Examples Of Authority In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

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In Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the universal message that authority can be enforced through matriarchal practices which forces inferior individuals to conform to society’s standards is prevalent throughout the novel. Characters throughout the novel depict the possible outcomes of someone subject to conformity under matriarchal authority. Nurse Ratched is the epitome of conformity. She uses her power to instill fear in her patients and her authority forces them to conform to society’s standards. Patients throughout the novel experience a conflict of man vs. society. Part one of the novel is an in-depth explanation of Nurse Ratched’s authority and the power she holds over the ward. Part two is an illustration of how fearful …show more content…

Nurse Ratched’s character is vile in enforcing conformity. She picks her staff to her liking and exercises her authority as she pleases, ensuring that she has total control over the ward. Chief states, “Year by year she accumulates her ideal staff: doctors, all ages and types, come and rise up in front of her with ideas of their own about the way a ward should be run, some with backbone enough to stand behind their ideas, and she fixes these doctors with dry-ice eyes day in, day out until they retreat with unnatural chills” (Kesey 29). Nurse Ratched is detrimental to the men’s physical and mental health. She keeps herself superior to the men through emasculation and shame. The men blindly conform to Nurse Ratched because they will not challenge her or her …show more content…

The men have a party with prostitutes McMurphy is familiar with; they get drunk, take pills, and engage in sexual activities. The morning after, the men face Nurse Ratched, who is targeting Billy Bibbit. She plays on his fear of his mother, she threatens to tell her what he has done. Big Nurse uses her authority and relationship with his mom to put Billy to shame and emasculate him. Big Nurse’s attitude towards Billy causes him to accuse the men of forcing him to engage with the lady. Eventually, he can not take the pressure anymore and commits suicide. Big Nurse accuses McMurphy of Billy’s death, and this causes him to attack her. She has lost total control over the ward, after she returns to the institute things have completely changed. She tries to gain complete control again by making an example out of McMurphy. He is lobotomized and put through electroshock therapy; after these harsh treatments, he is left in a completely vegetative state. Nurse Ratched uses him as an example of “what will happen if someone challenges me”. Chief smothers McMurphy because he refuses to let his friend be an example of Nurse Ratched’s conformity

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