This essay compares Ken Kesey and Harriot Jacobs' use of fear and control in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

Essay by keefalishCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 2004

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Fear and Control of the Unknown

Throughout history many communities have been persecuted for being different from the general public. Society has often forced these unique individuals to assimilate or be constrained because of the public's fear and anxiety of the unknown. Such insecurities led to the mistreatment and restraint of both the slaves as portrayed in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and the mental patients in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.

One of the most apparent and important themes in both One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is control. Fear is used as a means to gain control over the slave by their master or even by the slave to achieve a sense of power over the master. The white men of this era attempted to keep slaves ignorant by restricting them from reading and learning about the outside world (Jacobs 81).

They could then manipulate the minds of their slaves in any way they wanted; often instilling fear in the hearts of the slaves by telling them how difficult the outside world was for runaways (48). Ironically, it was their own fears of slave rebellion that initiated these lies. Similarly, the nurse and her staff in One Flew...use fear as a method of restraint over the patients in The Combine. Nurse Ratched, the head of The Combine, used her power over the schedule and subtle influence to persuade things to go her way. For example, when McMurphy proposed the idea of a fishing trip to the group, a suggestion that Nurse Ratched detested, she "started steadily bringing in clippings from the newspapers that told of wrecked boats and sudden storms off the coast" (Kesey 178). These subtle notes were her cunning way to scare...