Conforming to a Demanding Society: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Kelsey Lowe

Conforming to a Demanding Society
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is considered to be a outburst of social protest against the policies of government, and what really makes us humans sane or insane. The “system” known as our government suppresses the individual spirit and mandates that everyone must conform to his or her mold of a model citizen. Those who don’t fit this mold are filtered into the “asylum” and deemed as mentally ill. Kesey demonstrates this concept with examples, which include the symbol of Nurse Ratched, and those what happened to those who went against the system.

In the novel, Nurse Ratched serves as a symbol for conformity. She is the head Nurse of the asylum, and is the main voice on who leaves, and what actions should be done to make them fit for society’s robotic world. In every aspect, she oozes conformity. Even her appearance fits the mold of what society wants. When McMurphy faced her with rebellion, Chief describes how well and calmly she handles it. “Her face is still calm, as though she had a cast made and painted to just the look she wants. Confident, patient, and unruffled. No more little jerk, just that terrible cold face, a calm smile stamped out of red plastic; a clean, smooth forehead, not a line in it to show weakness or worry”(Kesey 99). In this world, which seems almost parallel to our own, everyone that is socially accepted into this culture looks and acts exactly the same. The intentional reference to plastic and smoothness describes her as being robotic and not a true human. Her description brings up the discussion of who in this world is exactly as we would put it, “normal”? In this novel, Nurse Ratched is the “model citizen” and teaches the patients on how they need to act to be considered suitable in real life society. The message she brings to the patients is that anyone who is at the least bit different belongs in this hospital and should accept the fact that they are mentally ill....
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