Readers start re-evaluating their views and opinions, as well as now becoming more interested and concerned about the treatment of people who are deemed as “abnormal” in our society. Abuse of power within society and its negative consequences is another strong message that Kesey conveys through characterisation, narration and plot. Nurse Ratched is the comic-like villain used to represent the destructive abuse of power that occurs within the mental ward, signifying at a wider level the abuse of power in American society.
She is a non-humane machine that wields power over all the patients by exposing all their vulnerabilities and using fear and intimidation, exemplified in Harding’s lines, “She has a genius for insinuation… I have been accused of a multitude of things, of jealousy and paranoia, of not being male enough to satisfy my wife … Ball cutter? Oh, you underestimate her! ” (Pg 60) Not only does she use her power to take away the patients’ manhood, but additionally causes their fear and shame of their differences to make them feel more inadequate then ever.
Her abuse of power ultimately results in Cheswick’s and Billy Bibbit’s suicides, showing on a wider level the destructive consequences of power abuse in society. However, Kesey still offers hope through use of plot and symbolism to suggest that power can nevertheless be defeated through one’s own inner power and self-belief. The novel begins with Bromden consistently in the “fog” – symbolic of his own fear – and with the patients cowering under the authority of Nurse Ratched.
As the Christ figure McMurphy enters and ultimately destroys Nurse Ratched’s power by exposing her femineity, his moral triumph over her completes the process of patients’ regaining their self belief and inner power. Bromden shows this with the lines “She couldn’t rule with her old power any more … she was losing her patients one after the other. ” In strong contrast to the bleak beginning, he picks up the control panel and throws it against the window to get out.
The control panel symbolises power and authority, and thus Kesey shows that through inner strength and belief in oneself, it can still be overthrown and defeated. Effective use of Bromden to passively observe the abuse of power and McMurphy to embody the fight and triumph over it ensures that readers become highly involved and concerned about this socially important message. Through Bromden’s eyes, readers explore Kesey’s message and look at society in a new and more critical way while uplifting and inspirational hope is experienced by McMurphy’s destruction of Nurse Ratched’s power.
The novel is therefore fully gratifying for it is both mentally and emotionally stimulating. It is certainly true that many sexist and racist elements occur in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. The only good-hearted females are prostitutes, implying that females are only “good” if they offer themselves to males. Females are seen as the ones who control the conformist and power-abusing system, shown in Harding’s lines of “the doctor doesn’t hold the power … that power goes to the supervisor, and the supervisor is a woman …
We are victims of a matriarchy here, my friend. ” (Pg 59) In addition to its sexist elements, the novel also has many racist aspects for the only black people are the cruel henchmen of Nurse Ratched who reinforce her power and machine-like efficiency. However, though this novel has elements of sexism and racism mainly due to its characterisation, it is still nevertheless a rewarding read because these elements are relatively minor and do not interfere with Kesey’s socially important messages.
Kesey’s critique of treatment for mental patients, abuse of power and conformity within society are highly relevant even in today’s modern world. Through using plot, characterisation, narration and symbolism, he exposes many of society’s flaws to us and cause us to question the accepted ways of society’s thinking and our place in it. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Ken Kesey section.