How does the film "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" explore rebellion?

Essay by MaHeLa.JHigh School, 12th grade August 2003

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"One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" is an emotionally moving film which portrays the story of patients at a mental institution, and explores some strange incidents which occur on the premises, the maintenance of power achieved by the authorities, and the acts of rebellion that inevitably follow. The most prominent authority is Nurse Ratched and her henchmen staff. The nurse is a middle-aged woman who superficially appears to be caring and understanding but is in fact cruel and insensitive. Her team of staff is mostly comprised of negro men who simply follow orders, but nevertheless attempt to maintain 'peace' by using physical force. In addition, various doctors and specialists who make decisions on the conditions of the patients also hold power.

The authorities use both physical and psychological methods of maintaining their power. Patients are forced to partake in group meetings which are generally useful methods of rehabilitation. However, these meetings are maliciously manipulated to embarrass and humiliate those involved.

A slightly more subtle method of control is playing supposedly tranquil music in the background. This dreary and often monotonous tune is quite intrusive and discourages the men from communicating with one another. Threats are also used to keep the men under control. Nurse Ratched is the main culprit in this department. She unscrupulously threatens to tell Billy's mother of his 'shameful' actions until he is driven to insanity and ends up committing suicide. Physical force is used by the wards men, who use various weapons such as batons to overcome trouble makers. The most disturbing and inhumane force used, however, is the lobotomy performed on McMurphy, effectively transforming him into a 'vegetable'.

The two rebellious instigators in the film are McMurphy and Chief Bromden. Ironically, these are the only two committed patients at the institute. Chief rebels in...