The Subjugation of Freedom in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Ken Kesey’s book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is a multi-faceted work incorporating many thematic elements. One of the most easily addressable themes is that of freedom and its limitations placed upon the characters in the novel. Many types of freedoms are addressed ranging from the tangible and real to the perceived and implied. The setting primarily takes place in a mental hospital on a locked ward which limits the characters’ physical freedoms. The characters are constantly coerced and demeaned by the antagonist Ms. Ratched which limits their mental freedoms. Beneath all is a subtext of sexual repression which is constantly fought against by McMurphy. Individually, each of these subjugations might be tolerated given exclusions to the others, but together they weigh down the men to the point where their complete lack of freedom almost becomes a comfort. Mental hospitals are typically secure facilities intended to provide a place for patients, whose symptoms range from minor to severe, to be secured and not be a danger to the rest of society while treatment is applied. The manner in which the patients are described in the story indicates that they are not severe mental cases but are those who are unable to function in society at large due to idiosyncrasies and minor hang-ups, yet they are housed in a ward where they are kept under lock and key, their movement is restricted to one day-room, and their activities are on a strictly regulated time-table. Most of the men have given up their physical freedom voluntarily with the expectation of treatment, mental healing and the eventual release back into society. McMurphy, on the other hand, was committed by the state and his sentence depends on the opinion of the Big Nurse, though he doesn’t realize this right away. Nurse Ratched does not resort to physical touch herself and instead uses the three ward aides to perform her physical brutality...
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