Destroyed but not defeated


Control and authority are extremely important features with the text One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There are many dominant characters and there is also a fight between dominance and authority within the ward discussed in the text. In the text the responder meets many different characters and learns about the world that they live in. They also learn about the ward that the patients live on, it is described as a ‘factory’ and all the patients are apart of that machine. Nurse Ratched is the head nurse and the responder learns about her sadistic and cruel behavior on the ward.


The character that has the most encounters and disagreements with Nurse Ratched is R.P Mc Murphy, a rebellious and revolutionary ward member who matches nurse Ratched in behavior and control.


On the ward there is a strong fight for control and power and ultimately control decides if someone can be destroyed, but not defeated.


There are many reference in the text to machinery, as if the asylum ward was a factory that controlled all members on that ward.


“There is a whine of fear over the silence. I hear the machinery in the walls catch up and go on” (page 55)


This example shows that if something breaks the order on the ward that the machinery finds it hard to cope. This shows that the ward needs order and control to run smoothly and efficiently, all members of the ward have a job and a place and if anyone breaks this then the machinery will be out of use. The composer uses the metaphor of a machine to show the control within the ward. It also helps to clearly show the message about the issue to the responder.


The names of the characters also have controlling connotations, for example Nurse Ratched is a tool and R.P Mc Murphy (RPM) could stand for revolution per minute, another machinery device used. Within the text Nurse Ratched has descriptions and actions of something mechanical.


“And I’ve watched her get more skilful over the years. Practices has steadied and strengthed her until now she wields a sure power that extends in all directions on hairlike wires too small for anyone’s eye but mine; I see her sit in the centre of this web like a watchful robot, tend her network with mechanical insect skill” (page 26)


The composer again uses a metaphor and an analogy to describe nurse Ratched and her mechanical nature. She is seen as a ‘robot’ and she craves power and control.


The black boys are also very mechanical in their nature and carry out troubling tasks without any emotion or feeling.


“They are tall and sharp and bony and their faces are chipped into expressions that never change, like flint arrowheads.” (page 28)


This description of the black boys is also mechanical and unemotional. These characters show no emotion and are unable to emote or feel. The composer has made the staff, or authority, in the novel mechanical so that it adds to the idea of control and power within the combine.


“The big nurse is able to set the wall clock at whatever speed she wants by just turning one of those dials in the speed up, and those hands whip around that disc like spokes in a wheel…” (Page 72)


The big nurse, or Nurse Ratched, is a sadistic character that is in control of the ward. In the quote above Chief Bromden describes how she sets the time on the ward. Nurse Ratched controls every aspect of the men’s lives and even control the time and the pace at which they do activities.


“We need a good, strong wolf like the nurse to teach us our place” Harding (page 61)


The patients on the ward feel as if they need to be controlled so they follow her orders very strictly.


Nurse Ratched has had complete control over the patients until the R.P Mc Murphy joins the members of the ward. When he comes he revolts against the nurse and the control that she has within the ward. He stirs up trouble and creates chaos within the ward. Nurse Ratched does not know how to deal with this as she is used to people following orders.


“ You men- Stop this.