One flew over the cuckoos nest

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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Literature Essay: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by K. Kesey.

"Discuss how the world within the ward is mirrored in the world outside." It is suggested that Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest contains examples of behaviour and attitudes displayed by characters within the clinical environment of the psychiatric ward which can be compared to behaviour found within contemporary American society. These include examples of leadership and hierarchy within a class or caste system, sexism and crime and punishment.

In the text, the theme of leadership is very prominent and important to the story. Arguably it is more important theme of the book, than the issue of mental illness, which forms the setting and the core of the novel.

The leader figure in the ward is Big Nurse, who has complete control over the ward. Any decisions that are made over a patient or with regards the running of the ward must go through Big Nurse first.

She is seen by the Chief as being almost mechanical in her approach to her running of the ward: She's got that bag full of a thousand parts she aims to use in her duties today-wheels and gears, cogs polished to a hard glitter…(10) The ward is run by her to a very strict daily routine, which is almost fanatically neurotic in it's precision and dedication. Chief describes Big Nurse's devotion to her daily routine: 'The slightest thing messy or out of kilter in any way ties her into a little white knot of tight-smiled fury' (27) When McMurphy enters the ward, the delicate equilibrium which the nurse has created is upset. This is because, like the nurse, McMurphy is a natural leader-figure. He takes over the control of the ward by manipulating the patients; seemingly for their own good,