father because they want to
buy the land to build a dam. When the Chief tries to talk to the men they just ignored
him and acted like he wasn t even there. This is was first make the Chief think that he
doesn t exist. This is part of the reason why the Chief asks deaf and dumb throughout his
stay in the ward. Chief s mother was also part of the Combine. She was “above” his
father and worked on him until his father broke down. As a result, his mother took over
(society took over).
Thanks to the help of McMurphy, Chief “grows” to full size and is a man again.
After McMurphy received a lobotomy, Chief saw that there was no life left in that body.
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He saw that he couldn t let The Nurse, or the Combine, or Society win. The Chief
decides to take the life out of the body that used to be Randle P. McMurphy. In the end,
the patients win because the Nurse would have used McMurphy as an example to what
would happen to you if you went against her rules (society s rules).
Ken Kesey s main theme in the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest was
control from society over individual s and freedom. Kesey made this clear in the battle
between Nurse Ratched and Randle P. McMurphy. He shows that there will be
consequences if you stand up against society, however we should no sit back and
cooperate with unjust rules. Through McMurphy, Kesey shows that importance of
individuality. Kesey also shows that how one man, who was so deep in fear of the
Combine, come out of his “shell” and become a “real” man again.