Sunday, October 16, 2011

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Violeta Galera Alba

Literature and Film

Professor Rodney Stephens

Intemsive Summer Session

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One flew over the cuckoo�s nest

In this paper I am going to explore how the main characters of the book work as symbols. To study this issue, I will focus on Nurse Ratched, Randle McMurphy and Billy Bibbit because I

think that these characters represents the main symbols in the novel. In this essay I am going to study also the evolution of Chief Bromdem, the narrative voice of the novel.

Nurse Ratched a middle-aged former army nurse, controls the hospital ward with an iron hand and masks her humanity and femininity side. She represents a machine that demands complete

control and perfect order from everyone, represents the oppressive mechanization, dehumanization, and emasculation of modern society A huge organization that aims to adjust the outside as well as she has

the a watchful robot, tend her network with mechanical insectskill, she dreams of there in the centre of those wires is a world of precision efficiency and tidiness, a place where the schedule is

unbreakable and all the patients who aren�t outside, obedient under her beam (6). So powerful are the Chief�s descriptions of the Nurse as a mechanism of terror, able to control the hospital with beams of

hate,with these descriptions is easy to see the Nurse as the pure image of the evil which is another symbol. She nods once to each. Precise, automatic gesture. Her face is smooth, calculated, and precision-made, like an expensive baby doll, like a machine.(5) Nurse Ratched represents a desire for efficincy order, control at all costs, she has convinced herself that if some control is good, complete control is better. Ratched has complete control over every aspect of the ward, the black boys, the nurses and even the doctors are completely submissive to Nurse Ratched authority, she selects her staff for their submissiveness, and she weakens her patients through a psychologically manipulative program designed to destroy their self-esteem.The big deal here is that Ratched�s control is based as much on intimidation, as demostrated in chapter four, by her threat against Mr Taber. The meetings that Nurse Ratched organiced demostrate the intimidation and domination techniques that she uses, humiliating the patients describing their personal psychological problems infront of other patients, in my opinion the purpose of these meetings was to pit the patients against one another.Now. At the close of Friday�s meeting...we were discussing Mr Harding�s problem...concerning his young wife, his wife was extremely well endowed in the bosom and that this made him uneasy because she drew stares from men on the street... (40) And the best way to do this, to get you to knuckle under, is to weaken you by getting you where it hurts the worst (57) she knows their weak spots and exactly where to peck. The patients try to please her during these Group Meetings by airing their darkest secrets, she maintains her power by the strategic use of shame and guilt, ads well as by a determination to divide and conquer her patients. We can see that Big Nurse is manipulative and dictatorial, using methods like this one to assert her power over the patients. Moreover Nurse Ratched represents ideas of sexual repression, authoritarism and conservatism. There is no question that the repression of sexuality is an important part of the Nurse�s tactics, one of Nurse Ratched�s gratest crimes is that she represses and denies the sexuality of her patients and even, her own sexuality. The patients of the ward are victims of a matriarchy We are victims of a matriarchy here , my friend (5) this is one of the most controversial themes in the book, the repressive power the Chief calls the Combine seems to be represented mostly by women, Nurse Ratched, Mrs Bibbit and Mary Louis Bromdem, who force men to obey society�s rules and deny men�s sexuality.For example at the end of the book, Nurse Ratched uses repressive sexuality as a weapon against Billi Bibbit. Oh Billy, a woman like this, a cheap, low, what worries me, Billy is how your poor mother is going to take this In this moment is when Nurse Ratched uses Billy�s mother to instill a sense of shame that she drives him to suicide, showing the cause of Billy�s problems. We can notice also her role as a twisted mother figure for the ward, treating them as children who cannot accept any sense of responsability.Boys I�ve been great deal of thought to what I am about to say, it is entirely for your own good

that we enforce discipline and order. In chapter eight we can find a confrontation between Ratched and Mc Murphy centers around sexual ground, when Murphy appears in front of Ratched wearing only a

towel and threatening to lose even that covering. Good morning, Miss Rat-shed! How�s things on the outside? You can�t run around here -in a towel!! (1) here we can apreciate the contrast between

liberated and repressed sexuality. In my opinion the main idea is that Nurse Ratched�s interest is not in the patients, but rather in perpetuating her own sense of control.

Randle Mc Murphy big, loud, sexual, dirty and confident represents the antithesis of Nurse Ratched, his loud and free laughter stuns the other patients, who have grown accustomed to repressed

emotions. Mc Murphy represents sexuality, freedom, and self-determination. According to Nurse Ratched McMurphy is a manipulator. He is what we call a manipulator, a man who will use everyone and everthing to his own ends (4) the irony of this situation is that she herself is manipulating tha patients. From my point of view McMurphy is not a manipulator in my opinion he teaches the rest of the patients to be sane, this sanity consist of the ability to laugh, both at yourself and at a world that is often cruel you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy, Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing (67) .Also when they were playing cards he was joking and talking and trying to get the players to laugh along with him (77). He has been saddled with the responsability of being a hero and a friend to men who desperately need this things, the book shows this responsability, teaching the other patients-through basketball games and fishing trips not to let their fears paralyze them. Mc Murphy is a revolutionary against Nurse Ratched, Murphy represents anarchy and disobedience and he tryed to break the rules, to change the ward. He was the first patient who ask about his medicine what are these two little red capsules in here with my vitamin? I don�t like to create trouble, but I don�t like to swallow something without knowing what it is(1) And during his time in the hospital we can notice the effects that Murphy has had on the other men in the institution, for example when Mr Sefelt said that he need no more medication (164), we can see that they started to fight for their rights against Nurse Ratched and they started to understand the importance of rational choice. He teachs them to become vulnerable by making choices, he also gaves them advices like there are no better way in the world to aggravate somebody who�s trying to make it hard for you than by acting like you are not bothered(111). Unfortunately, his generosity is sometimes mixed with a desire for personal gain. During his time in the hospital Mc Murphy also demostrate the absurdity of some of the rules of Nurse Ratched, for example when he demostrates the absurdity of not allowing patients to brush their teeth whenever they want, Finally he abandons the rules, driven to rebellion by an unfair system in which he cannot take part in the supposedly democratic system that Nurse Ratched controls.Despite she claim that the vote is democratic, her vote includes the Chronics, who have no ability to make rational decisions.with these events the staff notice that McMurphy�s ability to choose shows his sanity .On the other hand through Chief Bromden�s narration, the novel establishes clearly that McMurphy is not crazy, he believes that the hospital would be more confortable than the Pendleton Work Farm, where he was serving. Another characteristic ot McMurphy is that he represents a sexual liberator, the conversation between McMurphy and Harding defines the opposition between Murphy and Ratched on sexual terms. Also when he claims that the EST increase his sexual potency when he comments that his next conques will light up like pinball machine. When McMurphy arranges for the meeting between Candy and Billy, this emphasizes the theme of McMurphy as a sexual liberator. He is not a static character, he changes considerably during his time at the hospital, at one point McMurphy assumes the role of selfless martyr, when he defends George against the invasive cleaning procedures of the black boys, this moment is the first action that Murphy undertakes that is not motivated by self interest, Murphy pay for this action with shock treatments. Another important moment to explain the representation of McMurphy as a martir is the night of the party when he refuse escape until Billy has his date with Candy, and , finally when he attack Nurse Ratched. At the end Murphy has sacrificed himself for others like Christ, here is the most powerfull symbol of the novel. When he takes the patients fishing, he is also like Christ leading his disciples to the sea to test them, to teach them. Finally we can find also this symbol in the cross-shaped electroshock table. you are strapped to a table, shaped, ironically, like a cross, with a crown of electric sparks in place of thorns. (66).

Perhaps the saddest charcter in One flew Over the Cuckoo�s Nest is Billy Bibbit, who has a bad stutter seems to everyone a mere boy, though in fact he is more than thirty-one year old. Billy Bibbit is dominated by his mother,one of Nurse Ratched�s close friends, who has intimidated him into behaving younger than his years and instilled in him a strong sense of guilt.At the end it is this guilt that causes him to commit suicide when Ratched find him with a prostitute and threatens to tell his mother.Billy is voluntary in the hospital because he is afraid of the outside world. Billy represent a clear example of a victim of the matriarchy a victim of oppression, he is a product of a domineering mother who controls his every action, including deciding which woman is appropriate for him to marry. Billy�s mother is the cause of his mental problem, and the cause of his suicide.

Chief Bromdem tells the story after he has escaped from the hospital, like Murphy he is not a static character, when the novel begins, Bromdem is paranoid, bullied, and surrounded much of the time by hallucinated fog that represents his desire to hide from realitylet my self go completely, lose myself in the fog the way some of the other Chronics have(8). He is also a victim of oppression since his childhood. Everyone in the hospital believes that he is deaf and dumb, when McMurphy begins to pull him out of the fog, he tell him his secret.The firts step in the narrator evolution is when the fog and the hallucinations come less often, and he is able to remember more of his past and to think about it rationally. With Murphy he recognizes that despite life�s anguish he has to laugh.With Murphy the Chief begins to fight against the Combine which is the representation Bromdem�s vision of society as a oppressive conglomeration, and represents also authority figures.The reason for Bromdem�s hospitalization is a mistery, he may have had problems of oppression with his mother, another reason could be his experiences in Worls War II. Mc Murphy arrives at a crucial point of Chief�s life, when he was in the hospital for years of self-imposed silence, years of abuse, he was undergone over 00 shock treatments. From the begining the Chief was impressed by Murphy who reminds him of his father. he talks a little the way Papa used to, voice loud and full of hell(10) Another important step in the narrator evolution is when he vote Murphy, is the first definitive, responive action that the Chief takes during the novel. At this moment is when Bromdem by making choices becomes vulnerable, when Bromdem makes the decision to join Murphy in protest of Nurse Ratched, yhe fog disappears. Also when he awakes and watches the dog outside the window, this shows that after this he is more aware of the outside world, and of the existence outside of the institution. I have to say that Mc Murphy is the primary cause of this change.

At the end of the book, the roles of Murphy and the Chief are reversed. Through the course of the novel Bromdem has regained his voice, and he makes the final step toward selfrealization at the novel�s end.

By moving the control panel, Chief Bromdem fulfiis murphy�s wishes and reasserts himself as a member of society.

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