A Machine of Society In Ken Sevens book “One Flew Over the Sucked Nest”, he creates an interesting comparison between society and its goal to have those who are striving to be in society conform to a uniform mold. Keyes does this through the use of the Combine, a symbol of society as a culturally unifying force. Bromide, a patient in the ward and the narrator of the novel, creates this Combine is his mind to explain the function of power how It Is used to then control others.
This machine controls the “Insane” men within the novel through corrupt means and thus poses an interesting idea of who is actually sane. Ultimately, the Combine is a machine created by society to force those who are believed to be insane to become sane In order to function In society, yet this machine is corrupt and thus causes readers to question the sanity of society. Keyes establishes the idea of this Combine and its relation to society through Nurse Ratchet and her function In the ward. Chief Bromide Is aware of the Combine and the nurse as an operator of this machine.
Nurse Ratchet attained the power to operate this ward and control the men through her experiences as a field nurse in the army. As a nurse In the army she had control of men that could do nothing to combat her control as they were sick or injured. This power she has gained through the army is proven by how Nurse Ratchet directs the ward with a “rigid routine” (Mall). Bromide Is also aware of the fact that the “ward Is a factory for the Combine” and that the ward is indeed a harvesting combine itself (Keyes).
Bromide also realizes that Nurse Ratchet is the foreman, a Job often thought to be that of a man. Of this factory. This Combine, Like that of a combine used for harvesting, Is very systematic and makes everything the same. A combine used for harvesting cuts the crop all the same way and puts the crop through the same processes and ultimately produces a uniform product. Bromide realizes the ward as a harvesting combine and thus shares this idea with readers to communicate the power struggle between Nurse Ratchet and the men on the ward.
Nurse Ratchet recognizes Bromide as a threat to her power due to his size, race, and participation In the army. This causes Nurse Ratchet to use harmful processes on Bromide in order to eliminate his power to combat her. Nurse Ratchet continues to exercise her power by forcing the insane tenants of the ward to follow a strict schedule that never changes. This schedule creates uniformity within the ward. This uniformity ultimately makes the men function the same thus causing them to take on the form society, represented by the Combine, believes Is right. Ultimately, the ward Is operated by Nurse Ratchet In a systematic process much like that of a harvesting combine. This ward/combine is then used by society, the Combine, to make these men normal and sane. Moreover, other institutions within society strive to do the same as well, yet, like this ward, they often incur undesirable outcomes. One such institution is that of public schools as they are designed to educate students, yet instead public schooling is like brainwashing. It destroys creative thought and questioning students may have about certain ideas much like the ward does in this novel.
Overall, the strict schedule Nurse Ratchet forces the men to follow is Just one of the processes within this Combine. Through the processes Nurse Ratchet uses to manipulate the men within this combine-like ward. The first of these processes that Nurse Ratchet uses is not often thought of as corrupt; however, she abuses this method of control through restriction drugs to a point that the men in the ward have no control over themselves (Swanson). Readers see this through the fog Bromide embraces after he takes his medication that is obviously much too powerful (Tanner).
This fog or dazed state forces his body to react the way Nurse Ratchet would like. Furthermore, Bromide also uses this drug induced fog to hide the ironic power he has by acting as though he is mute and deaf. Nurse Ratchet also gives the other men drugs thus keeping the uniformity of a combine present in the ward, yet not all the men experience a fog and as the novel progresses this fog seems to leave Bromide. This occurs as McCarthy, who sees Bromide’s hidden power, encourages Bromide to come out of the fog and use what remaining power he has to help overcome the Combine.
However, this combine is corrupt because she is not Just giving these men the medications they need to live but also medications that keep them from controlling themselves. Nurse Ratchet does this against their will, with the absence of Safest as he seems to be addicted to the medication, in order to make them fit into the Combine. This is proven to readers through a dream Bromide has while in this go like state. In this dream he sees the workers of the Combine slice one of the other men on the ward open with a knife, yet there is no blood Just a “shower of rust and ashes” (Keyes).
He also sees a “furnace got its mouth open somewhere, [and it] licks up somebody’ (Keyes). This reveals that Nurse Ratchet is destroying these men internally as they are becoming like rust and ash and that this Combine is putting these men through a furnace, the ward, which melts them down and reforms them into the men society, or the Combine, desires. The workers of the Combine who reform these activities come to be workers for the combine through various means.
Readers find the ultimately Nurse Ratchet comes to be a worker of the Combine through her involvement in the army. The workers seem to have received their positions because they have conformed to the Combine easily. Those who have conformed to the Combine seem to then work for the Combine to manipulate those who have not conformed to the Combine. Moreover, Nurse Ratchet also uses the processes of electroshock therapy and lobotomies. These are the most corrupt processes that Nurse Ratchet uses as they are inhumane and ultimately destroy the en who receive them.
Nurse Ratchet uses these corrupt forms of the harvesting combine against those who do not follow her strict schedule or against those who try to break the barriers of the Combine itself. Readers see this when R. P. McCarthy, a man who stands up to Nurse Ratchet’s power and encourages the other men to notice the insanity of the Combine, is given both electroshock therapy and a lobotomy which ultimately makes him conform to the Combine in that he is no longer able to control himself and is thus unable to stand up against the corruption of Nurse Ratchet and the Combine.
This corruption is foreshadowed in the book by the stories of Mr.. Table and Ruckus as they were given similar treatment for questioning the sanity of the Combine (Tanner). Moreover, destroying these men with electroshock therapy and lobotomies is not the goal of the Combine, but rather its goal is take electroshock therapy and a lobotomy is the last resort for him as medication, a work farm, and the Navy are all unable to force him to conform. McCarthy does not conform to these other forces because of his power he gained while in the army.
Overall, Nurse Ratchet uses the ward and its corrupt processes in a harvesting imbibe or machine-like fashion to manipulate these men to fit a mold, the Combine, which is ultimately made by society and is society itself. Furthermore, these corrupt processes that are promoted by the Combine and Nurse Ratchet bring about an interesting aspect relating to sanity. Keyes uses the corruption within the harvesting combine used by Nurse Ratchet to reveal to readers insanity in society at the time of his writing this novel.
Although the men in this novel are claimed to be insane many of them realize that indeed this Combine, society, which they are forced to conform to is ultimately insane and that he former of this Combine, Nurse Ratchet and those below her who help run the ward, are indeed corrupt at heart and exhibit the same insane characteristics as the society to which they make the men conform (Malign). This relates to the time when Keyes was writing this novel as electroshock therapy and lobotomies were popular during this time.
Keyes worked in a state hospital for veterans, a setting that is normally thought to be a safe place; however, state hospitals were often very inhumane as the patients were treated very poorly and were given corrupt procedures like lobotomies and electroshock therapy. With this novel, Keyes is revealing some of these societal problems. Overall, Keyes is questioning the sanity of the people performing these corrupt and harmful processes.