One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Power Analysis

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In the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, power/control is a very significant theme that is portrayed greatly, especially through the power struggle between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy, a new patient on the ward. McMurphy is a strong male figure who possesses the natural male tendency to be in control while Nurse Ratched is a dominating and emasculating female who challenges McMurphy’s need for control. This thirst for power and refusal to submit to female control causes McMurphy to go against Nurse Ratched, ensuing chaos in the ward and ultimately, resulting in his own death. McMurphy is a new patient who enters the ward as a kind of “natural” man; he is sane and still free of the combine’s control, unlike the other patients …show more content…

Not only does he begin to realize how much control Nurse Ratched truly has over the ward and the patients, but he notices that she emasculates them. This irritates him and he wants to make changes to the ward; he wants to be in control. McMurphy first notices Nurse Ratched’s power at the first group therapy meeting that he attends, which he calls a “pecking party” (Kesey, 55). During the meeting, they focus on one man at a time and essentially humiliate him. After the meeting, McMurphy and Harding get in a fight over what happens during the group therapy meetings. Harding insists that what they do is normal and that Nurse Ratched is doing nothing wrong, but McMurphy disagrees completely. McMurphy says, “What she is is a ball cutter… people who try to make you weak so they can get you to follow their rules, to live like they want you to. And the best way to do this is by gettin’ you where it hurts the worst” (Kesey, 57). In this quote, McMurphy essentially states that Nurse Ratched wants the patients to follow her rules and continue to be under her control so she gets them where it hurts the worst, that is, their manhood. She derives a great deal of her power from her ability to infantilize, humiliate and emasculate the men - to render them sexless (Vitkus, 77). Later, during their same fight, McMurphy says, “What I want to know is am I safe to try to beat her at her own game” (Kesey, 68)? By saying this, McMurphy implies that he is going to try and go against Nurse Ratched and make some changes to the ward. He is set on making changes and gaining power, therefore, beginning his “conquest” against Nurse

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