False Diagnosis of Insanity
In the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, the false diagnosis of insanity is used as a manipulation tool that will result in the patients’ control over the ward. Throughout the novel Nurse Ratched and her staff presume that many patients in the ward are mentally ill and the state of insanity was highly encouraged. The author does however imply that the big nurse possessed an awareness of their sanity through her persistence with forcing medications and having periodic group meetings that undermine the patients. Her method of constantly reminding them that they were insane was detrimental to any chance of them developing into being “normal.” In this asylum, to be normal, to fit in, was to be unresponsive and defenseless. The patients had realized this and followed that requirement. They chose to play a certain role, so that they would get no closer to punishable treatment. The patients eventually manipulate the ward under the illusion of their mental illnesses. But it wasn’t until the arrival of the protagonist Randal McMurphy. The mental hospital was at a stagnant state before his appearance. He came into the ward so open and confident with his state of mind. It inspired the patients and competed with Ratched’s control.
The fog machine during the group meetings is another source of the wards power, to Bromden’s belief. The fog machine symbolizes the act of purposefully clouding one’s knowledge or awareness of their surroundings. Fog represents a lack of comprehension of one’s environment and also signifies a form of escape. A machine that the ward controls shows the grip that this staff has on their patients. McMurphy tells Bromden, “You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself.” The lack of awareness is a form of escape for the patients because their life in the asylum is constant confinement. As...
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