Sir William Schwenk Gilbert stated in the first act of The Mikado ?Let the punishment fit the crime.? In society punishments are given to make people suffer for their wrong doings. Is it fair that when man breaks rules but only in the name of righteousness that he be punished? In the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo?s Nest by Ken Kesey, the author skillfully portrays man as one who suffers for breaking the rules, while trying to stand up for his beliefs and inspire others.
One may suffer as a consequence of breaking the rules, but he will suffer unfairly if he were only breaking them to stand up for his beliefs. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo?s Nest, Nurse Ratched constantly caused the inmates to endure unfair suffering when they broke the rules, even if they were breaking them to stand up for their beliefs. On the evening of the world series game, the inmates led by McMurphy held a vote so they could watch the game. The deciding vote was not submitted in time because ?the meeting was closed? according to the Nurse. McMurphy rebelled against this unfair decision by skipping his chores and sitting there ?with his hands crossed behind his head and his feet stuck out in a chair, a smoking cigarette sticking out from under his hatbrim – watching the blank TV screen.?(p. 127). The Nurse believed this showed ?unspeakable behavior concerning [his] house duties? and she felt that her punishment of ?taking away a privilege? (p. 171) had ?therapeutic value? (p. 171). What the Nurse was really doing was punishing this man for standing up for himself. McMurphy suffers as a result of his courage to take a stand against the Nurse?s unfair ruling. McMurphy rebels against the system by breaking Nurse Ratched?s rules and laying down his own. To me this sounds like a leader trying to make a difference not a man who deserves punishment. In like manner, the Jews were unnecessarily punished for standing up for their religious beliefs. I believe this to be an unjust act, even though it has been ever present throughout history.
The nurse?s domineering attitude and ideas of punishing men unfairly, worsen throughout the novel. One afternoon in the shower room ?[the inmates] lined up nude against the tile…? at first ?everyone was laughing and kidding? (p. 227) until one of the black boys tried to pick a fight with George. This angered McMurphy and he felt obliged to stick up for George. The fighting started up between McMurphy and Washington when McMurphy yelled out ?you Goddamned mother*censored*ing niger?. (p. 229). This comment started a vicious battle between the inmates led by McMurphy against the black boys. Later on ?The Big Nurse [talked] to McMurphy, soft and patient, about the irresponsible thing he did, the childish thing, throwing a tantrum like a little boy?. The Nurse then explained that ?at a special group meeting… the staff [thought] it might be beneficial that he receive some shock therapy?(p. 235). I think this type of treatment is horrible, shock therapy should be illegal, not a punishment given to a man who stood up for his peers. Even though McMurphy believed ?[his] skull?s too thick for them to hurt [him]?(p. 237), shock therapy is very harmful to one?s brain.
In the last scenes of the novel unfair punishment is greatly expressed. One evening ?At midnight, when Geever and the other black boy and the nurse went off duty, and the old colored fellow, Mr. Turkle, came on for his shift? McMurphy convinced him to ?let [girls] in the window? because ?It would be worth [his] while, [because] they should be bringin? a couple of bottles.?(p. 247). ?No sooner did they have the ward lit up like full daylight?. With two girls ?both in skirts?(p. 249) and ?enough cheap port to go around?(p. 250) a wild party broke out. At the end of the drunken bash McMurphy had planned on escaping to ?Canada or Mexico or wherever?(p. 258) but he fell sound asleep along with the other drunks in the completely ransacked ward. ?And that?s the way the black boys found them when they came to turn on the dorm lights at six-thirty?. (p. 259). After the Nurse had ?given what happened a good lot of thought? she took McMurphy away and no one heard anything for a week. When the Nurse came back a week later the inmates went ?in the hall to meet her, to ask about McMurphy? (p.268), she simply replied ?He will be back.? But after ?McMurphy?d been gone three weeks… the ward door opened, and the black boys wheeled in this gurney with a chart at the bottom that said in heavy black letters, MCMURPHY, RANDLE P. POST-OPERATIVE. And below this was written in ink, LOBOTOMY.? (p.269). Is it fair a man?s life is practically taken away because he had a party one evening? I believe McMurphy only had this party to give the inmates a chance to live a little, and living is something each man is entitled to. Being cooped up in a hospital with insanely strict rules all the time and no chances to have fun is unhealthy and cruel.
In conclusion, In the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo?s Nest by Ken Kesey, the author skillfully portrays man as one who suffers for breaking the rules, while trying to stand up for his beliefs and inspire others. To sum this up I believe this to be unjust and cruel, even though this has been happening constantly throughout history. I believe we should try our best to make sure that the punishment always fits the crime