In the drama film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo 's Nest, Patrick McMurphy was moved from a prison farm to a mental institution to get evaluated for his erratic behavior. Upon being transported to the institution, all his assumptions about his new home were completely wrong. The head nurse, Nurse Ratched, has the whole hospital under her control with little to no freedom for the patients. All the inmates at the institution go through rigorous training to become obedient to Nurse Ratched and her strict schedule and rules. The institution was a very controlled environment with the patients having no control over their own life’s while there.
Chief characterizes the Nurse as almost robotic in her manipulation and intimidation. In the first chapter of the book, Chief Bromden illustrates how Nurse Ratched uses her position in the ward to control the patients. Chief says, “The big nurse recognizes this fear and knows how to put it to use; she’ll point out to an Acute, whenever he goes into a sulk, that you boys be good boys and cooperate with the staff policy which is engineered for your cure, or you’ll end up over on that side” (18). Nurse Ratched uses her power in the ward to manipulate and control the patients. This is important because with the Nurse's control, the patients are unable to think and act for themselves.
Heartless, cruel, and sadistic are all words people may use to characterize Nurse Ratched. She keeps dictatorial control over her patients, shatters patients' self worth, and is the symbol of evil and oppression in the novel. She treats patients with this authority so that they let her control them, and Kesey through the use of Ratched shows why it’s crucial to stand up and rebel against oppressive authority. Ratched would ruthlessly undermine her patients self worth to a degree where they would become compliant and submissive to her control. The best example of this is how she treats Billy Bibbit, a young, insecure, and vulnerable patient.
The nurse used her calm composure to manipulate the men in the ward. In one part of the novel, Chief, the main character, observes that the nurse’s expression is “smiling, pitying, patient, and disgusting all at once---a trained expression” (Kesey, 176). This shows that Nurse Ratched is deceitful. She isn’t honest with her actions and she put on an act to trick people into trusting her. The quote illustrates Kesey’s hatred for women in power by showing the nurse’s character in such a negative light; it makes light of the fact that he, Kesey, doesn’t believe that a powerful woman would use her influence for good.
Throughout Ken Kesey’s, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the balance of power is challenged in the psychiatric ward. Out of the several leaders that appear in the novel, Nurse Ratched and McMurphy are the most prominent. During Nurse Ratched and McMurphy struggle for power, they share many of the same qualities. It is argued that: “McMurphy and Ratched are alike in intelligence, military service, distinctive (if opposite) clothing, and conventionally masculine qualities” (Evans). These small similarities; however, do not distract the characters from fighting for their individual beliefs.
We learn on page 38 that Nurse Ratched has many connections and will use them to her advantage to get what she wants. On page 38, it reads, “the doctor doesn’t hold the power of hiring and firing. That power goes to the supervisor, and the supervisor is a woman, a dear old friend of Miss Ratched’s; they were Army nurses together in the thirties. We are victims of a matriarchy here, my friend, and the doctor is just as helpless against it as we are.” This proves that Nurse Ratched uses this relationship with head supervisor to her advantage.
Forcing people to follow a societal norm is detrimental to the health of the mind and body. The struggle between conformers and non conformers creates a schism in society. In the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey asserts the overarching importance of individuality through the use of a conflict between the patients and the nurse as a microcosm of society. In the novel, the delusions of the narrator create a surreal world that reveals a strong message on the nature of conformity.
Nurse Ratched was very controlling and wanted complete power. This caused many of the patients to rebel and break loose from her control. McMurphy lead the ward in this uprising. From brushing his teeth too early to sneaking prostitutes into the ward, he shows Nurse Ratched that she cannot rule him. This story reminded me of Malala Yousafzai and her retaliation against the Taliban.
In the ward, the only individual capable of undermining Nurse Ratched’s power is Randle McMurphy. By blatantly disregarding the nurse’s strict rules, standing up for himself, and encouraging other patients to do so, he creates a situation that jeopardizes the order Nurse Ratched has created. When McMurphy manages to get a fishing trip approved, granted he gets ten other patients to sign up, Nurse Ratched uses malicious methods to thwart his plans: “The nurse started steadily bringing in clippings from the newspapers that told about wrecked boats and sudden storms on coast” (Kesey 178). In order to dismantle the immense progress McMurphy has made towards changing the attitudes of the patients, Nurse Ratched discourages them from attending his trip. Her motive in doing this is to have the patients lose faith in McMurphy, ultimately destroying the influence he has over them.
The goal of most mental hospitals is rehabilitation of the human psyche. To be cured of a mental disorder is nearly impossible, but the purpose of these hospitals is to attempt to suppress the id of a person’s subconscious. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey utilizes the psychoanalytic theory and his own life experiences to depict his dynamic character’s dreams, hidden subconscious thoughts, basic desire of their id, and reality of their ego. Kesey uses his character’s dreams to reveal their subconscious desires, express what they wish they could accomplish but are limited due to society’s rules, and showcase what they secretly desire when their subconscious goes unchecked during their sleep.
For example, Kesey connects matters of the hospital to the broader concept of the human mind by writing, “Never before did I realize that mental illness could have the aspect of power, power. Think of it: perhaps the more insane a man is, the more powerful he could become. Hitler an example. Fair makes the old brain reel, doesn't it?” (Kesey 220).
The author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey, presents the ideas about venerability and strength by using his characters and the way they interact with each other to establish whether they are a submissive or a dominant, tamed or leading, venerable or strong. Kesey uses strong personalities to show the drastic difference between someone who is vulnerable and someone who is strong. Nurse Ratchet is a perfect example of how Kasey presents the idea of strength over the venerability of others (the patients). Keys also exhibited vulnerability throughout characters such as Chief Bromden and his extensive habit of hiding himself in all means possible from Nurse Ratchet. Another idea presented by Kesey is a character’s false thought on what
Nurse Ratched’s desire for control, in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, allows her to manipulate the entire hospital ward into believing her work is for the betterment of the patients. Significantly, Nurse Ratched appears doll-like: hair in a tight bun, a neatly pressed uniform, and “too-red” lipstick (48). Traditionally, dolls, like other toys, are made to occupy the unruly minds of young children. By comparing Nurse Ratched to a child’s toy, Kesey implies she is a mere distraction to the patients from their mental impairments.
Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, published in 1962, tells the story of men in a psychiatric ward and focuses on two characters called McMurphy and Bromden, and their defiance towards the institution’s system. A critical factor in this novel are the women. The 1960’s played a significant role in changing the norms of social issues, and the perfect idea of women was changing too. Women were no longer just stay at home wives, but had their own voice in society, and many people did not agree with these untraditional views. Kesey’s representation of women in this novel illustrate them in a poor light that makes it obvious that they don’t fit the ideal womanly persona.
Nurse Ratched is very bossy and strict with the patients in the ward. Many of the patients find her intimidating, until a new patient shows up