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One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

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Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest takes place in a mental hospital. The main character, or protagonist is Randle P. McMurphy, a convicted criminal and gambler who feigns insanity to get out of a prisoners work ranch. The antagonist is Nurse Ratched also referred to as The Big Nurse . She is in charge of running the mental ward. The novel is narrated by a patient of the hospital, an American Indian named Chief Bromden. Chief Bromden has been a patient at the hospital longer than any of the others, and is a paranoid-schizophrenic, who is posing as a deaf mute. The Chief often drifts in and out between reality and his psychosis. The conflict in the novel is between McMurphy and The Big Nurse which turns into a battle of mythic proportion. The center of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is this battle between the two, which Kesey uses to represent many of our cultures most influential stories. The dominant theme in this novel is that of conformity and it's pressure on today's society. In the novel conformity is represented as a machine , or in Chief Bromden's mind a combine . To the Chief, the combine' depicts the conformist society of America, this is evident in one particular paragraph: This excerpt not only explains the Chiefs outlook on society as a machine but also his self outlook and how society treats a person who is unable to conform to society, or more poignantly one who is unable to cope with the inability to conform to society. The chief views the mental hospital as a big machine as well, which is run by The Big Nurse who controls everyone except McMurphy with wires and a control panel. In the Chiefs eyes McMurphy was missed by the combine, as the Chief and the other patients are casualties of it. Therefore McMurphy is an unconformist and is unencumbered by the wires of The Big Nurse and so he is a threat to the combine. McMurphy represents the antithesis to the mechanical regularity, therefore he represents nature and it's unregularity. Another key theme in Kesey's novel is the role of women is society and how it contradicts the males. In keeping with the highly contrasting forces of conformity verses creativity Kesey proceeds to compare the male role to spontaneity, sexuality, and nature and the female role to conformity, sexual repression and ultimately the psychological castration of the male. Nurse Ratched was endowed with large breast which threatens her power over the male patients because of her exposing herself sexually and Kesey's view in the novel of male sexual dominance, therefore she try's to hide them the best she can. Nurse Ratched gains her power through her sterility which she does with no makeup and white uniform, as well as her emasculation of the male patients and doctors. The Big Nurse ' takes the place of the mother role or other over domineering feminine role in a lot of the patients lives, which led them to their psychological castration. To the Chief, the nurse takes on the role of his white mother who orchestrated the downfall and emasculation of his father and the selling of his tribal land to the white people. Another patient Billy Bibbit a thirty one year old man whose mental problems were due to his over domineering mother , who was friends with Nurse Ratched. The downfall of Billy was toward the climax of the novel when The Big Nurse brought to the surface Billy's inability to stand up to his mother and her years of psychological castration, and soon after, came his suicide. Kesey incorporates many other sub-themes into One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest but all of them represent a larger than simply the battle between The Big Nurse and McMurphy. They all center around one central theme and that is the struggle between good and evil.



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