One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest demonstrated a classic power struggle between acts of extreme authority and untamed free will. Randle McMurphy represented freedom, liveliness, amusement and the power of an individual against a confining institution. However, Nurse Ratched symbolized conformity, repression, death, and enforced a strong display of authority. This film also emphasized the loss of personal freedom with recurring patterns of fences, barriers, locks and shackles. Two completely different people with different aspects on life strived to get their own methods influenced on the rest of the patients.
Both leaders were using dissimilar mentalities trying to bring each other down. However, Ratched’s efforts of authoritarian rule diminished the carefree attitude of McMurphy. McMurphy wanted to bring life and enjoyable memories to the other patients in the ward. He wanted to help them escape this “prison” mentally and even physically. He was a lighthearted character who desired freedom and enjoyed inspiring others around him to do the same. After Randle saw how his new peers sat around, and did nothing, he knew they had to experience more than the wind-swept, white walls of a mental institution.
McMurphy made it his goal to bring spirit and enthusiasm to the lost and confused individuals. During one of the group meetings with Nurse Ratched and the other patients, McMurphy confidently tried to convince Ratched to change the schedule and also allow the patients to watch the World Series. Fighting with a struggle, he finally gathered the majority of votes he needed including Chief Bromdens. His well put out efforts were shot down by the Nurse. Nurse Ratched selfishly served her own egotistical needs rather than the therapeutic needs of the patients. She was always calm, cold and never feared a thing.
She would make sure if something was out of line, there would have to be a solution. When McMurphy and the patients began to gamble with each other’s cigarettes, Ratched confiscated Cheswick’s cigarettes as if he was a five year old and could not take care of himself. Ratched said, “If Mr. McMurphy doesn’t want to take his medication orally, I’m sure we can arrange that he can have it some other way. But I don’t think that he would like it. ” She wanted to strike fear into McMurphy as well as the others to make her dictatorship a reality. She entered the ward in the morning wearing black cape remindful of a vampire, as if she were coming to suck the life out of the patients. The nurse did manage to drain their spirits by continuously medicating each patient and reminding them of their problems everyday with the routine “meeting. ” Nurse Ratched justified her actions by claiming, “This is therapy. ” Cheswick stated, “Well Mr. McMurphy wanted to watch baseball and I have never seen a game before, that might be fun and isn’t that therapy too? ” McMurphy had the right idea all along. He helped the patients out by becoming their friend and trying to show them how fun baseball is and how exhilarating life can be.
Even when his efforts for the majority vote failed, the patients and he sat in front of the non-working television and cheered furiously as if they were watching and enjoying the actual World Series. This turned out to upset Ratched and she fought to make them stop. The loss of personal freedom was distributed heavily in this film. McMurphy first arrived to the mental institution in manacles. This symbol of danger was to let us know that he was horrific enough for a prison to send him to an institution for mental patients. Throughout the film, boundaries and barriers are shown.
McMurphy first tries to cross a boundary by requesting for the music to be turned down so he can properly think but he also attempts to turn the music down himself. Randle later also smashes through the glass during one of their meetings to satisfy the angry screams of Cheswick by obtaining the carton of confiscated cigarettes. Both Randle McMurphy and Nurse Ratched did not rest to bring out their own methods to influence the patients. McMurphy displayed his method of rebellion by actually gathering some patients and fleeing from the hospital.
He showed them something they would never forget by setting them free and letting them see what was outside of the frugal hospital. After the unexpected fishing trip, Nurse Ratched realized she was losing her control on the patients. They began to think for themselves and realize that they were being cheated. Clearly, the group meetings were not successful because the topics Ratched chose were too personal. When the nurse insisted Billy to reflect on his first suicide attempt Cheswick frantically exclaimed, “Why do you force him to talk about that? ” Instead of displaying empathy and compassion to Billy, she pressured him into discussing it.
Nurse Ratched needed a way to restore order and punishment was the only way. She knew McMurphy had gained the patients’ respect which was something she had never achieved. McMurphy brought something to those patients that Nurse Ratched could not contribute, and that was gratitude for life. The authority figure and the rebellion clashed horribly together like a cat and dog would. Both the nurse and Randle tried to take one another down. When the decision whether to keep McMurphy at the hospital or not surfaced, she composedly stated to the other doctors to keep him there.
Her argument was that she didn’t want to put her problem on someone else. Knowing that if he was sent back to prison, he could eventually get out so Ratched basically wanted to keep him forever. Her motive for keeping McMurphy was not genuine, but vile because she wanted to withhold him until she could break him down. She used her own brand of therapy which mainly involved humiliating and making them feel as if they were helpless children. Nurse Ratched viewed herself like a Queen bee, all powerful, all knowing and having absolute control over everything.
McMurphy on the other hand, made the patients realize life was enjoyable when given the experience. His last charade topped off everybody’s happiness by having a private party with two girls, the patients and large sums of alcohol. The place was horribly thrashed with broken glass, spilt alcohol and destroyed furniture leaving the place in ruins. This act of misconduct vanquished Nurse Ratched. This led to Billy’s suicide and Ratched was going to put an end to McMurphy’s games once and for all. Ratched had no choice but to destroy the spirit and freedom of McMurphy.
Before McMurphy showed the patients the joys of life, they were miserably medicated and forced to participate in daily activities. There were no smiles, there was no laughter, and there were no self-made choices. McMurphy’s last attempt to escape after the party failed because he had fallen asleep. Since his luck did not serve him right, now the patients’ leader had fallen and complete control was taken back by Nurse Ratched. Billy’s mental state was known by everyone thanks to the nurse. After his unfortunate suicide, Ratched knew this would send a shivering message down the spines of the disorderly.
This allowed her to regain control of the ward and showed that maybe McMurphy’s way of delinquency was wrong all along. McMurphy became a symbol to Ratched’s power when he received a lobotomy. This action by her definitely showed everyone not to undermine her authority. Chief Bromden had no choice but to suffocate McMurphy with a pillow. This act by Bromden defaced Ratched’s symbol and showed that McMurphy was a martyr of freedom. At the end of the film, he is shown running into the fields because like Randle, the Chief had the strength to venture out into the unknown and embrace his freedom.