Critical Response on "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"

Essay by theaussieposseHigh School, 11th gradeA, March 2004

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There have been many struggles in history between authority and those who oppose it. The most obvious and most common example is revolutions against governments. We live in a society where stability and assimilation are not just recommended, but also enforced. We have the right for civil disobedience, so long as it is non-violent and within reason. In the book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, R.P McMurphy, a "brawling, gambling man" enters a mental asylum in Oregon, and begins to wage war "on behalf of his fellow inmates". However he finds himself at odds with Nurse Ratched, a strict, manipulative and methodical woman who runs the ward like a "precision-made machine". The book follows McMurphy's actions that constantly clash with the Nurse, and what she represents: authority. By the end of the book, there are many examples of struggles against the higher power, and it is in my opinion that the statement "when authority and individuals come into conflict, authority always wins out" is incorrect, because individuals do not have to win the physical conflict to win the battle of brains.

From day one, the reader finds that McMurphy is out to cause trouble. Gambling is illegal in the ward, but McMurphy declares that he was sent to the institution "to bring [the inpatients] some fun an' entertainment around the gaming table"(p. 16). He starts interrupting daily meetings, which the Nurse treats with much importance. And whenever he is reprimanded for something, he laughs. The laughing is the most important part of his self-defence, as it is the only legal way he can fight back against authority. It is a symbol of defiance, and a sign of McMurphy's freedom. It shows that, no matter what the institution does to him, he still has his mental independence.

As the...