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.
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.
McMurphy tries to instill this idea into the patients and hopes they could make a clean transition to life outside the institution. When McMurphy develops a strong relationship with the patients, he notices that the staff labels most of them as mentally challenged. Due to their lack of confidence and self-respect, the patients are never able to truly act like themselves. They feel limited because of their poor treatment. The patients have the opportunity to leave the ward, but choose not to because they are comfortable in their environment.
Nurse Ratched is the epitome of an “impregnable” (73) authority whose power cannot be simply shaken by a few uprisings. The patients describe the Nurse to “always win” (73) and she has “all the power… behind her” (113) with her close relationship to the “supervisor” (63). Not only does Nurse Ratched have official authority due to her status but the patient’s fear and trust for “her craft”(41) to make them better. Harding tells McMurphy that he “need the nurse to make [him accept] his [differences]” (65). It’s not hard to see that the Nurse’s direct authority is absolute among the ward even though this power may not prove to be the most beneficial to the patient’s recovery.
Throughout, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, McMurphy teaches the patients how to revolt in order to oppose the Nurse’s extensive control with the Combine. He uses his Christ like attributes to allow them to work alone without his assistance and to make them realize their submission to the Nurse’s commandment isn’t necessary since they are men and not mental patients. As a result, McMurphy has conceded the men into controlling their own lives rather than the Nurse doing it for
They should’ve known better...” This shows the fear the men have after being caught by Nurse Ratched. They are scared by her and fear her actions. Another example of this is on pages 4 and 5, is “She’s going to tear the black bastards limb from limb, she’s so furious. She’s swelling up, swells till her back’s splitting out the white uniform
Due to the structure in place by Nurse Ratched’s orders, all patients must participate in therapeutic meetings, where they have a group discussion with the nurse and Dr. Spivey. These discussions specifically target one patient where the others proceed to humiliate them. When Bromden narrates a meeting of this nature, Harding, another patient, is the one under harsh criticism, “The group is still tearing into Harding when when two o’clock rolls around” (Kesey 53). In the ward, the nurse has created an environment where the patients do not feel safe. She pits them against each other using methods such as the therapeutic meetings, which cause the patients to feel as though they cannot trust one another.
Kesey has created Nurse Ratched as a representation of how the ward works. Nurse Ratched works the ward like a combine, when something goes in; broken pieces become the end result. When Nurse Ratched loses her first battle with McMurphy, she ends up “hollering and squealing” about the “discipline and order” she has instilled throughout her years working in the ward (128). Here, Kesey presents how this small act of rebellion affects Ratched system she has perfected over the years. Even though she is screaming about discipline and order, the patients continue to ignore her pleas and sit in front of the television watching nothing.
In One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, written by Ken Kesey, The patients went to the ward voluntarily where they thought they would feel free, but at arrival they find that Nurse Ratched has full control over them. Nurse Ratched and her other leading woman use fear to keep control over and manipulate those trapped inside to keep them from acting and thinking on their own. Nurse Ratched is power hungry and feeds that power with being able to have the last say and the
Kesey has used characterisation to get the idea that in this novel there are aspects of venerability and strength. In Nurse Ratched’s case, Kesey has made it so that she is shown with strength and power over the whole ward, including the black men in white, other nurses, and mainly the patients. An example of Nurse Ratched’s power over the patients is when she says to Billy Bibbit, “What worries me, Billy, ' she said- I could hear the change in her voice- 'is how your mother is going to take this.” This shows how one sentence was able to debilitate Billy into begging Nurse for forgiveness and restraint of telling his mother.
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.
In the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, there are four characteristics of a controlled environment. These include; status hierarchy, depersonalization, adjustment, and institution. Viewers can see these ideas through different scenes and situations in the movie. The overall movie stems from institutionalization, because it is set in a psychiatric hospital, which keeps the patients there confined to a strict environment and schedule. Doctors and nurses look at small traits or changes as something significant, whereas in the real world that small trait would appear as a norm and be overlooked.
Nurse Ratched has control over every guy in the hospital because she decides what they are doing every day when they wake up. She has brainwashed the men into think they need her. Vera has manipulated her husband Dale into thinking he is disgusting. Billy’s mother has emasculated him by deciding everything for him and letting him have no control over his own life. The men in this novel have lost their manhood to women who have manipulated them and they are too blind to see it till McMurphy shows them.
The concept of social alienation and various methods of subduing patients like electric shocks and lobotomy were prevalent which further alienated the patients rather than curing them. The movie highlights the strong bond between the patients. The human condition of friendship and bonding is highlighted. During the last quarter of the movie, the protagonist McMurphy had a chance to escape the institution, but he hesitated and stayed to support his friend ‘Billy’. The strong bond that he created with the patients led him to risk his escape plan to stay behind for his friend (Kesey).