December 7, 2011
Through the novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey attempts to give the reader a compelling visualization of the obviously wrong and immoral practices of the Combine. The images that inevitably occur in every reader’s mind when analyzing this book prove that these practices are ridiculous and inhumane. Not to mention, these patients either were forced in the Combine or voluntarily admitted in order to be rehabilitated back into society. With that being said, throughout the book I constantly questioned why it seemed as though no one really cared enough about their situation to do something to change it. These people should know that what was going on in the Combine would definitely not give them what they needed to integrate back into society. The questions then arise, “What exactly is needed to be accepted by society as a normal, functioning member? Who gets to decide on what is normal and abnormal, accepted and unaccepted? Why do so many people decide to follow the rules of an individual or group? What do they have that other individuals or groups do not?” After dwelling on these questions for a bit, I came to realize that I was probably experiencing a little taste of what these fictional patients were going through in their minds. They knew something had to be wrong with the system of the Combine; however, that same system is what was telling the patients that there was actually something wrong with them. Because of their inadequacies, they must follow a strict day to day schedule, completely obey and adhere to any commands or advice from those in authority, and then patiently wait until those who knew best would tell them that they were ready to move on. Could we, as American citizens, as complex, rational, and thoughtful individuals, know when we were being manipulated and treated unfairly and, in turn, effectively do something in order to decrease the boundaries between us and authorities? Or are we caught up in the foggy impression that America is a free country that promotes individualism and that this individualism can always be used to bring about equal opportunities for all?
You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself (Kesey 1962:131).
A character sketch is needed in order to make a valuable comparison between the Combine and American society. I will start with Nurse Ratched, who has apparently been successful in conning her way to the top. She not only is the supreme authority over those living and working inside the Combine, but also is the neck to the man who is head over the personnel. She refuses to consider the suggestions or complaints of others and instead paves only one way to operate within her system. This way consists of a wide range of repetitive methods: a set schedule in which the clock operates by her hand only, constant humiliation through group therapy sessions, maltreatment of the patients by the staff under her knowledge and consent, a non-optional medication given every night to paralyze the patients from reality, shock “therapy”, and lobotomy. In order to escape from under her reign, one is obligated to fully follow her procedures without asking questions, complaining, or refusing.
What she dreams of there in the center of those wires is a world of precision efficiency and tidiness like a pocket watch with a glass back, a place where the schedule is unbreakable and all the patients who aren’t Outside, obedient under her beam, are wheelchair Chronics with catheter tubes run direct from every pantleg to the sewer under the floor. Year by year she accumulates her ideal staff: doctors, all ages and types, come and rise up in front of her with ideas of their own about the way a ward should be run, some with backbone enough to stand behind their ideas, and she fixes these…