Destroyed but not defeated

Control and authority are extremely important features with the text One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest. There are many dominant characters and there is also a fight between dominance and authority within the ward discussed in the text. In the text the responder meets many different characters and learns about the world that they live in. They also learn about the ward that the patients live on, it is described as a factory and all the patients are apart of that machine. Nurse Ratched is the head nurse and the responder learns about her sadistic and cruel behavior on the ward.
The character that has the most encounters and disagreements with Nurse Ratched is R.P Mc Murphy, a rebellious and revolutionary ward member who matches nurse Ratched in behavior and control.
On the ward there is a strong fight for control and power and ultimately control decides if someone can be destroyed, but not defeated.
There are many reference in the text to machinery, as if the asylum ward was a factory that controlled all members on that ward.
There is a whine of fear over the silence. I hear the machinery in the walls catch up and go on (page 55)
This example shows that if something breaks the order on the ward that the machinery finds it hard to cope. This shows that the ward needs order and control to run smoothly and efficiently, all members of the ward have a job and a place and if anyone breaks this then the machinery will be out of use. The composer uses the metaphor of a machine to show the control within the ward. It also helps to clearly show the message about the issue to the responder.


The names of the characters also have controlling connotations, for example Nurse Ratched is a tool and R.P Mc Murphy (RPM) could stand for revolution per minute, another machinery device used. Within the text Nurse Ratched has descriptions and actions of something mechanical.

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And Ive watched her get more skilful over the years. Practices has steadied and strengthed her until now she wields a sure power that extends in all directions on hairlike wires too small for anyones eye but mine; I see her sit in the centre of this web like a watchful robot, tend her network with mechanical insect skill (page 26)
The composer again uses a metaphor and an analogy to describe nurse Ratched and her mechanical nature. She is seen as a robot and she craves power and control.


The black boys are also very mechanical in their nature and carry out troubling tasks without any emotion or feeling.


They are tall and sharp and bony and their faces are chipped into expressions that never change, like flint arrowheads. (page 28)
This description of the black boys is also mechanical and unemotional. These characters show no emotion and are unable to emote or feel. The composer has made the staff, or authority, in the novel mechanical so that it adds to the idea of control and power within the combine.
The big nurse is able to set the wall clock at whatever speed she wants by just turning one of those dials in the speed up, and those hands whip around that disc like spokes in a wheel (Page 72)
The big nurse, or Nurse Ratched, is a sadistic character that is in control of the ward. In the quote above Chief Bromden describes how she sets the time on the ward. Nurse Ratched controls every aspect of the mens lives and even control the time and the pace at which they do activities.


We need a good, strong wolf like the nurse to teach us our place Harding (page 61)
The patients on the ward feel as if they need to be controlled so they follow her orders very strictly.
Nurse Ratched has had complete control over the patients until the R.P Mc Murphy joins the members of the ward. When he comes he revolts against the nurse and the control that she has within the ward. He stirs up trouble and creates chaos within the ward. Nurse Ratched does not know how to deal with this as she is used to people following orders.


You men- Stop this. Stop (Page 136)
The composer uses italics to show the angry and frantic nature of the nurse. She becomes very angry and this is obvious through her language. She is not used to not being in control and when she loses the control she becomes distraught with the men on the ward.


She realises that she is beginning to lose control and she battles with Mc Murphy for the respect and control of the men on the ward.


The composer uses contrasts to show the different natures of Nurse Ratched and Mc Murphy. Nurse Ratched uses force and devious plans to gain control whereas Mc Murphy does not want control he just does not like to be controlled by anyone. The nurse becomes obsessed with having control and cannot handle being out of control. She ultimately decides that the only way that she will have full control is if she gets rid of Mc Murphy.
Mc Murphys lobotomy Big nurse could use it as an example of what happens if you buck up the system. I was sure of that (page 304)
Nurse Ratched showed all the men in the ward what would happen if you try and rebel against her. Although she ordered Mc Murphy to die she infact lost the battle because the members on the ward now know how to think and feel for themselves.


Mc Murphy brought laughter and excitement to the ward. The patients on the ward had never been able to express what they felt because they were so strongly restricted and controlled.
Whatever it was went haywire in the mechanism, theyve just about got it fixed again. The clean, calculated arcade movement is coming back: six-thirty out of bed, seven to the mess hall, eight the puzzles come out for the chronics and the cards for the acutes.. In the Nurses Station I see the white hands of the Big Nurse float over the controls (page 168)
The haywire in the mechanism that the composer wrote about is a metaphor for Mc Murphy. He causes a rebellion within the ward and creates chaos. The nurse soon realises she is losing control and soon gains the power again. She then puts the men back in a strict regimen.


Mc Murphy is the most aware and defiant patient that is on the ward. He is aware of Nurse Ratched actions and knows how to agitate her. He turns the other patients against her in a battle for control.
Laughter is one way that Mc Murphy gains control and revolts against the nurse.


While Mc Murphy laughs. Rocking farther and farther backwards spreading his laugh out acroos the water.. I notice that Harding is collapsed next to Mc Murphy and is laughing too.. It started slow and pumped itself up, swelling the men bigger and bigger, laughing with them (page 135)
Mc Murphy spreads laughter and the patients begin to realise that they have a mind of their own and they can think and emote for themselves. The composer has used the laughter as a metaphor for loss of control. Laughter has connotations of happiness and disorder and this is what the nurse tries to stop within the ward.
The nurse finally realises that she cannot win against him and she finally orders Mc Murphy to have a lobotomy. She thinks that she has now won, when infact she has ultimately lost.
She cannot handle disorder and chaos so she does what she thinks is necessary in the situation. She thinks that this will resolve the disorder in the ward. The other patients have already been shown the outside world and now know how to live properly with emotion and self-control. Because of this Mc Murphy was already victorious. The nurse thought that if she got rid of Mc Murphy that she would again reign as the ultimate controller, but she was defeated.
Mc Murphy ultimately won the battle for control within the ward. This shows that a man can be destroyed but not defeated. Nurse Ratched was obsessed with control and became foolish and devious without it. The nurse thought that by destroying Mc Murphy the ward would go back to normal, but she was mistaken as the patients actually now know how to feel and have self-control now. The composer uses many expressive techniques within the novel to convey meaning they include metaphor, making the ward appear to be a factory, and Mc Murphy appearing to be a glitch in the running of the machinery.