Self Destruction In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

1106 Words 5 Pages
The weak, powerless, and vulnerable are all types of people society creates through the act of self destruction. The idea of society causing a person’s own self destruction is contradictory, however it is a main theme in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In the novel, patients are admitted to a psychiatric ward when they stray away from following social norms, not because they are sick. The ward is run by Nurse Ratched, a controlling woman who is ironically all about manipulation instead of rehabilitation. She tears down the patients and convinces them that something is wrong with them instead of helping them overcome their issues. Most patients on the ward can leave voluntarily, but the Nurse Ratched inflicts so much self doubt …show more content…
At a daily meeting, the patients question Nurse Ratched’s unreasonable policies leading her to explain why the men are on the ward: “You men are in this hospital,” she would say like she was repeating it for the hundredth time, “because of your proven inability to adjust to society. The doctor and I believe that every minute spent in the company of others, with some exceptions, is therapeutic, while every minute spent brooding alone only increases your separation” (167). She explains that the patients are unable to live alone in society and convinces them that they need to be in the ward. She openly told the patients that they were not good enough to be in society, which crushed their confidence levels. In addition, at the daily meetings she is able to get the patients to get into arguments and turn against each other: “It was better than she’d dreamed. They were all shouting to outdo one another, going further and further, no way of stopping, telling things that wouldn’t ever like them look one another in the eye again. The nurse, nodding at each confession and saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes’” (51). Since she already killed the confidence levels of the patients, she is able to manipulate them even more. She uses the patient's insecurities against them when the patient's converse about who has done the worse act. She lets them fight against …show more content…
As soon as McMurphy finds out that the patients are voluntary on the ward, he is shocked and states that Billy Bibbit should not be on the ward: “Then why? Why? You’re just a young guy! You oughta be out running around in a convertible, bird-dogging girls” (195). McMurphy is the first person to tell Billy that he is capable of living a life of a normal man and is being deprived of a good life by staying in the ward. Also, when Candy is going through Billy’s file, she can’t understand why Billy chooses to stay: “Billy and his girl were going over his folder. She stepped back to look him over. ‘All these things, Billy? Phrenic this and pathic that? You don’t look like you have all these things’” (301). Like McMurphy, Candy cannot wrap her head around the idea that Billy is on the ward. However, Nurse Ratched keeps Billy on the ward by manipulating his fear. After she finds Billy with Candy the morning after the party, she uses his fear of upsetting his mom against him: “‘What worries me, Billy,’ she said - I could hear the change in her voice - ‘is how your poor mother is going to take this.’ She got the response she was after. Billy flinched and put his hand to his cheek like he’d been burned with acid” (314). Despite Billy spending the night with Candy, being able to speak without stuttering, and standing up for himself,

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