The novel One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey portrays the 1950’s as a time of craziness. R.P McMurphy, one of the protagonists in the novel, is a self-centered rebellious man, who diligently attempts, using his manipulate ways, to be the dominant force of the ward. Simultaneously, Nurse Ratched is a dominant force, which uses her iron fist and mechanical ways to drain the humanity out of her patients. During McMurphy’s time at the ward, there is a constant struggle between him and Nurse Ratched on obtaining power over the patients in the ward.
Constantly, there is a reoccurring battle between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy on who can obtain control over the patients. Ken Kesey illustrates a constant conflict between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy to display a power struggle causing chaos in a society, which unfolds the theme of Manipulation. Upon McMurphy’s arrival to the ward, patients quickly comprehend that he is cocky and arrogant and has courage.
He is characterized to be “no ordinary admission” by the patients of the ward (Kesey, 10).
McMurphy also rapidly came to the conclusion during his arrival at the ward, that Nurse Ratched pulls the strings. She is characterized as very stiff and controlling and displays a frightening cruelty to inflict fear into her patients. First signs of McMurphy’s defiance towards the ward and more in particular, nurse ratched, was when nurses ordered McMurphy to take a shower but McMurphy states “I’m already plenty damn clean, thank you” (Kesey.
10). Later, McMurphy is asked to be patient for the toothpaste, he gets irritated so he decides to brush his teeth with soap. McMurphy attempts to defy Nurse Ratched’s authority to be the dominant force. Nurse ratched on the other hand, understands what kind of patient McMurphy is, and she knows the techniques to calm his rebellion against her.
She makes him understand that she can keep him at the ward however long she wants and give him any kind of medicine he wants. McMurphy, understanding the power that Nurse Ratched has, decided to take a different approach to control the ward. He begins to build trust with the patients, such as when he plays cards with them, Nurse Ratched understands this concept as well, as she uses the tactic of inflicting fear in her patients, mostly during group meeting and sessions, to control the patients and the ward. The patients are lead to role confusion and are at cross roads on what side to take, which plays a huge role in the power struggle between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched.
The patients have been under the influence of Nurse Ratched for a long period of time. Nurse Ratched has controlled the patients and has convinced them to live under her rules. McMurphy believes that the treatment given to the patients are below bar and he illustrates to them that they are worth more then the treatment they are given. He shows them how much they are really worth by taking them on a fishing trip. McMurphy lay’s back as he lets the patients go to work, as he wants them to believe they have more worth then they know and that they are smart and have integrity. McMurphy is manipulating their trust.
Nurse ratched still believes in her harsh controlling ways as she decided after the fishing trip to force the patients to take a group shower to clean the filth of them. She attempted to make them feel ashamed and emasculated. McMurphy though steadily kept gaining trust between patients for example, when Mcurphy got into a fight in the shower room, Bromden helped McMurphy, protecting him from get beaten up. Even though there consequences were severe, McMurphy had gained trust of the patients, but Nurse Ratched kept penalizing McMurphy to an extent of madness for McMurphy. McMurphy and Nurse Ratched use manipulation to control the patients of the ward. Even though McMurphy dies at the end of the novel, he won the battle between Nurse Ratched of gaining control of the ward, and his message to the patients changed them.