One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade December 2001

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In the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, it talked about how there was a social order, or a power structure in the hospital. We are given the idea that there is some kind of social order when one of the characters describes it to us. That character is Chief Bromden. He calls the hospital social system "Combine." He believes that Big Nurse controls everything and everybody. As this novel progresses, it is shown that Big Nurse does have a lot of control. Many of the doctors seem to be afraid of her.

The Therapeutic Community is very much like how our government works today. "He tells how the goal of the Therapeutic Community is a democratic ward, run completely by the patients and their votes, working toward making worth-while citizens to turn back Outside onto the street."(Kesey, 48) In the United States Government, we run on a democratic system too.

We vote for various issues and majority rules. The Therapeutic community also believes that concept. The patients' vote on what they want, and if there is a majority, the issue is passed. The type of system setup by the hospital is beneficial to the patients. The democratic system of "Majority Rules" is fair. By letting the patients in the Ward get use to this system of government, it will help them to be able to adapt to the outside world when they get out.

The "Combine" plays a very important role in this novel. The "Combine" describes how the power structure is setup. "Working alongside others like her who I call the "Combine," which is a huge organization that aims to adjust the Outside as well as the Inside." (Kesey, 30) Chief Bromden described the "Combine" Nurse Ratched having all the control of everything that goes on in the hospital. In the paragraphs that follow the quote above, it says that she even has full control of all the doctors on the ward. This shows that Nurse Ratched has all the power and is in complete control of anything that goes on, on the ward. The best way to describe this type of power would probably be an autocracy. An autocracy is a type of government that is run by one power. This is not a good system to run the hospital because of many reasons. First, all the doctors are afraid of the nurse, and they don't do a good job in diagnosing the patient. For example, when the three doctors were debating if McMurphy's condition, they all came up with different results. That was because the Nurse had influenced their decision. But influencing the doctors negatively, it has a negative effect on all the patients. Plus, in the "Combine," everyone including the patients, fear the Nurse. This fear doesn't help the patients recover.

In the novel, the patients are compared to as rabbits and the Big Nurse as the wolf. "The rabbits accept their role in the ritual and recognize the wolf as the strong." (Kesey, 60) This analogy resembles many workplaces today. For example, the supervisor or boss is like the wolf and the rest of the employees are like the rabbits. The wolf will take out the weak and they will keep the rest of the employees in order. If have a lazy worker or someone that is always coming in late, that boss could get raid of them just like Big Nurse does. In the hospital, Big Nurse keeps the patients in line. If they are out of line, she punishes them with the Electric Shock Therapy. I don't really support the theory of having one person controlling everyone else. Again, this is like an autocracy. Statistics have shown that when one person has that much power over other people, the person with all that power usually abuses it. They would test their limits and stuff like that. This would be harmful to the patients, because they would be afraid of the Big Nurse.

Over all, this novel does relate to the real world one way or another. It relates to the government system, work, and as well as school. The power structure the hospital has setup doesn't really help the patients. It seems to hurt them more then it helps. This novel sort of contradicts itself when it quoted that it was a democratic system that it was running. There is more evidence that shows that this power structure is more like an autocracy since one person is in charge of all the power.