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Journey To Self-Destruction in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Journey To Self-Destruction in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the character of Randle P. McMurphy undergoes a gradual journey towards self-destruction. His actions go from the minuscule, such as changing minor ward policies, to the act of trying to strangle Nurse Ratched. All of his actions, minor and major, lead to his self-destruction. He continues this behavior even after he discovers he’s only hurting himself with his actions.

McMurphy begins by protesting minor but significant defects of the ward policies. When he first arrives, he runs around in nothing but a towel and provokes shock and anger from the Big Nurse. His actions let the nurses and patients know that he won’t simply sit back and take the staff’s cruel treatment to get the patients to conform quietly and without protest. He begins to gamble with the patients, first for cigarettes and eventually for IOUs, despite the nurse’s rule of no gambling on the ward for money (Kesey 102). He also convinces the spineless Dr. Spivey to allow the patients to open up a separate day room for their card games. He uses the doctor to implement these changes, which aggravates the nurse because it takes away her power. The resentment between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched continues to build.

McMurphy brings about all these changes before he realizes one vital fact: Nurse Ratched is the sole determiner of how long he must stay in the ward. He’s watching television while everyone else is completing their chores. The nurse says to him, “You’re committed, you realize. You are … under the jurisdiction of me…the staff…Under jurisdiction and control-” (138). The nurse also says, “Keep in mind that Mr. McMurphy is committed. The length of time he spends in this hospital is entirely up to us” (150).

McMurphy relaxes slightly; however, he eventually continues to harass the nurse, despite his knowledge that she dictates the length of his confinement (Waldmeir 425). He crosses the line and throws a party on the ward in the middle of the night, bringing in two prostitutes and intoxicating the patients with a mixture of cherry flavored alcohol and codeine cough syrup. He does so knowing that he will face consequences for this event. However, he feels he must continue this self-destruction in order for the other patients to find themselves and their sense of freedom ( 427).

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – The Movie

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – The Movie

The movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, tells the story of McMurphy, a convict, who is sent to a mental institution because he believes he is insane. In actuality McMurphy, is sane when he comes to the mental ward, he only wants to get out of the work that jail time entails. It is believed that his stay in the mental ward is what drives the man insane. While in the mental ward, he interacts with the patients of his ward and ends up changing their worlds completely. When two different societies are combined, they undoubtedly will change one another. This is the case when McMurphy coming from the “real” world, a society where a person can do what he pleases, is associated with the mental ward patients, whose lives are completely controlled by their nurses and their routines. McMurphy and the patients have a significant effect on each other.

The mental ward and the world that McMurphy comes from are completely different. The mental ward is completely based on rules. The patients’ lives are based on the routine that their nurse, Nurse Ratched, has established for them. Nurse Ratched believes that the rules she sets for the patients are in their best interest or getting better. The nurses have entire control over the patients. They are locked into their beds every night, get up at the same time, they eat at the same time, and they watch tv at the same time every day. The patients follow Nurse Ratched’s rule without ever questioning them. Basically, they have no minds of their own. McMurphy comes from a society almost opposite of the mental ward. He has lived his whole life doing what he wants. He has never had a nurse hovering over him telling him what he has to do at all time. Being in prison shows that McMurphy has a hard time living by the rules. So living by strict rules of the mental ward is going to be even harder for him.

Living in the mental ward is very hard for McMurphy at first. The patients and McMurphy cannot understand one another so socializing with them is hard for him. When he begins to interact with them, he has a profound effect on the patients of the mental ward.

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