Comment On The Main Themes Of The Novel, Particularly The Focus On Social Control And Conformity As Well As Individuality, Self Expression And A Sense Of Freedom:

1037 words - 4 pages

"One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest is a honest yet disturbing approach to viewing human psychology, spirit and the society that we belong to. Within these central themes, the novel also comprises of other views such as the focus on social control and conformity as well as individuality, self expression and a sense of freedom. The tightly run mental asylum of Big Nurse is the abode of these themes and is merely a microcosm to the outside society itself. The patients are stripped of their identity as soon as they enter the complex, and through constant routine and the stringent control of the system, individuality is wiped out and replaced with conformity. The patients are encouraged to no longer have a sense of self expression, where they find it simpler to listen to what the staff orders them to do rather than to act autonomously and maintains the combine's power. The consequence is that the patients lose their sense of freedom. It is eventually McMurphy's freedom loving individualistic character that impresses on the patients to question the institutions functioning.Social control is a controversial yet equally important theme in the novel. The institution controls the individuality of the characters and maintains the combine's power. To develop the conformity within the system, the institution manufactures the individualities for the patients. Group therapies are a key example of this situation. Instead of trying to let the patients recover Nurse Ratched is able to fool the patients into fearing individuality. She encourages them to destroy each others individuality by rewarding those who expose the individuality of others and themselves. She reassures the patients that "a guy has to learn to get along in a group before he'll be able to function in a normal society" [Page 43]. By using the power that Nurse Ratched is given from the combine she is able to destroy the natural impulses that make them individual and who they are. Instead the system replaces these impulses with rules and routines that are decisively unnatural. There is however one problem with the systems functioning. It did not account for the raw individuality and charisma of McMurphy and others like him. He shows the patients and in particular Chief Bromden that what other people think or do shouldn't affect the person you are and your individuality. He becomes the counter part of Miss Ratched and she is unable to harness his affects. For every battle he wins he is not able to destroy the combine, but he is at least able to reduce its power. But the one thing remains constant, the combine cannot be destroyed. It is ironic that the individual is a threat to the society which managed to suppress individuality so efficiently.The patients at the institution are all "frightened, desperate, ineffectual little rabbits" [Page 53]. They are timid and are so accustomed to the system and its regulations that they have almost forgotten about what life would be like outside of it. Once again...

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