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The Use of Manipulation; One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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Throughout Ken Kesey’s novel, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the use of manipulation is a re-occurring motif. Manipulation is defined as ‘shrewd of devious management. Manipulation is put into context by how the character’s use it. The first character to master it is the antagonist Nurse Ratchet. She uses it to manipulate patients to manage her mechanically structured ward. The other character is the (antagonist, protagonist? ) patient McMurphy. He on the other hand manipulates people to help them grow or gain money.

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These two characters also go head to head with the power of deceptive manipulation as their weapons. Nurse Ratchet is the boss of the ward, in which the events of the novel take place. Her role is to make everything in the ward that goes on have ‘therapeutic value’. What she really uses this excuse for is to run her ward as mechanically and robotic-ally calculated as she can so all her patients will stay sick, immasculized, in her clutches and best of all not fight back.

One method of her manipulation techniques is her smile.

According to the protagonist Chief Bromden, Miss Ratched stretches her smile into whatever expression/attitude fits the situation shes using it for, “So she really lets herself go and her painted smile twists, stretches to an open snarl, and she blows up bigger and bigger, big as a tractor, so big I can smell the machinery inside the way you smell a motor pulling too big a load … all the patients start coming out of the dorms to check on what’s the hullabaloo, and she has to change back before she’s caught in the shape of her hideous real self.

By the time the patients get their eyes rubbed to where they can halfway see what the racket’s about, all they see is the head nurse, smiling and calm and cold and usual, telling the black boys they’d best not stand in a group gossiping when it is a Monday… ”(5) Through this passage, we see the Nurse change her smile to something evil, but as soon as the patients come to see whats going on, she has transformed from her true form into her usual self, assuring the patients that she is their altruistic Nurse Ratchet.

Her smile allows her to appear that what ever she makes so good and therapeutic for the patients, making it harder for them to oppose and even make it seem shes on their side. “’Even if you take into consideration the harmful effects of the medicine, don’t you think its better than that? ‘ As he stares down at the floor, Fredrickson’s blond eyebrows are raised like he’s seeing for the first time just how he looks at least once a month. The nurse smiles and pats his arm just and heads for the door, glares at the acutes to shame them for gathering around watching such a thing;when she’s gone, Fredrickson shivers and tried to smile. I don’t know what I got so mad at the old girl about- I mean, she didn’t do anything to give me reason to blow up like that, did she? ‘”(154) The reader can see that her smile made her appear so altruistic and passionate about caring, that there was no way one could oppose her, therefor the nurse winning, and Fredrickson shrinking back to his tiny slot in the ward, no longer an obstacle in her task of conforming the patients. Another method of manipulation used by Nurse Ratched is her group meetings, her snitch book, threats of lobotomy, and the shock shop.

For her meetings, the picks on poor patient about personal issues he’s having, discussing it public-ally for the ‘therapeutic value’. The unfortunate part is, all the other patients pick on the patient so that she won’t pick on them. Her accomplishment through doing this is that she turns the patients onto each other, and the one patient thats being picked on feels weaker and weaker, and therefor has more pressure to stay in the ward for the hope of being ‘cured’. If by chance, the patients don’t go attacking each other in the meeting as she has hoped and planned, she simply threatens to discuss something in her log book to the group.

The log book is a book which she has devised to aid her oppression. If someone hears something interesting about another patient in the log book, the patient puts down what he heard and signs his name, and the next day he gets to sleep in. The effectiveness of the log book is evident here, through this passage,”’Am I to take it that there’s not a man among you that has committed some act that he has never admitted? ‘ She reached in the basket for the log book. ‘Must we go over the past history? That triggered something, some acoustic device in the walls, rigged to turn on at just the sound of those words coming from her mouth. The acutes stiffened. Their mouths opened in unison. Her sweeping eyes stopped on the first man along the wall. His mouth worked, ‘I robbed a cash register in a service station. ‘ She moved to the next man. ‘I tried to take my little sister to bed. ‘ Her eyes clicked to the next man, each one jumped like a shooting gallery target. ‘I-one time-wanted to take my brother to bed. ‘ ‘I killed my cat when I was six. Oh, god, forgive me, I stoned her to death and said my neighbor did it. ”(45)

The reader can clearly see this is one of her methods of manipulation, for she uses it to oppress the patients and keep them down, and ‘in need of more help’. The shock shop and lobotomy are are closely related punishment. The nurse sends patients to the shock shop, if they are being ‘bad’, or hostile. Upon further acts of ‘retaliation’, she sends the patient to lobotomy, where a surgery is performed in which a part of the brain is cut out, resulting in a ‘peaceful, cooperative’ patient, but in reality, just a vegetable. She uses this to manipulate her patients into doing what she wants, under fear of going through this. They gave McMurphy three more treatments that week. As quick as he started coming out of one, getting the click back in his wink, Miss Ratched would Arrive with the Doctor and they would ask him if he felt like he was ready to come around and face up to his problems and come back to the ward for a cure. And hed swell up, aware that every one of those faces on Disturbed had turned toward him and was waiting, and he’d tell the nurse he regretted that he had but one life to give for his country and she could kiss his rosy red ass before he’d give up the god-dam ship.

Yeh! Then stand up and take a couple bows to those guys grinning at him while the nurse led the doctor into the station to phone over to the Main Building and authorize another treatment. ”(249) She uses this tactic on all the patients, and most of them fall for it, but the use of shock treatment doesn’t effect McMurphy. Consequently, something more drastic had to be done, and Nurse Ratched used her most devious weapon and had McMurphy undergo a lobotomy operation, eventually manipulation him in the end, so he too would conform.

McMurphy is the other character who uses manipulation, only not for the conformity of the ward, or keeping the patients emasculated and demoralized so that they need stay in the ward for further help, but rather for the good of the patients, and maybe a buck or two on the side along with a good time. The first example of McMurphy manipulating people is the world series. Since the world series is on at a time that the scheduled T. V. Watching time is not, he tried to rally, manipulate the patients to vote against the Nurse.

His main tactic is too create empathy from the other patients towards his cause, and also to insinuate all the patients that don’t vote against the Nurse are testicle-less rabbits. He failed to rally the other patients because nobody was on his side. After that he learns to manipulate the patients on their personalities, and how they act. This shows when he is short a person for his fishing trip, and tries manipulate(and succeeds) George to come based on his personality and past employment. Big toothless knotty old Swede the black boys called Rub-a-dub George, because of his thing about sanitation, came shuffling up the hall, listing well back so his feet went well of in front of his head (sways backward this way to keep his face as far away from the man he’s talking to as he can), stopped in front of McMurphy, and mumbled something in his hand. George was very shy. You couldn’t see his eyes because they were so deep under his brow, and he cupped his big palm around most of the rest of his face. His head swayed like a crow’s nest on top of his mastlike spine.

He mumbled in his hand till McMurphy finally reached up and pulled the hand away so’s the words could get out. ‘Now, George, what is it your sayin? ‘ ‘Red worms,’ he was saying. ‘I joost don’t think they do you no good-not for the Chin-nook. ‘ ‘Yeah? ‘ McMurphy said. ‘Red worms? I might agree with you George, if you let me know what about these red worms you’re speaking of. ‘ I think joost a while ago I hear you say Mr. Bromden was out digging the red worms for bait. ‘ ‘That’s right, Pop, I remember. ‘ ‘So I joost say you don’t have no good fortune with them worms.

This here is the month with one big Chin-nook run-su-sure. Herring you need. Su-ure. You jig you some herring and use those fellows for bait, then you have some good fortune… Twenty-five years I work the Chinook trollers,all the way from the Half Moon Bay to Puget Sound. Twenty-five year I fish-before I get so dirty’ He held out his hands for us to see the dirt on them Everybody around leaned over and looked. I didn’t see the dirt but I did see scars worn deep into the white palms from hauling a thousand miles of fishing line of out the sea.

He let us look a minute, then rolled the hands shut and drew the, away and hid the, in his pajama shirt like we might dirty them looking, and stood grinning at McMurphy with gums like brine-bleached pork. ‘I had a good troller boat, joost forty feet, but she drew twelve feet water and she was solid teak and solid oak. ‘ He rocked back and forth in a way to make you doubt that the floor was standing level. ‘She was one good troller boat, by golly! ‘ He started to turn, but McMurphy stopped him again. ‘Hell, George, why didn’t you say you were a fisherman?

I been talking up with voyage like I was the Old Man of the Sea, but just between you an’ me and the wall there, the only boat I been on was the battleship Missouri and the only thing I know about fish is that I like eatin’ ’em better than cleanin’ ’em. ‘ ‘Cleanin’ is easy, somebody show you how. ‘ ‘By God, you’re gonna be our captain, George;we’ll be your crew. ‘ George tilted back, shaking his head. ‘Those boats awful dirty any more-everything awful dirty. ‘ ‘The hell with that. We got a boat specially sterilized fore and aft, swabbed clean as a hound’s tooth.

You won’t get dirty, George, ’cause you’ll be the Captain. Won’t even have to bait a hook, just be our captain and give orders to us dumb landlubers-how’s that strike you? ‘ I could see George was tempted by the way he wrung his hands under his shirt, but he still said he couldn’t risk getting dirty. McMurphy did his best to talk him into it, but George was still shaking his head when the Big Nurse’s key hit the lock of the mess hall and she came jangling out the door with her wicker bag of surprises, clicked down the line with automatic smile-and-good-morning for each man she passed.

McMurphy noticed the way George leaned back from her and scowled. When she’d passed, McMurphy tilted his head and gave George the one bright eye. “George, that stuff the nurse has been saying about the bad sea, about how terrible dangerous this trip might be- what about that? ‘ ‘That ocean could be awful bad, sure, awful rough. ‘ McMurphy looked down at the nurse disappearing into the station, then back at George. George stated twisting his hands around in his shirt more than ever, looking around at the silent faces watching him. ‘By Golly! ‘ he said suddenly. you think I let her scare me about that Ocean? You think that? ‘ (196-197). With this, not only does he manipulate George to come fishing, he gains a little extra money, and 1 more person to make his excursion possible. Finally, there is the battle of manipulation between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy, in which the entire plot emphasizes. For McMurphy, he tries to turn the tub room into a gambling room. He does this by convincing the other patients to gamble with him and that they’ll win. Consequently, he cleans up, but also defies the nurse’s policy of no gambling.

Additionally, he tries gain control by manipulating Mr. Turkle to let two whores come into the ward to party and get drunk and let the patients have a fun time. In reality, what McMurphy wanted was to have a fun time with his friends before he would escape, avoiding the impending lobotomy operation and also let Billy get lucky for the first time for this would be beneficial for him, ultimately defying the nurse. “Come on , Turkle. It;ll be worth your while. She should be bringin’ a couple of bottles. ‘ ‘You getting’ closer,’ Mr. Turkle said. His head lolled and bobbled.

He acted like he was barely able to keep awake. I’d heard he worked another job during the day, at a race track. McMurphy turned to Billy. ‘Turkle is holdin’ out for a bigger contract, Billy Boy. How much is it worth to you to lose your ol’ cherry? ‘ Before Billy could stop muttering and answer, Mr. Turkle shook his head. ‘it ain’ that. Not Money. She bringin’ more than the bottle with her,though, ain’t she, this sweet thing? You people be sharing more ‘n a bottle, won’t you. ‘ He grinned around at the faces. Billy nearly burst, trying to stutter something about not Candy, not his girl!

McMurphy took him aside and told him not to worry about his girl’s chastity-Turkle’d likely be so drunk and sleepy by the time Billy was finished that old coon couldn’t put a carrot in a washtub. ”(255) Nurse Ratchet tries to maintain control and power of McMurphy by her usual tactics, turning the patients against each other(in this case, against McMurphy). In one instance, when McMurphy was up in disturbed, and nurse Ratchet had the whole group meeting to herself, she proposed a question of why McMurphy was so altruistic, so caring to his fellow man?

She concluded that is was only to do to the profit McMurphy was racking up, through gambling and expeditions. In turn this caused the patients to be more cautious towards McMurphy, until the point McMurphy stood up for George when the black boys were bullying him and resulted in a fight followed by electro shock therapy(showing that he was indeed an altruistic caring man).. “’No, not a saint or a martyr. Here. Shall we examine a cross section of this man’s philanthropy? ‘ She took a sheet of yellow paper out of her basket. ‘look at some of those gifts, as devoted fans of is might call them. First, there was the gift of the tub room.

Was that actually his to give? Did he lose anything by acquiring is as a gambling casino? On the other hand, how much do you suppose he made in the short time he was croupier of his little Monte Carlo here on the ward? How much did you lose, Bruce? Mr. Sefelt? Mr. Scanlon? I think you all have some idea what your personal losses were ‘I have various other bets he made listed here, if any of you care to look, including something to do with deliberately trying to upset the staff. And all of this gambling was, is, completely against ward policy and every one of you who dealt with him knew it. ‘”(228) Furthermore, when Billy gets cured y sleeping with Candy, therefore gaining confidence and masculinity, all due to McMurphy, Nurse Ratchet manipulates Billy into bending back under her will by threatening to tell him mom, whom is close friends with Nurse Ratchet. Instantly after that, Billy’s stutter breaks loose again, and she shoots a look at McMurphy with a smile, telling him with only an expression, that shes crushed the hardest thing McMurphy could throw at her. Unfortunately, due to Billy’s fear of his mom, and her reaction, he commits suicide. Nurse Ratchet tries to twist this into another thing McMurphy is in fault for,“’First Charles Cheswick and now William Bibbit!

I hope you’re finally satisfied. Playing with human lives-gambling with human loves- as if you thought yourself to be a god! ‘”(274) . McMurphy looses it and tries to kill Nurse Ratchet, nearly succeeding until the black boys step in. After this, Nurse Ratchet finally succeeds in manipulating McMurphy, by giving him lobotomy, which makes him a conformed non-opposing vegetable. This ultimately leads to the final victory of the nurse over McMurphy, all through manipulation. In “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, there is many motifs and a theme toward the use of manipulation.

Perhaps it is suggesting is can be badly misused in the wrong hands(suggested through Ms. Ratched ultimately causing Billy to commit suicide), or can bring about positive change in the right hands( Billy loosing his stutter). Although out Ken Kesey’s novel, Chief Bromden observes methods of manipulation and how they are put into practice, until finally he can take no more of it and leaves. This is supposed to symbolize McMurphy’s self sacrificial victory over nurse Ratched. This leaves the reader asking the question: should manipulation be abolished in or our society, or used?

Cite this The Use of Manipulation; One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Use of Manipulation; One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (2016, Dec 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-use-of-manipulation-one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest/

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