Theme Of Vulnerability In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Superior Essays
Strength and Vulnerability in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Throughout his famous novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey shows that power and vulnerability are largely subjective, and people often only have power because others think that they do. Chief Bromden’s unreliable narration depicts all kinds of power as physical size despite a character’s real size or physical ability. Nurse Ratched’s power over the rest of the characters, and McMurphy’s ability to resist it, shows that power is a matter of people’s perception as much as anything else.
Chief Bromden is the narrator and main character of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The only trouble with this is that Chief suffers from vivid hallucinations, most likely due to Post
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This ties in to a larger delusion involving a vast network that he calls ‘The Combine’, who are in control of almost everything and everyone. "She 'll go on winning, just like the Combine, because she has all the power of the Combine behind her.” One of Chief’s most vivid and frequent hallucinations regards his perception of people’s power and people in power. Chief sees people who have power as physically strong, and large –the more power they have, the larger he sees them. Chief sees personal strength as physical strength and power over others as physical size. “And the hand on that arm the black boy was holding began to swell up… pumping bigger and bigger as he clenched and unclenched it. I was the only one who saw it. I saw it swell and clench shut, flow in front of my eyes, become smooth, hard. A big rusty iron ball at the end of a chain.” (Page 47) in this excerpt, Pete Bancini stands up to the orderlies and hospital administrators for the first time in years, and Chief sees his strength and defiance as physical power. It …show more content…
She isn’t particularly strong physically, but the patients are intimidated by her and scared of her, much more so than they are of any of the other doctors and nurses, despite them having just as much authority. Big Nurse’s power comes from her tight control over both the ward and her own emotions. She puts up a façade of care and concern for the patients on her ward, but it can easily be argued that she only cares about the system and routine of the ward running smoothly. She has been known to overuse (or even abuse) her power in order to keep to the peaceful routine of life on the ward. One notable example of this is her treatment of Mr. Taber, a former patient of the ward. When Mr. Taber disrupts the peaceful routine by refusing to take his medication, or at least wanting to know what’s in it, Big Nurse first lets him go without taking the medication, in order to not make a spectacle of direct confrontation, and then later has him held down and performs an invasive and unnecessary spinal tap and then electro-shock therapy on him. (Pages 30-33) This event shows both kinds of power that the Nurse has. She manages to hold back her anger at Taber for disrupting her ward, showing her self-control; then she uses her position and the authority it grants her to have the orderlies assist her with the spinal tap and doctors assist her with the electro-shock

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