One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Treatment of the Theme of Power in Ken Kesey's 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'

Power is the predominant theme of Ken Kesey's 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest': who holds power, who doesn't, who wants it, who loses it, how it is used to intimidate and manipulate and for what purposes, and, most especially, how it is disrupted and subverted, challenged, denied and assumed. On a deeper level, the theme reveals the ways in which an individual in pursuit of power will reduce any others who threaten that pursuit to the level of disposable commodities, and this dichotomy is, in turn, embodied in the chaotic relationship shared between Nurse Ratched and her adversary, Randle Patrick McMurphy.

Before McMurphy arrives at the hospital, Nurse Ratched's routine works efficiently in maintaining a simple sense of order. "The ward is a factory for the Combine," 'Chief' Bromden notes in his narration. "It's for fixing up mistakes made in the neighborhoods and in the schools and in the churches... When a completed product goes back out into society, all fixed up good as new, better than new sometimes, it brings joy to the Big Nurse's heart; something that came in all twisted and different is now a functioning, adjusted component, a credit to the whole outfit and a...

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