One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest written by the highly regarded Ken Keyes, explores the socio-cultural context of ass’s America. Keyes incorporates a variety of linguistic techniques, main characters and climactic scenes to portray the constant shift in power and conflict amongst the ward patients and ‘The Big Nurse’. These constant alterations in power are Keys way of expressing the detrimental effects that conflict may have upon the stability of the ward, and the well-being of the patients.
The shifts are also used to portray how specific characters constantly manipulate the yester by creating confrontation in order to see their desired ‘change’. Keyes uses symbolism throughout the text to highlight the trapped and oppressed minds of those isolated from society. It is evident that Keyes used to novel to advocate his resistance towards the mistreatment of those men who viewed the world in a different context, and who were afraid to conform to the regular standards of society.
The troubled state of the institution is conveyed in a thought provoking manner, with the incorporation of symbolism and metaphors such as the fog machine, and the electroshock therapy table. The fog machine’ is a hallucinogenic state experienced by Chief, symbolizing his slipping away from reality and into oblivion. Chief often describes the appearance of the fog shortly after medication time, or when he is in a state of fear and anxiety. He describes the fog, as a product of fog machines located in the vents, which he likens to the artificial fog that was used by the military to cover airfields.
On occasions chief doesn’t Just venture into the fog, he loses all reality with this world, and ventures into a figment of his imagination. In one scene, Chief steps onto an image on the ward wall. “l look back out through the frame at that visiting doctor talking with the residents”. Moments such as these represent Chief at conflict with himself, he longs for change and the courage to defy the commands of the ward and step out into the freedom of the outside world.
Although readers are aware that Chiefs intelligence and perseverance has allowed him to remain fictitiously deaf and dumb for over 15 years, his belief in such literal metaphors and hallucinations convey his ill mentality and unreliability as a narrator. Another symbolic metaphor treated within the text, is the Electroshock Therapy table. Electroshock therapy was a cruel form of treatment issued to patients throughout the ass’s, used to stabilize moods and states of aggression, by sending a series of shocks through the brain.
The Electroshock table in the text is associated with crucifixion due to the cross shaped appearance and straps across the wrists and over the head. Similarly to the ancient roman practice of crucifixion, the table was designed to destroy the livelihood of Acutest and later advocate them as public examples of the repercussions of resisting authority and creating unnecessary conflict within the ward. Keys creation of key scenes involving conflict, are another perfect example of the way confrontation is selflessly used as a catalyst for change.
The final conflict between Nurse Ratchet and Randall McCarthy occurs after The Big Nurse finds the aftermath of what had been a night of reckless drinking and partying, exacerbated by the notorious McCarthy. As McCarthy desperately tries to escape the ward through the window, a shrill cry from the nurse guides him to the realization that Billy Bit, a vulnerable and lapses patient NAS Just taken his elite. McMullen attacks Nurse Retraced, viciously strangling her until Washington, one of the ‘Black Boys’ forcefully removes him from The Nurse.
Amidst the attack, McCarthy reveals The Big Nurse’s sexuality by “ripping off her uniform and exposing her breasts”. Following the attack, McCarthy is taken away to be given a surgical operation called a lobotomy, as a consequence for his violent actions. Back on the ward readers succumb to the realization, that Nurse Ratchet has been stripped of her power and authority. Through concealing her womanhood, she was able to create a masculine and mechanical facade, used to manipulate her patients and make them feel inferior.
However, the revelation of her femininity destroys this facade by highlighting her greatest weakness. This realization proves McCarthy as the true Winner’. Despite his physical defeat, he has granted the patients an escape of her manipulative and submissive ways. In the final moments of the book, Chief Broaden, suffocates McCarthy to free him from a life living as a vegetable, as well as to ensure the Nurse’s defeat. McCarthy death symbolizes the liberation of all patients.
Keys incorporation of techniques such as key scenes and linguistic techniques play a vital role when establishing themes and ideas within the text. The idea of conflict being a catalyst for change is exacerbated through creating characters who remain in a state of constant conflict with one another. This recurring conflict is then further highlighted through the use of symbolism and key scenes. However, all conflicts are resolved when the text concludes. Chiefs constant battle with his mind is overcome hen he realizes his power and adequacy, thanks to McCarthy assistance and nurturing of his mental growth.
McCarthy longstanding conflict with the infamous Nurse Ratchet is eradicated, when McCarthy reveals her womanhood and diminishes her superiority. Lastly, the anxiety and self-defeated mind-set of all inmates is overcome, when McCarthy death allows for the completion of liberation on the ward. Despite confrontation resulting in McCarthy reaching his impending doom, the repetitive conflict within the ward walls signified change and salvation for the remaining inmates.