The Societal Machine

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For decades, different groups of people have been subject to the oppressive nature of society, such as African Americans during the Civil Rights movement, or the same-sex couples of today’s day and age. Society is often a deterring factor to people’s dreams—it is no exception in the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. Narrator Chief Bromden refers to society as the Combine. The definition of a combine is “an agricultural machine that cuts, threshes, and cleans a grain crop in one operation,” or a machine that cuts and levels out that which it consumes. Society is like a combine in that it restrains, manipulates, and obliterates anyone who tries to stand up against it. Through his recount of the story of McMurphy and the other patients in the ward, Bromden shows that the Combine is able to control the patients by generating fear of authority and punishment in them, manipulating them by toying with these fears, and shutting down anyone who shows resistance.

Initially, all of the patients are well-behaved and kept under control because they fear the Combine and Nurse Ratched, the dictator of all of it. The patients in the ward are categorized under two groups: the Chronics, whose mental state “can’t be repaired” (14), and the Acutes who are “still sick enough to be fixed” (13). The patients do everything according to the Nurse’s rules, for they do not want to face punishments such as electroshock therapy, or even fate as a Chronic. Furthermore, “there are only a few men on the ward who are committed” (166), and the rest of the patients are there voluntarily. This shows that they fear the outside world; because of this, they submit to anything the Nurse wants them to do. Harding, one of the patients, states that “All of us in here are rabbits of varying ages and degrees... We need a good strong wolf like the nurse to teach us our place” (62). The fact that all the patients can check themselves out of the hospital at anytime but refuse to...
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