Control And Order As A Metaphor For Social Order In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

700 words - 3 pages

"It don't make a bit of sense to me. If that's what bein' crazy is, than I'm senseless, out of it, gone down the road whacko. But no more, no less." In this telling and ultimately ironic statement, Jack Nicholson, as Randall Patrick McMurphy, reveals one of the underlying questions of Milos Forman's 1975 adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: what does it really mean to be crazy? Set in a psychological institution, the film presents a network of control and order that is reprehensible because it sneakily manipulates many mostly-sane patients and worsens or at least perpetuates the very illnesses it is designed to remedy. McMurphy, who is transferred to the hospital after faking insanity, immediately becomes a heroic agitator of this network. The film chronicles his struggle with Nurse Ratched, whose domineering passive-aggressive and obsessive-compulsive treatment of her patients seems far more terrible and socially unacceptable than their humorous psychotic behavior. The question of what constitutes insanity is a powerful metaphor throughout the film for questioning the social and moral order of American society.In the context of America in 1975, this question has pertinent social implications as well. Disillusionment replaced optimism as North Vietnam finally overran South Vietnam in April of 1975. Democracy had fallen to communism, and America had unequivocally lost its first war. In August of 1974, Nixon had resigned after the Watergate scandal, following Spiro Agnew's resignation the year before. Additionally, Israeli and Arab unrest had intensified, and OPEC threw the economy, arguably America's object of greatest pride, into recession and high inflation. Cuckoo's Nest, much like the vast social critiques of the post-World War I and II eras, served as a voice of anxiety to question the moral order that seemed to be disintegrating.Though the film is pickled with scenes contrasting McMurphy's triumphant defiance with Ratched's order and control, two are particularly useful for illustrating its larger social significance. In the first, the conflict begins when Nurse Ratched refuses to allow McMurphy to watch the...

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