HOME
WRITING
TEACHING & TALKING
POEMS & IMAGES
PUBLICATIONS
LIZ CASHDAN

Flew over the Cuckoos Nest Book Review 2020

Disillusionment results in a loss of self, and a lack of control. In One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Chapters 6 and 7 offer a deeper look at the crucial motifs: emasculations, Ratched's and McMurphy's power struggle, the fog and mechanization that are used to exemplify disillusionment from reality and failure of society throughout the book. Kesey demonstrates these motifs through Ratched and McMurphy's interactions, delving into deeper conflicts, how the machine steals the humanity of people both figuratively and literally, and the fog, which is used as a haven from the intensity Ratched spews throughout the ward.
Chapter 6 begins when a figure who greatly resembles Santa arrives at the mental ward, and within a few years is churned out as what society would deem a perfectly "normal" individual, exemplifying that the institute is designed to take originality and squash it like a bug. Quickly moving on, Chapter 6 describes Nurse Ratched's manipulation of time. How she twists and turns and bends the clock to her will, to confound and pull the patients deeper into a state of haze. Later, Bromden describes the Nurse leaving, McMurphy complains about the always playing music, to which Harding reveals it is something those who live in the ward become immune to, numb to, it's not noticeable. As the music plays on, McMurphy, Harding and some of the other patients gamble while Bromden watches from the sidelines. He observes the way McMurphy interacts with everyone else, realizing that he plays decently, but always let the other win to buildup their self-esteem and their "manliness". While all seem to be aware, none minded. Chapter 6 ends with a nurse called Miss Pilbow failing to distribute medication. Nurse Ratched, before she had left commented on McMurphy being a sex maniac which had shaken the girl out of concentration, ruining her ability to properly dispense that night's pills. McMurphy offers the pill he had picked up from the ground to Bromden, who declines. They both get ready for bed, and Bromden gets a glance at McMurphy's white whale boxers and observes how the man is a stark difference in comparison to the rest of the patients he had spent his years with at the ward. McMurphy reveals that he knows that Bromden is not deaf based on his reaction to the mention of the 'Big Nurse'.
Chapter 7 begins where chapter 6 left off, with Bromden falling asleep without his medication. Bromden how the pills make him not wake up during the night. Bromden describes feigning sleep as two aides enter the room, and he listens to the noises of the night. He describes slipping and falling into the world of the machine and watches a worker take a Blastic Vegetable, hangs them by the heels, and takes a scalpel to the patient. Unessaziness strengthens in the scene, as one of the workers cuts open the Blastic head revealing rust and wires rather than blood. The man from Public Relations who appeared in Chapter 2 is now wearing a corset, giving a tour to a new group, triumphant over the disregarded body of the Blastic. The fog enters, obscuring Bromden's view. Chief Bromden assures the reader that everything that he describes did happen, that it was not just a nightmare. But an aide, Mr.Turkle shakes him awake. Strangely, unlike usually, Turkle leaves Bromden tucked into the bed, while other aides roll a covered body out of the room.
McMurphy and the Nurse constantly butt heads in their never-ending struggle to gain power over the patients and workers in the mental institution; McMurphy by making them feel equals, and Nurse Ratched by plays on their insecurities, infantilizing them, accentuating their dependence on her. When Nurse Ratched leaves the ward for the night she says to the patients, "Good evening boys. Behave yourselves." (78). Ratched's language is a part of her strategy to keep power over the patients, by using degrading language, or words that put her in a position of authority Her telling them to "behave" is a prime example of how she uses language to maintain control. Similarly, after Nurse Ratched had been having problems with McMurphy, she tells the overnight Nurse "I have reason to believe he is a sex maniac" (82). That later in the chapter affects Nurse Pilbow and McMurphy's interaction greatly, "She's looking so scared and big-eyed at him (82). Nurse Ratched's opinion of McMurphy has spread to her workers, she purposefully drops information in their minds to make McMurphy be viewed in a negative light, rather than as a force of rebellion and hope in the ward. Miss Pilbows' borderline hysterical reaction to a simple statement is a prime example of how powerful Nurse Ratched's voice is within the mental hospital. But this exists more than just in Ratched, it passes on to the black boys, as the patients go to bed they call "Tha's right, babies, sleep tight" (86). Ratched, using infantilization on the patients in the ward catches on with the aids in the ward, and they use it against patients down in an attempt to make themselves feel more important and gain approval from Ratched. At the end of Chapter 7 when Bromden wakes he mentions how Mr.Turkle sometimes loosened his sheets "But makes sure he'd safe first"(90). Mr.Turkle, the aid, even though at times he was willing to treat Bromden with more humanity, the moment it was no longer safe for him to do so, even with the slightest risk he would not do it. Ratched strikes fear into the hearts of everyone at the ward. Kindness is never a priority. Ratched is harsh and unforgiving, if peoples morals get into the way of their jobs, she holds enough power over them that they will either be terminated from their position. She is the ultimate authority, and no one risks showing a sign of disloyalty.
McMurphy represents the exact opposite of Nurse Ratched: amplified maculation. As the patients, sat in the game room playing blackjack, despite McMurphy's early brags of his superiority at gambling, whenever playing against someone else he "Backed down a hand or two" (80). Eventually, "He let them win "(81).McMurphy represents something of an ideal and at the time stereotypical man: especially in comparison to the more effeminate patients. McMurphy let them win for them to feel validated and more powerful by beating a man like McMurphy.After the game, and medicine dispensation McMurphy asks Bromden "You want your sourball, Chief?" (83). McMurphy's attempt to both form an interaction with Chief and Chief's rejection of the Nurse sponsored medication shows the effect of McMurphy already taking hold even on the more hesitant outliers. Their interaction later spawns a thought from McMurphy right before they fall asleep "Thought somebody told me you was deef" (84.)McMurphy's observance allows him to discover something bout Bromden that no one else in the hospital knows that he is not deaf. He will in the future use this to his advantage as a manipulation tactic and as a way to gain Bromden's trust. Nurse Ratched and McMurphy have contrasting different ways to gain and keep power, neither of which seems to remain in it for long though without the other busting in the way trying to gain control.
Nurse Ratched has complete control over everything that happens within the ward including time and uses this power to maintain her dictatorship. In the beginning, if chapter 6 Bromden describes how the Big Nurse can "Set the clock to whatever speed she likes," (76) which as a result "Everyone drove mad to keep up" (76).Ratched's strategy of controlling time results in making the patients grow "crazier". A lot of them are not mentally ill at least not severely so as they enter in but as they spend more time in the ward getting their senses dulled by the same walls every day, the constant suppression of desires by the Nurse and distorted time. When discussing what happens when Nurse Ratched eases up on the clock dial Bromden reports "I feel buried under a ton of sand" (77). The clock and Nurse Ratched's manipulation of time also span to physical consequences. Not only are the effects in Bromden's head but some manifestations give him a feeling of near-paralysis. Mental illnesses can often have physical manifestations and being put under situations of intense stress like in the environment created by Ratched. Her leadership triggers instability that triggers physical reactions in the patients. Many patients, Bromden included, feel as though "Time freezes in the fog" (78). The fog is the only place Bromden can go to escape the constant surveillance of Nurse Ratched, even though she can control the time, he uses this opportunity to take action- albeit not noticeably- and hides in the fog rather than be subject of her control. Nurse Ratched's ability to manipulate everything, including time emulates her superiority over everyone else in the ward.
The moment McMurphy arrives within the hospital things begin to noticeably change while Bromden admits, "Time doesn't mean anything," he acknowledges that "Haven't fogged the place full...since McMurphy," and that even though McMurphy has been causing trouble there has not been any fog used on the patients the entire day (78). McMurphy's view of the fog is the opposite of Bromdens'. While Bromden views it as safe and secure, McMurphy treats it as more of a threat. While neither man likes Nurse Ratched's control, they have differing ideas on how it should be handled. McMurphy desperately tries to drag people out of the fog, starting small with games, and later on in the books expanding that to group excursions, protests, and prostitution. Meanwhile, Bromden at the start is satisfied with being a wallflower, just observing and hiding because as long as he has access to the fog, he does not need to fear reality. This idea appears again later in chapter 7 when Bromden thinks "I hope he knows enough to hide in the fog" (89.)Bromden throughout the books sees the fog as a place to seek solace, he is dependant on the fact that it is there to hide in whenever he becomes fearful so he can ignore reality. Since Murphy has not been at the ward for long, Bromden worries that as McMurphy is bold and somewhat careless he will not see the fog as a blessing but as a challenge, he needs to overcome.
Chapters 6 and 7 also heavily focus on Nurse Ratched's emasculation and dehumanization of the patients in the ward. Chapter 6 begins with a mystical Santa-like figure described as "Tangled in tinsel" (76) and ends with that same figure leading the ward "Clean-shaven and skinny as a pole (76). The destruction of even the most fanciful and widely loved characters worldwide highlights the ward's ability to take anyone and destroy their originality and humanity. No piece of the original Santa like figure remains, and instead, he is replaced with what society deems as acceptable, even though the reason so many people love Santa is because of the magic he brings into the world. Before Ratched leaves for the night, she looks at tests the cleanliness of the window with her sleeve and makes a face, the man on duty is ready to clean it "Before she's so much as locked the ward door" (78.) The Nurse tactics of treating people as less than do not stop at just the patients, she applies it to the workers too. She can translate with just on looking her disgust - which overall showed her disapproval and the aids action was almost instantaneous in hopes of limiting her criticism. As some aids and workers enter Bromden's room they are described as having "Dreamy doll faces" (87). Dolls are often associated with feminity, with their smooth and soft features, implying that no only are the patients being affected by the emasculation produced by nurse Ratched, but the workers under her are too. When the aforementioned workers begin their job scalping the old Blastic, "No blood or innards falling out" (88). The scalping of the Vegetable highlights the effect the hospital and the machine have on everyone within it. An able-minded person, can enter the ward and become a motionless statue who inevitably will no longer be a human at all. Fate is the same for all of the patients unless they can escape, or become a part of the machine. This comes into play later on at the end of the book after Bromden sees Mcmurphy get his lobotomy, and lose his vivacious spirit. This final straw results in Bromden killing McMurphy because he does not want to see the once rebellious man become a part of the machine, and Bromden leaving so he can escape the inexorable fate of joining the machine. After the Vegetable is scalped we see the public relations man appear dressed in a corset "Laced so tight" (89), triumphantly holding the Blastic's severed head. Corsets throughout the centuries have been a symbol of feminity, and up until the 20th century have been a defining garment of the female character, symbolizing beauty and oppression, The man from public relations wearing the corset emphasizes how Ratched has everyone so tightly bound and constricted, shows how her effect emits from inside the ward outward. She was able to rip away the masculinity from anyone who came into contact with the ward and make them become a part of the machine.
McMurphy, on the other hand, represents the opposite, liveliness and masculinity. He demonstrates this through his actions and appearance, While talking about the fog, Bromden said McMurphy would probably "Yell like a bull," (78) if they turned it up all the way. Masculinity is often associated with dominance, the implication of McMurphy yelling because of something he cannot control, shows both his traditional masculinity and the effect he has on the ward. Even though he was only there for a few days, observable changes were already being made which displays his growing power among the patients and staff. Later on, while McMurphy is gambling "Blackjack for cigars " forming relationships with other patients and demonstrating vigor and good sportsmanship (79). Gambling is another way McMurphy both demonstrates a lack of respect for the authority of Nurse Ratched and his masculine role. Both smoking and gambling in the 1960s were hobbies mainly attributed to men, and show how while McMurphy conforms to what is expected of a man who is outside of the institution, he is a black sheep in comparison to the more feminized patients McMurphy's appearance also radiates a more traditionally masculine look he's got muscles and tattoos, that display guns and cards along with whale boxers from a girl at his co-ed college who said "I was a symbol"(84). McMurphy exemplifies the ideals of what a "mans man" is supposed to be, the idealization of masculinity; strong, unapologetic, loudmouthed. He is exactly what so many of the patients in the hospital want to be and the exact opposite of what Ratched wants within her ward. Ratched wants the ward to be systematic and methodical, Bromden implies how she is robotic and mechanical an operator of the machine.
Chapters 6 and 7 add a deeper look at the machine and its effects on the people within the institution. Bromden describes how Nurse Ratched manipulates the clock, a part of the machine "She'll turn the dial to a dead stop and freeze" then "She'll ease the dial a degree"(77). The clock is part of the machine that is under Nurse Ratched's control, and she uses it for domination over the institution. Her control of the clock demonstrates her complete control over everything that happens within the walls of the ward, even time. Throughout the story, it is difficult to distinguish time to which Ratched uses to her advantage whenever McMurphy rebels. Before gambling, McMurphy complains about the blaring music that no one else acknowledges, when he mentions this to Harding, the man replies "I suppose we do hear it if we concentrate" (79). So many of the patients have grown an immunity to noticing the things that are around them. The always playing music that only McMurphy seems to notice demonstrates how he can point out injustices, and with a bit of work, he can call attention to them so the other people in the hospital notice them too. As workers enter Bromden and the other patients sleeping quarters Bromden overhears noises "There's a rhythm to it, like a thundering pulse" (87). The machine in every sense but literal is alive, it lives in the workers, in Nurse Ratched. It is always there, underlying even when it goes unnoticed, like a heartbeat. But when things get more intense, in trepidation both in humans and in the machine, heartbeats quicken. This accentuates Bromden's viewpoint that the machine is a living thing and is involved in everything, using the life forces of others to power itself building on that, when the Blastic was scalped a "Shower of rust and ashes," was released instead of any blood or organs (88). When the patient is scalped, the humanity that was once a part of him is gone. The hospital- in turn, the machine, was able to infiltrate the Blastic Vegetable so much that they became a part of it.
Since Bromden did not have his medicine that night some may say that the things he saw were just the hallucinations of an unstable person in a mental hospital. The pill he did not take that night usually left him "Paralyzed with sleep"(85). It is reasonable to believe that the things he "saw" were all just dreams that were typically prevented by the pills Miss Pilbow was scared out of giving him, However, Bromden acknowledges this, he understands that it seems unbelievable and counters that with " If they don't exist how can a man see them. (90)"While Bromden is seemingly lost in his head, he continuously insists that everything that he describes happens. He knows that his hallucinations are based in fact to some extent, which is later proved when he sees the Blastic's body being rolled out of the room under a sheet. His dream is a manifestation of the idea of the machine he had built up, and a result of the evils he subconsciously acknowledges throughout the hospital no matter how outlandish some of the things Bromden reports are- there are elements of truth within it. He did see a body leaving the room he was in, and the aid, Mr.Turkle did act strange when it came to his decision to keep Bromden tucked in the bed.
Ratched's control of time and the machine demonstrate her power over the people within the ward and how she can maintain that power even with the challenges McMurphy arises, whilst doing so she uses said power to dehumanize, infantilize and emasculate the patients, further keeping them under a firm hand. The closer look at the fog allows the reader to understand how Bromden views his surroundings to form a more in-depth opinion of his character. Bromden was severely limited by the walls of the institute, and Nurse Ratched's control, and Chapters 6 through 7 set up a closer look at Bromden's mindset and the first real conflict between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched involving her intimidation versus his masculation. Kesey uses these strategies to comment on the changes society was making during the 1960s; while mainstream Americans viewed sexuality as something to be suppressed, hippie counterculture embraced it. The whole book focuses on not conforming to what society expects, within the ward the patients supposed to follow the orders of Nurse Ratched, she is the ultimate authority figure, but when McMurphy arrives and challenges her power it allows the patients, specifically Bromden to stop hiding who they are and taking refuge in the "fog". They demonstrate how societies' actions and interpretations of reality and time are often warped and are bound to have consequences leaving behind empathy and the ability to experience life.
I accidentally found a platform called EssayGraph.com. I was surprised to see so many samples of academic writings. Everyone can have a look at them absolutely free.