One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a novel written by Ken Kesey during a time in our society when pressures of our modern world seemed at their greatest. Many people were, at this time, deemed by society’s standards to be insane and institutionalized. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is set in a ward of a mental institution. The major conflict in the novel is that of power. Power is a recurring and overwhelming theme throughout the novel. Kesey shows the power of women who are associated with the patients, the power Nurse Ratched has, and also the power McMurphy fights to win. By default, he also shows how little power the patients have. When discussing the theme of power in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, McMurphy can’t be ignored. McMurphy’s power begins with the fact of his mental stability. He comes to the mental institution to escape the stress and difficulties of a prison work farm. He is not insane in the way society describes insanity. He tells the patients in the ward “…the court ruled that I’m a psychopath. And do you think I’m gonna argue with the court? Shoo, you can bet your bottom dollar I don’t. If it gets me outta those damned pea fields I’ll be whatever their little heart desires…” (13). McMurphy is also a con man for most of the novel (Foster 2). He is constantly gambling and winning money from the other patients. When first introduced to McMurphy, he claims “[he’s] a gambling fool” (11). McMurphy being a gambler is powerful because it gives the patients a goal or activity and is a form of entertainment. The monotony being reduced gives McMurphy power. The most important aspect of McMurphy’s power is in laughter. McMurphy is trying to explain the power of laughter to the patients when he says, “…that’s the first thing that got me about this place, that there wasn’t anybody laughing. I haven’t heard a real laugh since I came through that door, do you know that? Man, when you lose your laugh you...
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