Rage against the Machine
The world we live in is a beautiful and complex ocean of experiences and adventures. So complex is the world that often one is not able to perceive the subtle powers that orchestrate our lives into mechanic roles of existence. Society has developed a machine to shape every individual character on the face of the planet into a controlled drone capable of living an independent yet monitored life amongst other mindless drones programmed to fulfill their everyday duties. This machine is not tangible, it is not something one can see, but it is something that very few people can feel and understand how it works. This machine is called conformity. It is the intricate and complicated method of producing mass numbers of robots willing to do the bidding of those in power. This machine has been documented; authors have revealed the grasp of the machine on society. Works such as the book One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest and The Dead Poet s Society show the effects of conformity. These works introduce cases when people are aware of the machine, but want to break away from it. In One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest by Ken Kesey, a crazy hallucinating Native American in an insane ward named Chief Bromden has the power to see unreal images that depict the reality of nature. Being figments re of his imagination, Bromden is the only one who can see them and he knows the great power of the machine, conformity. Frightened of this great restraining force, Bromden battles against the machine, with encouragement from his messiah and fellow inmate, McMurphy. This book shows what effect conformity has done on the patients in the insane ward. The film The Dead Poet s Society also shows the strong pressure of conformity, but in the very real lives of young men in high school trying to leave their meaningless experiences as ordinary students. The trials and hardships that they endure show how difficult such a goal will be to accomplish. But when a new English professor named Mr. Keating arrives to show the men a new way to live, they find exciting ways to break away from society and not to conform to the pressures put on them. These pieces explain that the world is far too great an enemy for one man to duel, and yet many battles will be won, the losses suffered are magnificent. Both works show courageous feats of spiritual strength and daring acts of rebellion, but ultimately, both works show the tragic and inevitable triumph of society and conformity on those who try to stand against the rules.
In life, battles are fought everyday, in our homes, at our schools, with our work, and the human race is losing to the enormous struggle between individuality and conformity. Conformity, the machine, faint in it s workings, molds humans from birth into robots made for productivity and normalcy. People, wrapped in blue for boys and pink for girls, taught the acceptable from outrageous, programmed not to stand out, wear standard cut graduation robes, fit into tight gray cubicles sent to live ordinary lives. The machine, a very powerful thing, controls everyday life. In One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest, it was known as the Combine, Chief Bromden s hallucination of an actual machine controlling inmates with magnets in the floor. The head of the ward, Big Nurse, moves the inmates like puppets with wires and operates on patients to reduce the risk of outbursts of insanity. Bromden describes it as, a sure power that extends in all directions on hair-like wires too small for anybody s eye but mine (20). He can see the influence of Big Nurse over the ward and the power of the combine. The oppressive force of the insane ward is very much like the strict influence of the high school in The Dead Poet s Society. In this movie, the students realize the severity of discipline and tradition in the preparatory school according to the principal. Corporal punishment is inflicted if a student is unruly, for example, when Charlie makes a fool out of the principal he is whipped with a paddle. Even expulsion, the death certificate to a student, is quick to enforce. The power of the school is very demanding, which molds every student into loyal and respectful adults, much like the intention of the insane ward to break down and reshape patients into well functioning citizens.
Despite all the power in the world, there is always the presence of opposition to the demands of conformity. Individualism is the basis of human emotion and it creates speciality. Without this necessity, when society strips people from their identities and labels them numbers and barcodes, one can go insane. In the story, Chief Bromden, knowing that he was never respected, turned into a meek creature afraid to stand against his oppressors. He imagines himself to be a small, skinny figure with no more strength than a little girl. But when the mighty McMurphy comes into the scene to inspire courage and confidence in the crazy inmates, Bromden receives the power to fight against the combine and leap out of conformity. When Bromden shakes McMurphy s hand, Bromden saw his hand grow in size, I remember the fingers were thick and strong closing over mine, and my hand commenced to feel 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 (27). Bromden can see the powerful influence of bravery that McMurphy gives to him, in a simple handshake. Bromden sees his hand swelling, his imaginary physical size growing as his emotional spirit is increasing. McMurphy inspires a lot of hope with many other inmates as well and they fight against Big Nurse s strong control. An epileptic patient named Sefelt rebels against Big Nurse through the effect of McMurphy. His friend explains, This means he may be subject to seizures like this at any time if he doesn t follow medical advice. He knows better. We told him this would happen when he doesn t take his medication. Still he will insist on acting foolish (152). Sefelt continues to not take his medicine in revolt against the ward through his suspicion of its age enhancing effects. McMurphy, himself, breaks glass windows, undermines the Nurse, and causes general chaos in the ward because of his observation that Big Nurse is trying to control. McMurphy is the symbol of rebellious leadership. Gaining twelve followers against the conforming, and rejects surrendering to any electroshock torture done to him. In response to his shock treatment, he says, Anointest my head with conductant. Do I get a crown of thorns? (237) McMurphy s statement is clearly relating to Jesus Christ, a revolutionary figure, standing up against other religions to state his beliefs. McMurphy succeeded in gaining support against the insane ward and begins the havoc of the combine. In The Dead Poet s Society, revolution is begun amongst the students with the assistance of Mr. Keating. He encourages them to, Carpe Diem, seize the day and boldly achieve your goals without hesitation or inhibitions. This theory is frightfully dangerous to the headmasters of the high school, which is so exciting to the students. Keating teaches the men about the inspirational works of Thoreau and Frost. Robert Frost writing, Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, recommending readers to live not as others do, but according to your own path. And in the movie, students do take the initiative, Charlie, the wild member, changes his name to Nuanda and humiliates the principle by pretending to be on the phone with God and disobeying the principles orders to act civil. Knox, also following the footsteps of Nuanda, explores his feelings about girls, even though their school prohibits such behavior. Another student, Neal, probably the finest example of rebellion in the movie, shows great courage and commitment to stand for what he believes in and tries out for a play. Although sternly restricted by his father, Neal does it anyway and receives much applause from his fellow classmates and Mr. Keating. Throughout the story, Keating motivates the students to live to their life s fullest and approves of many of their wild uprisings.
Howbeit, as many rebellions take place, conformity will still be running like a well-oiled machine. Strong as ever, the machine attacks without warning or mercy. Bent on destroying all that opposed it, the Combine struck out against the insane ward in One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest. When McMurphy felt he could not risk his life for the freeing of the other inmates, he temporarily abandons his quest, which disappoints some of his followers. Cheswick, a loyal disciple of McMurphy s rebellious views, takes his own life when he sees McMurphy losing hope. After Cheswick tries to stand up to Big Nurse, McMurphy gives him no support. This depresses Cheswick very much and he kills himself by drowning in the swimming pool. The combine also retaliates directly through the power of Big Nurse. She uses her ultimate weapon on McMurphy, the lobotomy, removing ones capability to have any emotions at all, a part of our individuality. These devastating action leaves McMurphy unable to perform his leadership among the patients would produce uncertainty and fear in the revolution. So Bromden, McMurphy s most faithful follower, takes it upon himself to destroy the thing, the powerful being that once was the single driving force of rebellion, that would be now the upset and disintegration of the movement. He says, The big, hard body had a tough grip on life. It fought a long time against having it taken away, flailing and thrashing around so much I finally had to lie full length on top of it and scissor the kicking legs with mine while I mashed the pillow into the face (270). Bromden refers to McMurphy as it, as if the person he kicked wasn t even McMurphy, but a cold, lifeless vessel carrying only McMurphy s broken soul. Often, such wild rebellion results in great tragedy. In The Dead Poet s Society, when Neal is caught by his oppressive father and taken out of school, he commits a very agonizing act. Because his father is far too strict and will not allow him to live the life that he prefers, Neal shoots himself and chooses to die instead of surrender to the world s restrictions. And in response to this, Keating is fired from the high school because he influenced Neal s suicide. But the students are aware that Neal chose to take his life by himself, without the assistance of Keating and stand up for him, on desks, after his dismissal. Losing their fine leader, the students still believe in the righteous cause to live without inhibitions, but they are greatly affected because of Keating s defeat. When a revolution is stopped, someone must be eliminated and be the scapegoat for it s uprising. McMurphy and Keating, both the leaders of the rebellious movements, are eliminated to prevent the continuation of the raging against the machine.
Finally, after all rebellious acts are committed, all revolts are tried, in the end; conformity wins over the lesser fighters. In One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest, McMurphy, giving a valiant attempt to free his fellow inmates from depending on the ward and standing against the monstrous Big Nurse is doomed to a life of a vegetable, until Bromden saves him from that fate. Keating, willing to take responsibility for Neal s actions, suffers expulsion and loses his role to lead his students against conformity. But these rebellions were not in vain. McMurphy did succeed in inspiring patients such as Harding and Bromden to get over their fears of the world, not to force themselves to be insane as a protection. Harding talked about his leaving the ward by saying, I want to do it on my own, by myself, right out that front door, with all the traditional red tape and complications (257). Chief Bromden showed the most improvement, not suffering from hallucinations anymore and gaining his self confidence, choosing to take matters into his own hands and run away from the tyrannical power of Big Nurse and the ward. Many improvements were shown, even in The Dead Poets Society, with the vast changes in the student. Charlie received the freedom to stand out of conformity and allow himself to be wild and spontaneous, transforming into Nuanda. Tod, usually the quite member, gains his strength to speak his mind and show the passion deep inside him. Tod also was the one who stood up the most for Keating in his time of need, something Tod would normally be too afraid to do. And Neal, the brave martyr that stood for his beliefs and refused to kneel to the force of society s conformist power, took his own life as rebellion. Such revolutionary acts and inspiring vision is remarkable and unbelievable at times. The effect that McMurphy and Keating had on their followers was beautiful, but it was very threatening to the workings of the machine, conformity. But all of life is a struggle to be an individual and not be lost in a sea of faces, not allowed to stand for one s views or battle for one s beliefs. Life becomes a battle to not submit to conformity, fight, although futile, to prove how one will not accept the destiny ordered them, and undyingly rage against the machine.