One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest is a novel written by Ken Kesey. The story mainly takes place in a mental institute where the reader follows the journey of Randall Mc Murphy a newcomer in the ward. We also see the story of the other Acutes in the ward with Mc Murphy who is like the new element disturbing all the routines pre-established by Nurse Ratched. In this novel, the author wanted to show the effects of the restrictive society in which we live in. To represent the society, Ken Kesey used the character of Nurse Ratched to show how the influence of the society can be a bad thing to people who are different.
Nurse Ratched represents the restrictive society in many ways. First of all, she establishes certain routines and rules that must be followed by everyone, just like in our society. At page 25 in the book, she tells Mc Murphy: “(…) everyone … must follow the rules.” She emphasize the word “everyone” because Mc Murphy didn’t wanted to go and take the first compulsory shower. Like in the ward, everyone in our society must follow the rules. For example, everyone under 16 must go to school. That means that even if school isn’t made for everyone (some doesn’t find the educational system well fitted for them and their needs) every child under 16 is forced to go to school. Just like everyone in the ward is forced to follow Nurse Ratched’s rules.
Nurse Ratched also represents our repressive society. When Mc Murphy arrives and starts to disturbs Nurse Ratched‘s routines, she gets really angry about it. She even tells her assistant that: “Sometimes a manipulator’s own ends are simply the actual disruption of the ward for the sake of disruption. There are such people in our society.”(p.27) Like in society, usually people who want to disturbs established routines are not really appreciated and they are seen as crazy persons. For example, we are all used to getting up in the morning, going to work, eating lunch, going back home, watching television, and finally going to sleep before we do the same routine again and again. What if someone decided one day that we would sleep during daytime and go to work at night. He would sure be considered as crazy and people wouldn’t like him at all. As Chief Bromden explains to the reader at the end of page 41: “And like I explain, the Big Nurse gets real put out if anything keeps her outfit from running smooth.” This is a metaphor where Nurse Ratched’s outfit represents the ward, and where the ward represents society for Ken Kesey.
Finally, the work of Nurse Ratched really is to remodel the occupants of the ward to normalize them and then release them in society. She gets really proud when she succeeds in transforming a “deranged” Acute into a well behaved citizen. “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 different is now a functioning, adjusted component , a credit to the whole outfit and a marvel to behold.”(p.40)
In conclusion, this novel written by Ken Kesey really represents how the society represses and restricts everyone to make a perfect unity. The character of Nurse Ratched and her ward are used to show on a small scale, the elements and the effects of a repressive society. In this book, the author also show the reader how there can be good figures of authority, like Randall Mc Murphy, and bad figures of authority just like Nurse Ratched.