One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a story narrated by Chief Bromden, who is half-Indian. According to the text, the narrator has been a patient for a long time in a psychiatric hospital. Together with other patients, they have been under the control of a head nurse, known as Nurse Ratched. The patients in the hospital are divided into two groups: Acutes and Chronics. The former can be cured while the latter cannot be cured. Bromden and other patients in the hospital are extremely submissive to Nurse Ratched until a patient by the name McMurphy arrives at the hotel and rallies the other patients to rebel against Nurse Ratched. McMurphy does this for a while and realizes that Nurse Ratched decides who is to leave the hospital. He then decides to change his perceptions of the nurse, and opposes those who rebel against her. In the story, a number of themes are illustrated, one of them being the subjugation of freedom. Subjugation is an act where an individual or group conquers or takes control of another group, and forces them to act in a particular way (Calogero & Jost, 2011). In One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, most of the patients have their freedom subjugated by the head nurse as well as other nurses attending to them.
The theme of subjugation is evident in how the aides in the psychiatric hospital attend to and deal with Chief Bromden. While in the hospital, the freedom of Chief Bromden is controlled by the hospital’s aides. Chief Bromden does not have the freedom of choosing what to do, and at what time. In fact, he is mocked by the aides on the basis that he is a pushover despite his height. The aides make decisions for Chief Bromden, and on a particular occasion, they forcefully made him sweep the hallways on their behalf, yet he was unwilling to do so (Bernaerts, 2010). The aides went ahead and nicknamed him “Chief Broom”. These aspects clearly underscore and illustrate the theme of subjugation of freedom in the text One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
In the text, the theme of subjugation of freedom is also evident in the manner in which Nurse Ratched orders the hospital’s aides around and how she forces Chief Bromden into doing things he is not willing to. On various occasions, especially when angry, Nurse Ratched would get as big as a tractor. She would then be seen ordering the aides around and forcing them to perform certain chores (Pashaee, 2011). On one occasion, she ordered them to shave Chief Bromden yet he was not ready and was unwilling to have his hair shaved. Chief Bromden screamed, and he was also forcefully medicated. Freedom is when an individual is given the opportunity to act in a way of choice. However, on that particular occasion, the freedom of the nurses was subjugated, as they were not ready to shave Bromden. On the other hand, Chief Bromden’s freedom is subjugated when he is forcefully shaved and medicated.
Subsequently, the theme of subjugation is expressed in the manner Nurse Ratched runs, controls, and operates the psychiatric hospital. According to the narrator of the text Chief Bromden, the psychiatric hospital was under a tight and strict schedule, managed by Nurse Ratched. She was in total control and command of every movement and operation within the hospital, and this illustrates the subjugation of the patients’ freedom. Nurse Ratched is seen to do a selection of her aides on the basis of their cruelty and other staff members on the grounds of their submissiveness (Bernaerts, 2010). In her bid to control and put her hospital in order, Nurse Ratched subjugates the freedom of her patients. On a particular occasion, Maxwell Taber, a psychiatric patient, demanded to know his medications. However, his demands were not received well by Nurse Ratched, and she ordered that Maxwell Taber be sent for numerous electroshock treatments. After that, Maxwell Taber was completely docile. This is a clear illustration of the theme of subjugation of freedom in the psychiatric hospital.
Apparently, the nurses and aides were in total control of the actions and behaviors of the patients at the hospital. In the text, Chief Bromden is seen to remember a scenario when a Chronic patient, Pete Bancini, hit one of the hospital’s aides. In other hospitals, this is understandable, and such behaviors exhibited by patients are treated in a friendly manner by either the physicians or nurses. In this case, the way the aides handled the situation was different. In response to Bancini’s act, one of the nurses had Bancini injected with a sedative, and this resulted in his nervous breakdown. This is a clear illustration of how the freedom of the patients at the hospital was under the control of the nurses and their head, Nurse Ratched.
The theme of subjugation is evident in the fact that Nurse Ratched has complete control over the ward. She does not welcome the ideas and opinions of other people, especially the patients. In exercising her power and control, Nurse Ratched uses various tools to intimidate her patients psychologically. Besides, she uses crude techniques, such as the divide-and-conquer technique to deny her patients their deserved freedom. It cannot be ignored that at times, she physically abuses her patients in a bid to deny them from engaging in certain activities. One of the newly admitted patients, McMurphy, is tired of her control and rallies other patients to tell her to go to hell (Pashaee, 2011). A few patients, such as Harding warn that McMurphy’s hostile behavior was likely to earn in an electroshock, and he would be sent to the Disturbed ward. From these, it is clear that Nurse Ratched is at the forefront in subjugating the freedom of the patients.
According to the text, Nurse Ratched’s hospital does not prioritize healing of the patients as one of the objectives. Instead, the hospital’s officials are at the forefront in dehumanizing as well as manipulating their patients until they conform and are submissive to them. Nurse Ratched’s manipulation is underscored by the fact that she often decides to set the clock to the speed of her choice (Jansson, 2015). The impact of this is that at times, the operations at the hospital are painfully slow or are painfully fast at times. This is a clear illustration of the domination and control that Nurse Ratched has when dealing with the patients.
Everything done by the patients in the hospital must be in accordance to schedule, and they must be under strict supervision. This prohibits the patients from engaging in activities of choice, and thus illustrates the theme of subjugation of freedom. For instance, on a particular occasion, Williams, one of Nurse Ratched’s aids, does not allow McMurphy to use the patients’ toothpaste before the scheduled time. By doing so, Williams subjugates McMurphy’s freedom. On the other hand, Nurse Ratched does not allow the patients to play cards in one of the hospital’s rooms because there is no staff to supervise them. When the patients decide to watch the World Series, Nurse Ratched cuts the power of the TV and screams at them to leave the room. It is not a surprise that she does not want the patients to enjoy their freedom. In most of the occasions, this being one of them, instead of addressing and curing the problems faced by the patients, Nurse Ratched is always at the forefront in increasing the patients’ discomfort as a way of building her power (Jansson, 2015).
More of Nurse Ratched’s subjugation of the patients’ freedom is evident when after a group meeting; she makes an announcement that the patients would be punished for going against the schedule of cleaning. She had waited for the patients to apologize yet none of them had come forward to apologize. Apart from the punishment, Nurse Ratched also ensured that one of the patients’ game room was taken away (Jansson, 2015). This is a clear indication that the freedom of the patients was totally under the control of Nurse Ratched.
According to the text, the freedom of the patients at the psychiatric hospital is questionable. They cannot make a decision of when and where to engage in a gambling game, watch a program on the TV, or use the hospital’s resources. At times, the patients must be under strict and tight supervision for them to have access to particular areas or regions of the hospital.
Bernaerts, L. (2010). Interactions in Cuckoo’s nest: elements of a narrative speech-act analysis. Narrative, 18(3), 276-299.
Calogero, R. M., & Jost, J. T. (2011). Self-subjugation among women: exposure to sexist ideology, self-objectification, and the protective function of the need to avoid closure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 100(2), 211.
Jansson, J. (2015). The Monster Behind the Smile: An Analysis of Nurse Ratched’s Character in Kesey’s One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Wasserman’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: A Play in Two Acts.
Pashaee, R. (2011). One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A Chink in McMurphy’s Armor. Arcadia-International Journal for Literary Studies, 46(1), 209-213.