Themes - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest By Ken Kesey

Essay by AndruCollege, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

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One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, examines humanity and control. In this novel, characters within a mental institution struggle with achieving rights and freedoms. The mental institution and its staffs resemble totalitarian state of government which imposes laws and control. However, as demonstrated by one of the characters R.P. McMurphy, it takes a strong individual to stand up against a totalitarian system and speak for the rights and freedoms of the individual. This theme demonstrates through McMurphy's self-sacrifice the patients realize that they are able to obtain rights and freedoms by becoming self-reliant and independent of the laws of the combine, as McMurphy has demonstrated.

Being self-dependent and self-reliant is important in order to be a strong individual. The patients in the hospital are, quite unusual. They cannot adjust to the society, and the society does not accept them. The patients are dependent and ignorant, they do not see the cruelty that is imposed on them, they need the nurse to makes choices for them, which allows the combine to control them.

"We need a good strong wolf like the nurse to teach us our place." (Kesey. Pg. 61) Any patients who displays individuality or self-reliance is medicated or punished by nurse Ratched. Nevertheless, a unique character comes along that demonstrates and teaches other patients how to be strong and courageous. McMurphy challenges the state, and gains respect and hope of the patients.

"But the new guy is different, and the Acutes can see it, different from anybody been coming on this ward for the past ten years, different from anybody they even met outside. He's just as vulnerable, maybe, but the Combine didn't get him." (Kesey. Pg. 83)

McMurphy is a character, who is courageous, who helps them see that in order for them...