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Society and Free Will in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

1 Flew More than the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey was published in 1962. The fifties and early sixties were a time of conformity versus rebellion in the United States. While the average breadwinner was returning to a suburban living area lit up with Father Knows Best, Allen Ginsberg was in Greenwich writing “Howl” to criticize the mechanization and conformity of modern day society, Pollock was spattering a canvas with paint, Kinsey was redefining sexuality, and Kesey was publishing One particular Flew (“Voices against Conformity”). These themes of rebellion which marked the era are mirrored in Kesey’s novel, the story of an unnamed ward in a mental hospital and the sufferers who reside there. The ward is headed by Nurse Ratched, the head nurse, who guidelines the ward with fear and manipulation till Randal McMurphy, a man who feigns insanity to get out of the prison operate camp, arrives to shake factors up. McMurphy refuses to be subjugated by the method of manipulation by which the Nurse guidelines the ward. His aim to dethrone Nurse Ratched start as a bet he tends to make among the males that he can “Bug her till she comes apart at these neat small seams,” within a week, but as the novel continues his carefree rebellion sooner or later evolves into a desperate battle to retain his totally free will and identity, a fight which he ultimately loses (Kesey 72). His spirit, even so, will inspire the other sufferers to take manage of their personal lives, at least temporarily. The story is told by means of the eyes of one particular of the patients, a troubled half-Native American named Chief Bromden, who is witness to McMurphy’s struggle against the powers which are determined to handle him. This novel primarily focuses on the impact of society on an individual’s free of charge will and calls for a break from the social contract of our society, which punishes variations and infringes on our proper to self-determination.

In order to be portion of a civil society, every individual must give up some measure of self-determination. Without an implicit agreement that binds us as a men and women and sets guidelines for our governance and social behavior, there could only be anarchy, each individual functioning solely for private interest (Buddy). This notion has been outlined most famously by two natural law theorists John Locke and Thomas Hobbes (D.). The two men believed in the “Social Contract” the notion that men and women enter into a voluntary and mutual agreement to generate a society with the power to secure the protection of its folks, nevertheless the two men interpreted it slightly differently (“Social Contract”). Locke believed that the individual gives up his correct to obtain his personal justice in return for the protection of his welfare and the safety of a potent and impartial justice method (D.). Hobbes, who was of the opinion that life was “Nasty, brutish, and short” thought an person gave up all personal rights in exchange for only the protection of his life (D.). Whilst both Locke and Hobbes are in agreement that a particular degree of self-determination need to be relinquished to be part of a society, they disagree on no matter whether the social contract can be broken. John Locke believed the social contract could and ought to be broken if people felt their fundamental rights were becoming infringed on, but Hobbes held that the individual had no rights and when entered into, the social contract could never ever be broken(D.). There are two social contracts functioning in One Flew More than the Cuckoo’s Nest, the initial being the Lockian social contract of our society, which in addition to defending and regulating the justice of its men and women also pressures them into conformity, shaming these who do not adhere to what it guidelines as socially acceptable. The second is that of the ward. The ward is separate from society and the rules are diverse. Nurse Ratched creates a Hobbesian social contract inside the ward which demands that the patients give up their cost-free will in exchange for protection from the Outdoors Globe. In the ward, the patients have entered into a sort of social contract, in the style of Hobbes, with Nurse Ratched. They relinquish the entirety of their free will by staying in the ward, a society in and of itself, voluntarily enabling her to mistreat them in return for protection from the Outdoors Planet.

Each and every man has a explanation to be in the ward: Chief Bromden is schizophrenic, Billy has a crippling stutter, and Sefelt is epileptic. Nurse Ratched says the men “are in [the ward] simply because [they] could not adjust to the guidelines of society” (Kesey 188), but in reality it was society that was unwilling to adjust to them it discovered their “defects” unacceptable and attempted to punish them for becoming diverse, beating them down with “the wonderful voice of millions chanting, “Shame. Shame. Shame”’ (294). Billy tries to clarify this to McMurphy, saying “Did you ever have folks l-l-laughing at you? No, since you’re so large and challenging! Well, I’m not large and hard. Neither is Harding. Neither is F-Fredrickson. Neither is Suh-Sefelt. Oh-oh, you-you t-speak like we stayed in here since we liked it!” (184). Divergent from the Hobbes theory of the social contract, the men are free of charge to break the agreement, by leaving the ward, at any time, but as Billy stated they do not have the guts to reenter the society that rejected them. The men use the ward as an asylum, if a hellish one, from the Outside World and the cruelty of the folks who inhabit it. Even though they do not like the ward, or Nurse Ratched, they at least really feel as if they belong there, amongst other rejects and misfits like themselves. They also let themselves to be controlled by Nurse Ratched. While it is not enjoyable, they let her manipulate them primarily since it is greater than the Outside World but also because they are lost, in a fog, like the Chief’s drug induced haze in which “You had a option: you could either strain and appear at issues that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could unwind and lose yourself” (125). The guys do not know who they are or what they need to do with their unsatisfying existences, and it is easier to overlook themselves and fully surrender their totally free will than to break free of the fog and take responsibility for their lives (Martin).

Chief Bromden is one such patient, who has surrendered his free of charge will to the point of feigning muteness. He is the initially passive witness to the happenings of the ward, narrating for us all he sees. Chief Bromden is the son of a Chinook chief and a white town girl. He requires after his father physically, tall as a horse and robust, but he takes his mother’s final name. These two conflicting identities, exacerbated by the horrors of war produce an identity crisis which he can't resolve (Ware). He sees the deterioration of his people’s way of life, at the hand of government officials. Society has rejected him far more due to the fact he is half-native American than because he is schizophrenic, but as an alternative of laughing at him like the other guys, the Outside Globe ignores him, swept him under the table and tried to forget him. He recalls, “It wasn’t me that began acting deaf it was men and women that first began acting like I was as well dumb to hear or see or say anything at all,” (Kesey 198). Even though his muteness is symbolic of his powerlessness, he feels like he has no voice it helps him in that it allows him to hear and see things which are hidden from other individuals. He sees and narrates for us the hate of the orderlies and the system of fear and machine like precision with which Nurse Ratched runs the ward. A method which is interrupted by the arrival of McMurphy, who swaggers in, his hands large, shoulders broad, voice “Loud and full of hell,” (11). The Chief recognizes in McMurphy all the traits society has stolen from him although the Chief feels modest and keeps silent, McMurphy is massive and loud. Although the Chief is in continual hiding, McMurphy does not hide from anyone. During the Chief’s initial encounter with McMurphy, Chief Bromden describes that when McMurphy shook his hand it felt “peculiar and went to swelling up out there on my stick of an arm, like he was transmitting his own blood into it. It rang with blood and power. It blowed up near as huge as his, I don't forget,”(24). This foreshadows the strength McMurphy will invigorate the individuals of the ward with, specially Chief Bromden who has the chance to turn out to be “big” once again, but also how it will price McMurphy dearly, the strength he transmits to the other individuals comes straight from his personal life source (Martin). By the finish of the novel Chief Bromden’s strength is returned to him and he starts to speak once again. He utilizes his new discovered energy to smother the newly lobotomized McMurphy, saving his physique and his legacy from any further corruption by Nurse Ratched.

Nurse Ratched can be mistaken for the force which creates all the men’s troubles, but in fact she is topic to injustice from the identical society which has injured them. She has been forced into an ill-fitting function by a society that does not view women as equal to guys. In numerous methods she is, if not a victim, surely a solution of this environment. As a woman, she has no power in society, and should, at least outwardly, adhere to the position of a caretaker, society’s function for females. Her abilities set even so, which boasts master manipulation and subterfuge, is a lot more suited to a CIA interrogator or politician than a healer. Simply because she has been deprived of any power in the Outdoors World, she demands it in the ward and preserves it by maintaining the guys down, exacerbating their feelings of shame and low self-worth instead of attempting to help them. The males of the ward see Nurse Ratched as the ultimate antagonist. She appears so effective to them as to manage not only the guys themselves but time, speeding it up or slowing it down as she pleases. Our narrator, nevertheless, recognizes “it’s the entire Combine, the nation-wide Combine that is the really large force, and the nurse is just a higher-ranking official for them” (Kesey 181). The Combine is what Chief Bromden call’s society’s initiative to make every person uniform, he says it is one thing “you couldn’t whip… for very good. All you could do was hold on whipping it, till you couldn’t come out any much more and somebody else had to take your place” (303). McMurphy as effectively realizes Nurse Ratched is not all powerful, he says to the guys “getting shut of her wouldn’t be obtaining shut of the genuine deep down hang up that’s causing the gripes,” (181). While he can not pin point the real supply of their difficulties, he recognizes it is not the nurse. She is just a hateful woman, and proves this point in his final act against her when he rips her uniform off, exposing her femininity which is noticed as synonymous with weakness. Even though victory more than a woman who has subjugated and belittled these guys for years is a feat, it is outweighed by the grim realization that the men do not comprehend the Nurse is only a product of the injustice of their society, not the cause of all the injustice. They feel the fight is over, and they won, they do not recognize the correct nature or the magnitude of what they hope to be cost-free of, and are as a result much more vulnerable to it than ever.

As opposed to the patients or Nurse Ratched, McMurphy is cost-free of the deforming effects of society. He is a man who lives his life on the edge of society, enjoying its pleasures but refusing to comply with its guidelines. This is in part because he has no ties to society, he has “no wife wanting new linoleum. No relatives pulling at him with watery old eyes. No one particular to care about,” (Kesey 89). He can take care of himself so he does not require society to protect him, and if there is any justice to be exacted, he would like to do it personally, as a result he has nothing at all to obtain from upholding the guidelines of society (D.). A vital element of the social contract is an agreement to comply with frequent laws, these include the laws set up by the government of a society but also the social rules that a people agree upon, which outlines acceptable and unacceptable behavior (Pal). McMurphy disregards each of these, most notably by unapologetically sleeping with an underage girl not only does this violate the social rule we have as a society which bars adults from obtaining sex with kids, but also infringes on the law set by our government which reinforces this belief. At the start of the novel, McMurphy defies the social contract not, as Locke would hope, to safeguard his human rights, but because he does not want to be constrained by society’s guidelines. When he is first admitted, McMurphy’s antics are only a continuation of this behavior, he is as unwilling to submit to the ward’s rules as he was to the Outside World’s, even so, as the novel continues his behavior adjustments from a casual flouting of the rules for amusement and private gain to a more desperate fight (Martin). McMurphy can't comprehend this modify, despite the fact that he must surely feel it, just as he can't fully recognize the hopeless nature of his fight, but he continues, even when he has nothing at all to acquire, even when the consequences are excessive and cruel because it is not in him to give up. He proves again and again that he is prepared to suffer exorbitantly to retain his right to decide his fate, even if the only options available are awful. It is unclear, nevertheless, whether this behavior can really be deemed an exercising in self-determination. Chief Bromden’s father told him, “If you do not watch it individuals will force you one particular way or the other into performing what they consider you need to do, or into just being mule-stubborn and undertaking the opposite just out of spite.” This belief suggests that McMurphy’s choice to do the opposite of what Nurse Ratched’s desires might not be an expression of his cost-free will since it is still the Nurse who is controlling his actions (198).

In the end, Nurse Ratched succeeds in taking McMurphy’s free of charge will but his influence survives him. Soon after the illicit celebration and her involuntary undressing, Nurse Ratched has McMurphy lobotomized and leaves his empty physique in the middle of the ward, like Achilles dragging Hector’s physique about the walls of Troy. The guys, even so, refuse to believe it is him, claiming it is a fake and just yet another of the nurse’s tricks. The guys thwart her each attempt to regain power, and Nurse Ratched is helpless to stop the fourteen guys who are finally empowered to break the social contract of the ward and leave, taking handle of their lives for the first time considering that they have been committed. Even our narrator finds the strength he believed he had lost and rips the chrome panel from the floor of the tub-area, breaking a window and escaping into the evening. Nevertheless triumphant this might appear, it is not a complete victory, if a victory at all. We do not know whether or not the guys will continue to be the captains of their personal lives or recede back into their roles as passive witnesses. Nurse Ratched was by no means the real difficulty, cruel as she was, she only had as significantly power as the males gave her. It was both the injustice of a society which convinced them they had been worthless and far more importantly their willingness to let someone else choose their fate that have been the actual problems. When they are back in the genuine world and subject as soon as again to its pressures and guidelines there will be more forces which seek to handle them than there were in the ward exactly where there was only Nurse Ratched. On their return, their wives, their bosses, and the social guidelines of society will all serve to subjugate them. If they slip back into old habits and allow any of these forces to control them then the progress they made is lost and McMurphy’s sacrifice was for nothing at all. Perhaps the new contract that they are signing is no greater than the prior 1, but they have the energy to demand better, even break the contract, if their correct to self-determination is not honored. However they have to fight for that, and with no McMurphy, it isn’t clear that they have the strength.

In One particular Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest society is vilified authority and order take a heavy beating as well. Even so, I do not believe the novel is advocating for an upheaval of civilized society as a whole, only for removal of the injustice that is allowed to corrupt it (Barsness 29). McMurphy’s battle against Nurse Ratched is a reminder that even though a binding agreement between people is needed for a civilized society, and some portion of self-determination should be given up, each person has an inalienable appropriate to practice self-determination. This novel holds that the person need to never ever be so complacent or afraid as to dismantle a system which interferes with that inherent correct, however not possible the job might seem. McMurphy knew he was fighting a losing battle, but he kept on. Nevertheless futile it could look, there is something to be mentioned for fighting a fight you know you will drop, if only to prove to those watching that it is anything worth fighting for. Soon after McMurphy failed to lift the tub area panel, he stated, “But I tried though… Goddammit, I positive as hell did that much” (Kesey 121). As the novel continues this statement builds in significance. The lifting of the panel comes to symbolize McMurphy’s fight he puts his entire self into attempting to lift it, when the other males aren’t even prepared to try. Whilst he is never able to lift it himself, McMurphy’s efforts eventually inspire the Chief to try and succeed to lift the panel and use it to break a window to his freedom. 1 Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest not only challenges society but also encourages the person to fight like McMurphy did, not only for private preservation but also to inspire other individuals to fight for themselves. McMurphy understood that when he stood up, he was standing up for every person (Angelou).

Functions Cited

Angelou, Maya. “The Distinguished Annie Clark Tanner Lecture.” 16th-annual Households Alive Conference. Weber State Universit, Ogden. Iowa State University Archives of Women’s Political Communication. 2015 The Carrie Chapman Catt Center, n.d. Internet. 19 Could 2015. Barsness, John A. “Ken Kesey: The Hero in Modern day Dress.” Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Contemporary Language Association 23.1 (1969): 27-33. JSTOR. Internet. 17 Apr. 2015.

D., James. “Locke versus Hobbes.” James’s Liberty file collection index. Ed. James D. James D., n.d. Web. 13 May 2015.

Friend, Celeste. “Social Contract Theory.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2015.

Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. New York: Penguin, 1962. Print.

Martin, Terence. “One Flew More than the Cuckoo’s Nest and the High Price of Living.” Modern Fiction Research 19.1 (1973): 43-55. Bloom’s Literature. Web. 13 Might 2015.

“Social Contract.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May possibly 2015.

“Voices against Conformity.” U.S. History Pre-Columbian to the New Millenium. Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, n.d. Web. 19 May 2015.

Ware, Elaine. “The Vanishing American: Identity Crisis in Ken Kesey’s A single Flew more than the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 13.three/four (1986): 95-101. JSTOR. Net. 13 Could 2015.
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