Deliberate Injury in Different Institutions?
In One Flew Over the Cuckoo?s Nest, Ken Kesey examines lunacy and its effects on both the patients and the staff in a mental institution. He forms a premise that those people in charge of different institutions (school, local government, Federal government, etc.) deliberately injure the people they are supposed to help. I agree with this. The setting in this book (a mental institution) can also be compared in many ways to the outside world.
When McMurphy comes along, he becomes a serious threat (the protagonist) to Nurse Ratched?s discipline and order. He brings out the best in many of the characters and challenges authority. The nurse avoids disruption at all costs. She starts the punishments with cleaning the bathroom, and they keep escalating. He begins to undergo Electronic Shock Therapy, and eventually McMurphy gets a labotomy. Instead of doing her job and helping McMurphy, the nurse uses her power and forces him to undergo cruel procedures normally intended to try to rehabilitate the patients. The nurse is only trying to look out for herself and trying to protect her power.
Chief Bromden, the narrator, describes in a few parts of the book how orderly everything is (he describes the order as humming machinery) and the extensive control she has over the inmates. She controls them with rigid routines, pills, the log book, Group Therapy, and Electro-Shock Therapy. Perhaps the Nurse takes some of this control too far. In the beginning of the book, when Chief Bromden is sweeping
the hallways, the Nurse and the black boys get into a fight. When the rest of the inmates go to look, Nurse Ratched turns the blame on Bromden. He apparently gets the Electro-Shock Therapy for no reason at all. The Group Therapy/log book also seems to be cruel, because they together get the inmates to rat on what each other says. When those slips come up in Group Therapy, it is often embarrassing to the patient and possibly even damaging. This happens when Harding gets ratted on. Since there?s nothing else to talk about in therapy, they must use his statement about his wife to humiliate him. It becomes very obvious that he is upset by it and he gets into a fight with some of the other patients.
The Nurse is not only physically abusive to the patients, but also verbally. Billy Bibbit is a patient with a low self-confidence to begin with. Nurse Ratched uses that weakness against him. When she finds him in a bed with a prostitute, she says ?What worries me, Billy is how your poor mother is going to take this?(264). Billy apparantly got very frightened and angry and killed himself. Somebody with that kind of authority and power is supposed to help the people they are in charge of, not destroy them. Somebody that ill and with such a low confidence obviously should be treated with care and kindness. She treated him like a criminal and as if he was belligerent. A person with such a lack of self-confidence must be spoken to very carefully.
I thought this book was very interesting. To me, it represented ways people take advantage of their authority without people even knowing it. The nurse (like many other institutions possessing control and authority such as police, government,
and even schools) gets too carried away with her power and harms the people she is trusted with. Many of the patients, like citizens or students, are unaware of it. The idea of corruption doesn?t cross their mind, because they need authority and trust those who assume it. Even when the idea of corruption is suggested they often cannot believe it. Kesey did a very good job of portraying these ideas (whether intentional or not).