Society is Programmed Against Mental Illness

Kesey uses the diction choice of “machine” to suggest how the outside society seems to be programmed against those who suffer from mental illness, and how society is used as a method of control to give certain people power over others. He also uses the diction choice of “watchful robot” to establish the idea of how authority figures like the Big Nurse enforce control through a mechanical and monotone way. Ultimately, the author suggests how in society is like a machine that purposefully tunes out the comfort of those who do not conform to societal norms, and that those with power in society use such methods to establish inhumane control.

Chief Bromden is narrating the way things run in the mental ward including the authority figure, The Big Nurse. She is the main figure who asserts discipline and control in the ward.

In the beginning of the novel, the Chief claims that The Big Nurse runs by fear and “tends to get real put out if something keeps her from running like a smooth, accurate, precision-made machine.

Get quality help now
Prof. Finch
Verified writer
4.7 (346)

“ This writer never make an mistake for me always deliver long before due date. Am telling you man this writer is absolutely the best. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The Cheif along with the other patients see the Big Nurse as a force to be reckoned with and as someone who should not be crossed. When commenting on her position in the ward, the Chief says that she “sits in the center of this web of wires like a watchful robot. The diction choice of “machine” has a connotation of coldness, unstoppable, and lack of emotion. Kesey suggests that the Big Nurse along with the rest of the outside society acts as if they lack emotion and empathy.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

Rather, the patients are treated inhumanely and as if they were part of an algorithm rather than as if they were people part of the community.

Along with that, the diction choice of “watchful robot” has the connotation of security and no capability of emotion or thought. The Big Nurse is a robot for a bigger machine that works to marginalize those with mental illness or anyone who does not conform to societal norms. In her treatment, She does not seem to have the capability to think or feel as to how her actions and her method of control is harmful and painful. Together, Kesey indicates the outside society and Big Nurse marginalize people with mental illness and treat them like animals or criminals rather than people. The patients are controlled through mechanisms like electroshock therapy which is inhumane and is done with little emotion or empathy shown. Ultimately, the author indicates how society and those in power in society work assert power and control like a machine: with little emotion and thought behind the harmful and, sometimes, inhuman actions used to keep control.

The social hierarchy oppresses those who do not conform to the norm and to societal expectations, and these people are treated less than and as if they are criminals and/or animals. Similarly to how Kesey suggests how the outside society in the novel acts inhumanely like a machine or a robot against the patients, Foucalt suggests how factors such as fear and surveillance greatly influences keeping people in order and behaving in an acceptable manner. I argue that the portrayal of characters like the Big Nurse and the wording describing her actions show how society operates like a machine to filter out and abuse those who do not conform to the norms that society deems acceptable. Foucault contends that when people are under the impression that they are being under surveillance, they will act more orderly and conform to what the person in charge wants.

He writes that the Panopticon is a structure in a prison made to seem as if all the prisoners are being watched by someone when they are really not. He states that the idea of surveillance makes the prisoners more self aware and behave better. Hence the minor effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its actions, that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary…It is rather that the individual is carefully fabricated by it, according to a whole technique of forces and bodies.

In the beginning, the author discusses the intent of the Panopticon structure and how it creates permanent visibility between the one supposedly in charge and the ones under their control. Then, he explains how it affects people’s behavior and self-government: making them more self-aware of their actions and behaviors so they know what to do in order to escape punishment. When people are under the impression that they are being supervised, they perform and behave better. Lastly, he highlights how the panopticon is exhibited all throughout society the idea of having an authority figure watching you no matter how near or far fabricates a need for someone to behave the way they are ideally supposed to. Overall, Foucault implies that the social hierarchy is reliant on the force of fear of surveillance that makes people behave ideally through a certain level of influence and coercion.

This level of security can be maximized to the point of inhumane actions and oppression against those who involuntarily don’t conform to societal expectations. This connects to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because the theme of surveillance demonstrated in the Panopticon is seen in the novel in the mental institution. The patients are not criminals; they are just people with mental illness who are highly discriminated against because of their disability and that is what allegedly justifies the behavior against them. Not only does the Big Nurse treat the patients inhumanely and with cruelty, but society also shuts them away as if they are criminals and as if they are not people. There is such little emotion or thought put into the care of these patients, that it is comparable to a robot or a machine that controls their livelihoods.

Together, Foucalt and Kesey examine how society understands that adding surveillance can control the behavior of people and make them act favorably.  However, the ones in power in the social hierarchy, use this tool to unfairly oppress those who are perceived as outcasts and act coldly like a machine to hurt them. Chief Bromden acts as a symbol for the marginalized minorities who are oppressed by society because they are different and don’t conform to norms that most of society deems acceptable. At the same time, the diction choice of “deaf” used by Bromden suggests how many people who are oppressed like racial minorities and mentally ill people are muted and tuned out of society. Ultimately, the author suggests how society not only chooses to oppress those who believe/act/look differently but also silences them to make their voices unheard leading them to feel isolated and ostracized.

The Chief is talking to McMurphy who has figured out that he is not deaf. Bromden states how he was never impaired in any way. With his father’s land being stolen , white people constantly oppressed him and other Native Americans leading to him being totally ignored. This led to him living a life of recluse and silence. When recalling his life and analyzing his current predicament, The Cheif states that it was society “that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see anything at all…it wasn’t me that started acting deaf”. Chief Bromden is justifying that rather than him being crazy, it was society’s oppression that has led to him acting deaf. Chief Bromden and his silence is a symbol for the marginalized minorities who are silenced and ignored by society. ​Chief Bromden is of indigenous American descent. Native Americans are one of the most marginalized groups in this country.

The government ignored the Native americans and their well being for centuries eventually leading to forms of recluse and isolations throughout time. Just like this, Bromden was ignored by the people around him which led him to develop his own isolation and became “deaf” to the outside world. The diction choice of “deaf” holds the connotation of muteness and disability. Kesey suggests the oppressed racial minorities and tuned out by society so that their voices and advocacy for equality are never heard. This deafness bestowed upon these communities has led to generations of silence and oppression. Together, Kesey indicates that the Chief and his silence represents how racial minorities have always been silenced by those in power by society and that the Big Nurse and the outside society would never try to listen or advocate for Bromden and his rights as a person.

Ultimately, the author suggests that the social hierarchy consists of a racial hierarchy where communities of color like the Native American community are constantly put down to feel lesser than and as if their voices and pleas will never be heard. This social hierarchy has been built to be oppressive against racial minorities under the justification that people of color do not fit the norm that white people deem acceptable. Similarly to how Kesey uses Chief Bromden and his silence as a symbol of the oppressed minorities whose needs are tuned out by society, Ware discusses the vanishing identity of Native Americans and how, just like Bromden, several Native Americans had to deal with their identities being stripped, their land violated, and their culture being suppressed and silenced by White Society.

I argue that the depiction of the Chief and his silence by Kesey portrays the societal issue of racial oppression and how the social hierarchy is partly based on race. White people have always been at the top of the hierarchy and on the sole basis of race,minorities including Ntive Americans have been at the bottom. Ware contends that Bromden’s character is not just one of any of the other patients; his racial identity and his childhood as a Native American boy plays a big role in his development to the person he is in the ward. She writes about how the history between white people and native americans influence the portrayal of Bromden in the novel: What the scholars tend to overlook, however, are the circumstances which contributed to Bromden…

Because Bromden is torn between the desire to maintain his Indian Heritage and the necessity of developing behavior acceptable to the dominant white culture, he experiences an identity crisis. Whites view him stereotypically as ignorant and unattractive and the youth feels pressure to fulfill that image. Whites in the novel show surprise that he speaks English while the blacks claimed that Indians can’t read or write. Bromden explains that he feels racial prejudice when people look “at me like I’m some kind of bug”. But Bromden, because white people see him in a negative way, begins to see himself as unattractive. In the beginning, the author discusses how Bromden’s character’s story is highly overlooked. She discusses the history of Native Americans with white people and how there was a lot of oppression.

Ware writes about the centuries of mistreatment, violence and stripping Native American culture.  It was not until the twentieth century that the country realized they had some form of reparations to pay to the Native American community. Then, she argues how Bromden’s mannerisms and characteristics mirror the way he has been treated in his past. For example, incidents like being told he is unattractive and how he is an insect has led him to feel that those insults were true and he grew up to feel isolated and live in silence. Finally, the author delvs into how Bromden signifies the history of oppression felt by the Indigenous American community. Specifically, how due to a history of marginalization, minorities are forced to lose their cultures as well as their identity.

Overall, Ware’s arguments connect to ​One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest because Bromden cannot identify himself due to his insecurities and leaves it up to outsiders to label him: just like how McMurphy labels him as an “Professional Indian Wrestler” when they escape from the ward. This compares to how so much of the idenitiy and culture of Native American’s has been stolen by white people and how minorities in general get swallowed up by a larger culture. This fulfills the description of the term Ware writes: “Vanishing Americans”. Together, Kesey and Ware suggest how society overlooks the oppressive and racist history that has built the social hierarchy which has silenced minorities for so long, that it has stripped the culture and the identities of so many people of color like Bromden.

Cite this page

Society is Programmed Against Mental Illness. (2022, Jan 06). Retrieved from

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment