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In his book One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Keysey Ken makes it very interesting when it gets to the final chapter. This is so as it comes to an end with the Nurse Ratched coming out as the hollow victor in the story as she has nothing to show for it. On the other hand, McMurphy emerges as the ultimate victor, despite all his oppressions in the story including his death. The confrontation that takes place between Nurse Ratched and McMurhy is important in bringing out the sexual content in the novel. The nurse also uses to her advantage her repressed sexuality to make Billy feel ashamed. Billy had always been religious and also looked up to the nurse as a mother. However when the nurse uses her sexuality, he gets guilty and is affected psychologically. This guilt eventually makes Billy commit suicide. When she goes ahead to confront McMurphy, they get into a physical fight and in the scuffle her breasts are exposed. She is embarrassed, surprised and she cannot even speak. This event shows that what Harding had said was true. He had said that the only cure for her was sex. By her going silent sudden, it shows just how much she loses her humanity as she is completely unable to speak. This happens contrary to Chief Bromden, as this event makes him regain his humanity and he is able to speak.
Another theme that really plays out in this last chapter is religion really plays out. Religious ideas are also acted out in this last chapter of the book. Nurse Ratched lays the blame of Billy and Cheswick on McMurphy. She points out at McMurphy for causing these deaths because he was acting like God and thus pushed to two to take out their own lives. This blame is ironical in the sense that, she was the one who had got policies that pushed the two to their limits and they could not take it anymore. She was the one playing God. She was involved in planning all the vengeful activities that affected the patients in the ward. Everybody got a hard time because of her and instead of them recovering, their health degraded even more.
McMurphy comes out as the eventual true winner even though he is murdered when the nurse orders a lobotomy. This event makes the other patients to no longer be afraid of the nurse. They start to leave the hospital at their own will by themselves. In this event, we are able to see more religious themes playing out as McMurphy is seen as the liberator of his mates; the messiah. His death is for a cause. This is so as it allows his disciples to get freedom for themselves and become independent and free once more. This is the freedom just like the one McMurphy found in his death. The majority of the patients are strengthened by his words and proposals when he was alive. They are able to leave the hospital and enter the world again as changed individuals who are active in the society.
In the novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", the whole content is written metaphorically. The author Ken Kesey uses the psychiatric ward as a metaphor. He uses this to show the oppression that goes on in the outside world. This is with emphasis to the American society. This novel has got a symbolic meaning. It talks about the life of an inmate who is up to fight against the evils and oppressions that go on inside the institutions of the mentally disturbed. The story gives a vivid image of the cases that go unresolved behind the walls of these institutions. It shows the abuse that takes place, with the inmates not being treated with same respect as other humanity (Kamp, 1994). This novel helps us understand a critical view of he thin line between issues concerning mentally ill patients. It shows us the difference between sanity and insanity and that which depicts treating a patient and controlling them.
The characters have also been used metaphorically. They represent the society. McMurphy comes out as a character that portrays the rebellious people in the society. He goes ahead to gather other patients and gets them to challenge the way they are being dictated around. Another character is Billy. Billy is used by the author to show how decisions made by a person in the society can have severe consequences on that person. Bill shows a lot of disobedience when in the wards. This form of character leads him into a lot of trouble. He is always rubbing shoulders with his seniors and fellow mates. His disobedience gets the better of him when it eventually leads him to committing suicide. The author is very specific when he gives a name to the nurse. In this book, the nurse is called Ratched. This name symbolises a very negative personality. It is a synonym to wretched. She is used by the author to show the element of authority in the society. She commands what goes on in the ward and also what the inmates are supposed to do or not do. Just like the government in the society, she makes the rules and is also responsible in ensuring that those laws are followed by enforcing them.
In the book, the narrator is a character called the chief. He comes out as a strong Native American who does not communicate with others easily (Moss, 1997). He fakes to be mute, not talking to anybody and also acts deaf. He does this just so he can protect himself from getting pain inflicted on him by other people in the society.his character cimes out as a metaphor for the fifties. He portrays how back then people used to be silent about the evils that were going on in the society and how it reached a time that they could not take it in anymore. They had to do something and this consisted of them letting their views get heard. This is shown in the novel when the Chief is rescued from his life of silence by McMurphy. The Chief returns this favour later on. He rescues him from his miserable life.
A review of this book gives various responses to the literature styles used by the author. In One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey protests the inability to live with oneself by putting up a mask. The story takes place in a mental ward in the 1950's. Chief Bromden looks at this place differently. He looks at the mental ward as a serine place from the external world. It is what he calls the Combine. The Combine controls society and forces people into conformity. In the mental ward, one looses themselves and falls to the rules and regulations that are placed upon them by the Big Nurse. The story is written in first person, which gives the reader insight into how the main character is feeling, seeing, and interpreting everything around him. Chief Bromden tells the story. He is the narrator in it. He tells the story how it appears to him, which is significant because at first his reality is very foggy and hallucinated. Chief lets himself fall into the fog because he would rather relax than have to deal with the painful reality that he's living in. Chief also makes the others think he's deaf and dumb, which is significant because he can hear vital information being spoken around the ward without anybody suspecting him of anything (Kamp, 1994).
When the story begins, Chief Bromden is sweeping in the hall. He does this with instructions from the black boys. The nurse enters the ward; mechanical and stiff in her starched white uniform. Kesey uses the machinery reference because machinery is something that society uses to gain control of people and restrain individuals from their natural instincts. The Nurses starched uniform is used to hide her femininity. The Nurse wants to hide her large breasts from the men because they would make the men not see her as such a strong authority figure. She stays in her glass nurse's station, which is breakable and shows her false sense of security. She also has a box, which holds her hat, a symbol of control and authority. She keeps the hat in a box to try to keep her power safe, sound, and not to be tempered with. McMurphy comes into the ward as a new obligated patient. He immediately tries to establish himself in the ward above everybody else. He gives the other patients a false sense of self by befriending all of them and letting them win in card games. He doesn't judge them, nor does he discriminate them, whether they are Chronic or Acute.
Billy Bibbit has come to the ward out of his own will. He is in 30's and his mother, close friends with Nurse Ratched, still treats him as a boy. Billy never got to experience real life because his mother was always by his side. This enabled him to never gain confidence and caused him to develop a stutter. Harding is an acute who hides his homosexuality by always talking about his wife. Society doesn't accept homosexuality as something natural so Harding has to hide his true self and trap his delicate hands in between his legs. Chief recalls a story about Old Pete; how he stood up in a therapeutic meeting and expressed how he was tired, born a miscarriage, and how he was born dead. Kesey uses the story of Old Pete to prove that if anybody listened or cared to understand another individual, you might be able to help them in the long run.
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In the middle of the story, Chief recalls the time when he was in the war. They used fog machines to hide from the enemy or before an attack was about to take place. You couldn't see anything around you and when you did come in contact with something, it was clearer and more distinct than ever. When Chief would see another soldier, it was painful to see that person so clear, almost looking inside of him but he didn't want to loose that person either because any contact was better than none. In the army Chief was just another uniform with no emotions, feelings, or thoughts. Nobody knew who you were, what you've been through, or anything. Your uniform is all you had, but it didn't represent whom you truly were inside. As people, we need people and desire to be apart of humanity. By putting up a front, you are putting yourself in danger. The only person that can help you is yourself.
During the therapeutic meeting, McMurphy tried changing the television time in order to watch the World Series. He needed a majority vote based on 40 patients. Only 20 patients raised their hands and Chief was their last hope. By Chief raising his hand he is coming out of his shell and has completed his rebirth. One person can truly make a difference. Chief has gained such respect for McMurphy that he compares himself to him. Chief looks into a mirror and sees a face with chiseled features and dark eyes, a face that was never familiar to him. Chief exclaims that the way he looks doesn't truly reflect whom he is inside. McMurphy changes his behavior completely. He doesn't understand why the Acutes won't leave the ward if they're only voluntary. Billy becomes hysterical and tells McMurphy that they don't have the guts; he doesn't know what its like to be made fun of, and they are not as big and strong as he is. McMurphy doesn't let himself into their deep psychological problems.
Being committed means that you are in the ward until the nurse says otherwise. No longer is he singing, marching around the ward, and ordering people around. He sits quietly and doesn't talk back to the nurse, which is totally unlike his normal self. This causes Cheswick to commit suicide. He does so because nobody did anything when he requested for availability of cigarettes all the time. Following this, McMurphy breaks the glass of the nurse's station. The glass is then replaced with a cardboard box, an unstable and softer material. This proves that the nurse's power is being challenged even more. Also it shows that McMurphy and the other patients are more than ever a threat to her. His new intentions are not going to be of helping himself, but helping and benefiting the other patients. His first stop is Chief. In the middle of the night, McMurphy tells Chief that he plans to make him "big again" like he used to be. When the patients go on the fishing trip, George lets the other patients in on his fishing and sailing techniques that they never knew existed in him. If you hide who you are, then how can anybody ever appreciate the traits you have? (Moss, 1997). Billy gains an attraction to the prostitute, Candy that McMurphy brought along on the fishing trip. McMurphy is trying to help them gain a sense of who they are. He is also trying to revive their faith in their sexuality.
At the end of the story, McMurphy tests to see how "big" chief has got from that night in the ward. He does this by bringing Chief into the tub room and seeing if he would lift the control panel. He didn't lift it, but it moves half a foot. This proves that Chief is becoming stronger, more confident, and is gaining power. He is unveiling himself from all the years spent in the ward and is showing his true colors. McMurphy plans a midnight party. This will host all of the Acutes. Mr. Greever will also be present. The two prostitutes Candy and Sandy were also invited. There was to be plenty of alcohol. Even Chief was drunk and he felt like if they were having fun and going against the rules of the ward, they could possibly beat the stronghold of the Combine. McMurphy and Harding talked of how they could set up this party. The initial idea was to make it as if somebody broke into the ward. They then got into a deeper conversation. McMurphy asked Harding why he didn't want to escape and Harding said he wanted to do it the right way and walk out of the front door. Harding explained that it isn't easy to just get up and sign oneself out because everybody has their own problems and their only comfort is the walls of the ward.
Harding finally confesses his homosexuality. He is unable to express who he is to society in fear that he would feel shame, feel guilty, and have fingers pointing at him. If someone is different from what society thinks is right, then society deals with somebody different in its own way. By society criticizing the patients, they rely on the ward for safety from the harsh realities. When the nurse caught the men the next morning, she was furious. She opened the seclusion room to find Billy and Candy. Billy lost his stutter for a minute because his past is behind him. When she threatens to tell his mother about the incident his stutter comes back completely, and is worse than ever. His mother is the one thing that truly brings him down and takes away all of his self-assurance. Billy blames Candy, McMurphy, and all the other patients for making him commit such acts, claiming that they "called him things." (Moss, 1997) Big Nurse pulls his head to her starched bosom and strokes his shoulder as she calls him a poor little boy. This totally takes away his masculinity. It gives him a false sense of protection because of starched material of her uniform. She let Billy sit in the doctor's office while she explained to him that damage that has been caused. When the doctor goes to check on Billy, he has committed suicide. Billy was unable to live with himself and resorted to death.
The Nurse blames everything on McMurphy. She says that he is "playing with human lives as if he thought himself to be a god." She enters the nurse's station and he breaks the glass again. He resorted to violence this time and ripped open her uniform, exposing her breasts, and choked her. The revealing of Big Nurse's breasts breaks her power and forfeits his own life. She orders him a lobotomy. The patients cannot believe that it is him on the gurney table. Chief decides to smother him during the night with the intentions that he wouldn't want to live like this. Also, no matter what had happened to him, he will always be a legend in the ward. Chief tried to put McMurphy legendary cap on after smothering him. He was ashamed to find that this whole time, he was bigger than McMurphy because the cap that represented power and authority did not fit. This whole time Chief puts up an act of being dumb, deaf and weak. He does this when in fact his power overrode McMurphys (Moss, 1997). After Chief kills him, he goes into the tub room, lifts the control panel, and throws it out of the window. He hitches hikes towards his old home near the Columbia River and exclaims, "I been away a long time." Finally he is fully out of the fog and into the real world. Here he can start his new life with the memories of the ward, his friends, Nurse Ratched, the black boys, and of course McMurphy.
After reading this book, we can therefore see that in his novel, Ken Kesey has shown that by masking oneself, you do not understand and realize what is going on in reality. His use of the metaphor in encompassing different characters in the society is appealing. It shows the raging difficulties hindering the separation of the good from the evil in the society gives a vivid image of how to change the society we live in. it gives us an idea of the changes we can make.
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