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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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Emily Valois

on 20 January 2014

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Transcript of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:
The Influences of both Randle McMurphy and the Asylum

Loss of Identity makes it difficult for patients to recover
Making the Choice to Overcome Struggle
Choosing to Overcome Struggle is a Struggle in Itself...
McMurphy's Influence
The patients remain mentally ill because they are under the oppression of the psychiatric hospital, they lack freedom and their needs are not being met. Mental hospitals in the 1960’s were extremely oppressive.
Theme 2
Character McMurphy embodies the necessities required for sanity and his influence on the patients displays just what they needed to recover. It is McMurphy’s sanity that allows him to be portrayed as a heroic figure that saves the patients.
Theme 3
It is extremely hard to recover from mental illness so struggle is a main theme in the novel. The patients’ struggles are immense and Kesey demonstrates that the patients’ own madnesses prevent them from being able to be free like McMurphy.
The treatment methods used in mental hospitals in the 1960’s were inhumane and unjust and did not help the patients toward recovery.
In the 1960’s lobotomies and electric shock therapy were regularly used methods of treatment of mental illness. For example: As stated in an article published by The Telegraph, Dr. Frank Pittman, a renowned American psychiatrist, stated that the publication of One Flew illustrated to doctors and health care professionals how psychiatry was not being used for the purposes of those with mental illness and did more damage than good. He says that in his medical training in the 60’s he was taught to regularly give shock treatments simply for symptoms of agitated depression and it left him squeamish as the brain is just so delicate. (1)
Example # 1)
The group meetings run by Nurse Ratched are merely a way for the head nurse to further intimidate the patients and belittle them.

Andrew Foley writes in "Allegories of freedom: Individual liberty and Social Conformity in Ken Kesey's
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
“Nurse Ratched uses the patients' logbook and group discussions not for therapy but as a tool of psychological humiliation to keep the men intimidated and submissive…” (2)
Therefore, even the therapy methods used are unfair.

McMurphy’s ability to make others laugh influences their recovery. Unlike the hospital that limits the patients’ ability to be comical, McMurphy is the cause of many of the patients' newfound abilities to laugh again.

Laughter is therefore one of the elements to sanity!

In the essay “The Vanishing American: Identity Crisis in Ken Kesey’s
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
” Elaine Ware writes that the white society of The Combine of which Bromden is unused to (him being a native American) is so chock-full of hospitals, machinery, over-production, oppression and the constant building of new establishments that it creates an atmosphere that makes the patients alienated from the world around them and therefore stuck in their mental illnesses.
Furthermore, the asylums actually lead to loss of identity for the patients.
Elaine Ware, states that Bromden’s loss of identity is only worsened by the hospital. She writes that the hospital environment "is conductive to mental illness, not mental health" and states that "only through the support of McMurphy does Bromden regain his strength and size to develop some self confidence and sense of identity”. (6)

The loss of identity the patients experience make it impossible for them to escape their madness.

The patients do wish to leave but they feel unable. Even though the patients could leave at any time they wanted, they feel too sick to do so, lending to the theory that feeling stuck in their own madness too keep them from recovering.

Sexual Expression
Another argument in Ken Kesey’s acclaimed novel is that in order to be sane one must express sexuality. This is because with sexual repression, one is lead towards insanity. The patients on the psychiatric ward have not been exposed to any sexual means for years and the hospital condemns any talk of sexual desires, this takes away the patients’ feelings of masculinity.

Barry Leeds writes in the essay "
Theme and Technique in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
" of the need for sexual expression, “What McMurphy teaches the inmates in not merely how to be aware and proud of their sexual identity, but how to be humans as well, responsible for one another...McMurphy introduces pornography, gambling, and finally two whores onto the ward.” (4)

Leeds goes on to explain that
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
is a novel primarily centered around the theme of sexual repression and the need for sexual expression.
The patients also do not have any means to express freedom.

Freedom is an essential component of sanity and Randle McMurphy exemplifies the theme of freedom. His manifestation of being free and refusing to be oppressed enable him to help the patients of the psychiatric ward to recover far more than the hospital ever did.

Based on Jim Harvey's speech structures

Ken Kesey uses the character Randle P. McMurphy to embody exactly what is needed to be sane while the asylum represents the force that takes away the patients’ abilities to be so. While addressing the themes of oppression, sanity and struggle Ken Kesey demonstrates to the reader that while under repression; sanity, such as that of McMurphy, is unattainable.

Quick Summary:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, written by Ken Kesey, is a classic novel narrated by Chief Bromden, a schizophrenic Native American man who pretends to be deaf and dumb. The novel centers on Randle McMurphy, a new admission to the mental hospital who refuses to conform to the rules enforced by the Head Nurse, Nurse Ratched.
He encourages the other patients to rebel against the rules of the hospital but patients are terrified of Nurse Ratched because she has the power to send patients for electroshock therapy and/or lobotomies.
Example # 2
More on how the psychiatric hospital is oppressive:
The hospital destroys all those who express freedom: on the ward one can either conform or be destroyed.

Randle McMurphy, symbolizes freedom and refusal to conform so he is eventually destroyed; turned brain-dead by the hospital authorities.
As Chuck Palahniuk states in his essay on One Flew for Penguin Classics, “To live in a democracy, you must be willing to live as a savior or a slave. To have all or nothing. And you have very little control over that choice. Either way, you'll be lost. Destroyed. Either by yourself, out of self-hatred. Or by your society because you pose too big a threat.” (3)

This is seen in the novel when McMurphy receives a lobotomy because he was a free thinker. An individual expressing their freedom and sanity is destroyed.

Consequently, the absence of humor, sexual expression and freedom in the patients keep them unable to leave the hospital and that is why McMurphy, bringing along those traits, influenced their sanity.
The Unjust Hospital Made Patients Loose their Identities
Mental illness is the main theme of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Ken Kesey shows the reader the many obstacles to returning to health.

He reprimands the psychiatric treatment available for patients in the 1960’s and shows us what prevented the patients in
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
from achieving sanity.

1) The unjust treatment methods and practices used in hospital wards in the 60’s
2) The oppression and restrictions set upon patients: the limited expressions of freedom, sexuality and laughter (i.e. the exact characteristics that McMurphy embodies).
3) The patients' very own mental illnesses.

All in all: the hospital was only limiting the patients’ capacities to regain their soundness of mind. The hospital contributed to the patient's oppression, insanity and struggle. McMurphy, on the other hand, is credited for all their improvements.
McMurphy teaches the patients how to stand up for themselves and what they want...but he finally takes it one step too far: sneaking prostitutes and alcohol onto the ward.

He is ultimately sent for a lobotomy and becomes a vegetable. Chief Bromden decides he can’t let McMurphy suffer and suffocates him with a pillow. He then breaks a window and escapes. The novel ends with Chief escaping: free.
Ken Kesey:
Born September 17, 1935, in La Junta, Colorado, Ken Kesey grew up mainly in Springfield, Oregon. Kesey attended Stanford University's creative writing program and took part in U.S. Army experiments involving LSD and other drugs. The hallucinations and impact of these drugs, as well as Kesey's time spent working night shifts at a Veteran's Hospital (talking to patients under the influence of drugs), influenced Kesey to write
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
, published in 1962 .

Work Cited:
(1): Swaine, Jon. "How 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' Changed Psychiatry." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 31 Aug. 2001. Web. 06 Nov. 2013.
(2): Foley, Andrew. "Allegories of freedom: Individual liberty and social conformity in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” Journal of Literary Studies 17.1 (2001). 27 Apr. 2010.
(3) Palahniuk, Chuck. "Penguin.com (USA)." Essays. Penguin Group, Web. 06 Nov. 2013.
(4): Ryan, Barry. “Jonesclassesonline.weebly.com (USA).” The Third Space in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Web. December 5th 2013.
(4) Baurecht, William C. "Separation, Initiation, and Return: Schizophrenic Episode in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." Midwest Quarterly 23.3 (Spring 1982): 292.
(6): Ware, Elaine. "The Vanishing American: Identity Crisis in Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." MELUS. 3/4 ed. Vol. 13. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986. 95-101. Print. Varieties of Ethnic Criticism.

ISU Novel:
Kesey, Ken. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, a Novel. New York: Viking, 1962. Print.
Sexual Identity
Also, in an article written by William Baurecht for Midwest Quarterly, William writes that it is only after being exposed to sexuality, such as that of the prostitutes, that Chief Bromden is able to “drift out of his schizophrenic fog in order to preserve his fragile sanity and to find his manliness”. He states that the Chief “ultimately emerges a potential hero, profoundly changed…for the first time, a man" According to Baurecht, the goal of Bromden is to find his sexual identity and manhood. The hospital could not influence this but he is able to do so because of McMurphy. (5)
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