One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
SETTING: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is set in a mental hospital in Oregon. The novel is divided into four parts. Parts One, Two and Four are set in the hospital itself. In Part Three, the patients from the hospital go on a deep-sea fishing trip, and the setting is the boat. Except for a few outsiders, the characters are either patients or employees of the hospital. Kesey has drawn from his own experience to give the reader an insider's view of the hospital. CONFLICT: The conflict that Kesey depicts in the book is on two levels. The first level is between the patients, especially McMurphy, and the hospital authorities, especially Nurse Ratched. At first, the patients are content to live under her thumb; when McMurphy arrives, he shows them that they are worth more than the poor treatment they are receiving. On the second and more universal level, the novel is a conflict between the individual, depicted in the patients, and the repressive forces of society, depicted in the hospital administration. Symbolically, it becomes a conflict of good (the individual) vs. evil (the repressive society). Protagonist: The protagonists of the novel are the patients of the mental hospital, chiefly represented by McMurphy and Chief Bromden. McMurphy works throughout the novel to improve and free his fellow patients. On the symbolic level, they represent the individual in society. Antagonist: The antagonist is the cold, uncaring hospital administration, chiefly represented by Nurse Ratched. It is obvious that Ratched's main concern is to keep her patients submissive. On the symbolic level, the administration represents the repressive forces of society. Appropriately, Nurse Ratched has the authorities on her side, and her strongest weapon against the inmates is the Shock Shop, where they are kept under control. Although Kesey does not develop much of her personality, Ratched is obviously a cold, calculating woman. She despises McMurphy, for she has difficulty in controlling him. She tries to demystify him and prove to the other inmates that he is just as ordinary as they are, and not a hero or messiah as they see him. THEMES: (Major Theme) : Societal repression over the individual is the main theme of the novel. In the mental hospital, the patients (representing the individual) are subjected to all kinds of cruelty at the hands of the repressive hospital administration (representing the State). If they refuse to be controlled, the patients are given shock treatments, against their will, to bring them in line. If a patient still refuses to follow the repressive orders of the staff, the patient is lobotomized, as evidenced by McMurphy. Through the novel, Kesey has shown that any individual who rebels against the State must be very strong or else he will be destroyed. Conformity is the key word. As long as one conforms to society's rules, life runs smoothly; if one refuses to conform, the non-conformist will pay the price unless he is very strong. The Chief's father acted with non-conformity, but was not strong enough; as a result, he was destroyed. The patients in the hospital that have voluntarily committed themselves are there because they are not strong enough to fight society. Billy was not strong enough to fight the repression and kills himself. McMurphy was strong enough to oppose the repression; but in the end, he still loses. (Minor Theme) :The minor theme of the novel is the destructive power women wield over men. The Chief's father and Harding are both emasculated by their wives. Billy is dominated by his mother and kills himself when the Nurse threatens to tell her he has been with a prostitute. Nurse Ratched terrifies the men in the ward. McMurphy tries to breaks the Nurse's hold over the patients by exposing her breasts and rendering her helpless. She retaliates by having a lobotomy performed on McMurphy, turning him into a docile vegetable. MOOD: The mood of the book, set in a repressive...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document