Q&A: Like Father, Like Son In "Cuckoo's Nest" . News | OPB
In fact, it's McMurphy's laugh that first captures the attention of Chief Bromden, the ward's silent sentinel and narrator of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken. and find homework help for other One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest questions at he argues that Nurse Ratched intends for group therapy sessions to make the. Chief is the narrator of the story and for most of the book, he's just an observer. He watches how McMurphy interacts with the men, what McMurphy is trying to do .
Nurse Ratched finds Billy and the prostitute in each other's arms, partially dressed, and admonishes him.
Representation of madness in Kesey's One flew over the cuckoo's nest
Billy asserts himself for the first time, answering Nurse Ratched without stuttering. Ratched calmly threatens to tell Billy's mother what she has seen. Billy has an emotional breakdown, and once left alone in the doctor's office, commits suicide by cutting his throat. Nurse Ratched blames McMurphy for the loss of Billy's life. Enraged at what she has done to Billy, McMurphy attacks Ratched, attempting to strangle her to death, tearing off her uniform and revealing her breasts to the patients and aides who are watching.
McMurphy is physically restrained and moved to the Disturbed ward. Nurse Ratched misses a week of work due to her injuries, during which time many of the patients either transfer to other wards or check out of the hospital forever. When she returns she cannot speak and is thus deprived of her most potent tool to keep the men in line.
With Bromden, Martini, and Scanlon the only patients who attended the boat trip left on the ward, McMurphy is brought back in. He has received a lobotomyand is now in a vegetative state, rendering him silent and motionless. The Chief smothers McMurphy with a pillow during the night in an act of mercy before lifting the tub room control panel that McMurphy could not lift earlier, throwing it through a window and escaping the hospital.
Background[ edit ] One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was written in and published in in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement  and deep changes to the way psychology and psychiatry were being approached in America.
The s began the controversial movement towards deinstitutionalization  an act that would have affected the characters in Kesey's novel. The novel is a direct product of Kesey's time working the graveyard shift as an orderly at a mental health facility in Menlo Park, California. He advocated for drug use as a path to individual freedom,  an attitude that was reflected in the views of psychological researchers of the time.
Each individual's experiences were said to vary; emotions and experiences ranged from transformations into other life forms, religious experiences, and extreme empathy. The novel's narrator, the Chief, combines these authorities in his mind, calling them "The Combine" in reference to the mechanistic way they manipulate and process individuals.
The authority of The Combine is most often personified in the character of Nurse Ratched who controls the inhabitants of the novel's mental ward through a combination of rewards and subtle shame. This is because the subtlety of her actions prevents her prisoners from understanding they are being controlled at all.
The Chief also sees the Combine in the damming of the wild Columbia River at Celilo Fallswhere his Native American ancestors hunted, and in the broader conformity of post-war American consumer society. The novel's critique of the mental ward as an instrument of oppression comparable to the prison mirrored many of the claims that French intellectual Michel Foucault was making at the same time.
Similarly, Foucault argued that invisible forms of discipline oppressed individuals on a broad societal scale, encouraging them to censor aspects of themselves and their actions. The novel also criticizes the emasculation of men in society, particularly in the character of Billy Bibbit, the stuttering Acute patient who is domineered by both Nurse Ratched and his mother. The title of the book is a line from a nursery rhyme: Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn, Apple seed and apple thorn, Wire, briar, limber lock Three geese in a flock One flew East One flew West And one flew over the cuckoo's nest Chief Bromden's grandmother sang a version of this song to him when he was a child, a fact revealed in the story when the Chief received yet another ECT treatment after he assisted McMurphy with defending George, a patient being abused by the ward's aides.
Main characters[ edit ] Randle McMurphy: A free-spirited, rebellious con man, sent to the hospital from a prison work farm. He is guilty of battery and gambling.
He had also been charged with, but never convicted of - due to the girl in question not wishing to testify so as not to implicate herself and her willingness to participate - statutory rape. McMurphy is transferred from a prison work farm to the hospital, thinking it will be an easy way to serve out his sentence in comfort.
In the end, McMurphy attacks Nurse Ratched, sacrificing his freedom and his health in exchange for freeing the previously shackled spirits of the cowed patients on the ward.
Bromden is presumed by staff and patients alike to be deaf and mute, and through this guise he becomes privy to many of the ward's dirtiest secrets. After seeing his father, a Native American chieftain, humiliated at the hands of the U.
Soon he is diagnosed with schizophrenia. He believes society is controlled by a large, mechanized system which he calls "The Combine. It's still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it's the truth even if it didn't happen. The tyrannical head nurse of the mental institution, who exercises near-total control over those in her care, including her subordinates. She will not hesitate to restrict her patients' access to medication, amenities, and basic human necessities if it suits her manipulative whims.
Her favorite informant is the timid Billy Bibbit, whom she coerces into divulging the unit's secrets by threatening to complain about him to his mother. McMurphy's fun-loving, rebellious presence in Ratched's institution is a constant annoyance, as neither threats nor punishment nor shock therapy will stop him or the patients under his sway.
Eventually, after McMurphy nearly chokes her to death in a fit of rage, Nurse Ratched has him lobotomized. However, the damage has already been done, and Nurse Ratched's rule is broken after McMurphy's attack leaves her nearly unable to speak, which renders her unable to intimidate her patients, subordinates and superiors.
Three black men who work as aides in the ward. Williams is a dwarfhis growth stunted after witnessing his mother being raped by white men. The Chief says Nurse Ratched hired them for their sadistic nature.
Nurse Ratched drove off other doctors, but she kept Spivey because he always did as he was told.
Harding suggests that the nurse could threaten to expose him as a drug addict if he stood up to her. McMurphy's rebellion inspires him to stand up to Nurse Ratched. The young night nurse. Her face, neck, and chest are stained with a profound birthmark. She is a devout Catholic and fears sinning. She blames the patients for infecting her with their evil and takes it out on them.
An elderly African American aide who works the late shift in the ward. He agrees to let McMurphy host a party and sneak in prostitutes one night. The nurse in charge of the upstairs disturbed ward, for violent and unmanageable patients. She is kind and openly opposes Nurse Ratched's methods. Acutes[ edit ] The acutes are patients who officials believe can still be cured.
Nurse Ratched becomes here a signifier that subordinates an individual self not only to the generic category of female but also to an abstraction, Evil. His description draws on a series of stereotypical male properties: The contrast in size between McMurphy and Billy serves to further establish McMurphy as the alpha male. By associating McMurphy with sexual arousal, his role as the stereotypical, sex-driven masculine energy of the novel is undeniable.
McMurphy, similarly to Nurse Ratched, becomes here a signifier for masculinity. He is recognised as an abstraction rather than a person and his individual character is lost.
The power of conformity: However, this is not solely due to their submission to tyrannical femininity and hyper masculinity, but also because they submissively follow their institutional roles of employee and inmate. When Nurse Ratched discusses the potential use of the other day room with Dr. University of California Press,p. Her authentic self is hidden behind the institutional pressure of conforming to her role as an employee.
The insanity lies in the standardisation of behaviour and emotion that the impersonal institution obliges her to submit to, depriving her of the possibility to be true to herself. Of the famous fourteen inches? McMurphy may value individual identity over imposed identity, but he is himself incredibly restricted by conventional masculine expectations.
Nor does McMurphy appear to behave himself in a way that corresponds to a true self. Again, this glimpse of a different McMurphy in the dark, demonstrates how his true self is hidden underneath his efforts to conform to a certain image.
Q&A: Like Father, Like Son In "Cuckoo's Nest"
Fick likens McMurphy to a modern superhero but makes a distinction: In other words, McMurphy is not able to manoeuvre between his public and private selves: Although to a lesser degree than Nurse Ratched, McMurphy, too, appears to conform to external and thus oppressive pressures placed upon him by his peers. In doing so, he loses his individuality and consequently risks his own sanity.
Patterns of Masculine and Feminine Initiation, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company,p. He both participates in the discourse of madness as a member of the institution, and simultaneously, by pretending to be mute and deaf, avoids active participation in the discourse. This becomes evident when Bromden begins to explain his memories: This escape implies that Bromden actively revolts and breaks free of institutional control.
However, it is possible to establish temporary points of resistance that allow us to negotiate our status within these power relations and, at least provisionally, challenge its binary classifications. He achieves his individuality, and by extension his sanity, by asserting himself as a decision-maker. It could be interpreted as referring to his physical absence from the Columbian gorge: Bromden has escaped the oppressive forces of the Institution in order to literally go home.