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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Themes of Power & Authority

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Tess Alyasri

on 18 January 2014

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Transcript of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Themes of Power & Authority

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Themes of Power & Authority
McMurphy, the protagonist, unlike all the other members of the hospital, is determined to find his way back into society.
When placed in ward among the other patients, immediately starts to instigate a series of chaotic events to disrupt Nurse Ratched’s authority.
Sees men & their acceptance to follow and surrender selves to Ratched and the oppressive institution
Takes upon self to take action & help the men develop strength and will to question authority.
Makes them reflect on Nurse Ratched & think for selves
Move towards individualism, in hopes they will eventually progress to want more out of life
Tells men, “this world belongs to the strong” (Kesey, 64).
Nurse Ratched is ultimately the antagonist in the book, she is the most exposed member of authority to the men in the institution and she is determined to continue to abuse her power over the men and remain in control.
emasculates the men in different ways to rid any chance of rebellion, Harding, remarks, “we are victims of a matriarchy here” (Kesey, 16).
makes sure to have the upper hand over the men at all times to drive fear into them to remain obedient to her authority figure
. Does this with several different methods:
1. uses public humiliation and embarrassment against the patients and exposes their greatest insecurities
2. controls the direction of the conversation and the questions asked throughout the session, the men fear the potential she has to reveal their flaws
3. Also manipulates the patients to turn on each other so they remain occupied rather than work together to rebel against her
4. Treats them like children, they are not allowed to have exposure to any sex or alcohol and all their activities are monitored throughout the day, cigarettes, are given to them when Nurse Ratched finds appropriate.
5. Electroshock therapy, men fear physical punishment from witnessing other patients exposed to it.
Kesey shows a representation of society on a smaller scale in the institution, how a tyrannical authoritarian strives off fear and how they in fact need it in order to have control over individuals and create a repressive regime.
Work Cited:
Kesey, Ken. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, a Novel. New York: Viking, 1962. Print.
Ken Kesey develops a strong central theme concerning power, authority, and obedience
Expresses this through Nurse Rached & McMurphy and their affect on the patients in the ward
Nurse Ratched: more commonly known as Big Nurse, to the patients, primarily represents the authority figure fighting to remain in tyrannical control over the men
McMurphy, the newest member to the ward, plays the role of resistance against Ratched in hopes to be released from the ward and also break the men from the societal repression they have become accustomed to due to at the ward.
The patients at the ward also play a crucial role to the repressive environment they are exposed to since they allow Ratched have control over them due to their compliance and obedience to her actions.
Nurse Ratched takes notice to McMurphy’s intentions of starting rebellion at the ward
Not in favor of the patients beginning to think for themselves
Severely punishes McMurphy on many occasions
Continues to provoke Nurse Ratched
Teaches patients of willpower and his belief of mind over matter
Final act of rebellion: McMurphy tears open Nurse Ratched’s uniform,exposing her
Ratched proudly uniform, symbol of authority over the men
This act represents freedom, makes Ratched an equal to them.
McMurphy is lobotomized
Takes his ability to escape the ward.
Men remember him as an inspiration to social change and acknowledge him for giving them a sense of their own capacity.

Kesey is ultimately trying expresses that for freedom and a fair balance of power and obedience to prevail in society,
one must think and question their surroundings based off their own judgment rather than what they are told and not get accustomed to accepting things at face value.
Due to the patients’ lack of thinking, they became prisoners of their own fear, and Nurse Ratched preyed on it and abused her power over them because they allowed her to.
McMurphy enlightened the men and opened their eyes to the societal repression that had become their reality
He paved the way for the men to break away from the encroachment of authority after he wasnt able to help them any longer
Nurse Ratched
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