Great strength is displayed in both the usage of speech and silence in the struggle and clash for power. Power, which allows individuals to have control of a situation, gives the person the advantage of authority over others. Additionally, Verbal communication is believed to be extremely powerful in expressing one self’s true mindset. When the volume and of speech is raised it can stimulate influence, just as if it were lowered it can be used to institute a notion. However quietude can be just as effective as it aggravates the opponent, causing one to alter his argumentative position. Silence can be very useful in attaining information as well. In Ken Kesey’s 1992 novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Randle Patrick McMurphy and Nurse Ratched utilize the power of speech in order to gain authority while Chief Bromden employs the power of silence until he gains the power of speech towards the end. As Randle Patrick McMurphy and Nurse Mildred Ratched struggle over maintaining power and influence from the separate use of speech alone, Chief Bromden’s utilization of both speech and silence soon establishes the most effective way of attaining the greatest power.
Randle Patrick McMurphy, the savior of the victimized patients, is the dominant force and figure that challenges the establishment. Known for his resolute capability to speak his mind and confront those that oppose his views, McMurphy uses his power of speech to assemble his fellow patients against the rugged Nurse Mildred Ratched as he finds out that the patients are more fearful of her than they are focused on becoming functional in society. In order to prove to the others that the Nurse is not a dictator, McMurphy challenges her authority to gain support. For instance, when McMurphy’s card games wins everyone’s cigarettes, Nurse Ratched rations them out. In order to challenge her dominance McMurphy calls for a vote on ward policy. He exclaims “But I tried goddammit. At least I did that” when he fails to send a hydrotherapy console out the window to create a escape route (122). Furthermore McMurphy and the other patients wanted to watch the game, however the stringent Nurse Ratched denied their attempt to watch the Super Bowl. In order to challenge her authority and influence on the patient's, McMurphy sat in front of the blank TV creating a scene of rebelliousness and defiance. The Nurse in return exclaimed furiously, “Mr. McMurphy…you are supposed to be on working during these hours"(132). Despite the Nurse’s command, McMurphy sits in front of blank television. Through his process of challenging the authority, McMurphy turns from being a gambler and an "egocentric trickster into a heroic martyr" (Potts). His ability to communicate to the patients helps develop trust and unity between the patients. His obligation to the other patients and his fear for his own life ultimately begins to wear down his potency and sanity in the end, however he shows the other patients the effects of inner strength by neutralizing the hostility of the outside world. The patients can feel powerful and masculine as they unite together under McMurphy influence, however speech alone will not allow McMurphy to gain complete control over his environment as he his subject to a lobotomy later.
Unlike McMurphy who goes against the institutions authority to demonstrate his power and control, Nurse Ratched wants to uphold decorum and stability in the ward in order to cease the incoming rise of insurrection among the patients since McMurhphy’s arrival. The rigorous Nurse Racthed employs subtle humiliation and psychologically damaging daily routines to restrain her patients. Moreover viewed as a dictator at the ward with total authority over her patients, Nurse Ratched aims to destroy her patients self esteem through her manipulative program. The Nurse creates the rules and regulations for everyone at the ward and “institutes fear in the patients as they fear the shock