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    Another form of therapy Essay (1583 words)

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    The play ‘one flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ is set in the 1950s. In the 1950s the treatment and care for those who were mentally ill was not at its best, possibly at an all time low. There were a huge number of the ‘old style’ mental hospitals that were still applying treatment such as shock therapy, psychotropic drugs and lobotomies. Community care was bought in but it failed to come into many of the hospitals, and the long-term patients were mistreated and undermined. However, the abuse of these patients did not go unnoticed.

    The government started to make small steps in an effort to help, particularly in 1953 when the government set aside millions to help refurbish the homes that the patients lived in, and they did it again in 1954-1957 when the government reconsidered and changed the laws on how mentally ill should be treated and viewed, but few actually made any change. By bringing out this play the audience had a chance to identify with McMurphy and it gave the audience a unique look into the terrible things that happened behind the closed doors of the institutions.

    When people watched this play and saw the hospitals through a patients (McMurphy) eyes, their views were influenced by the themes and dramatic devices used in this play. One of the major themes in this play is power. As soon as McMurphy is introduced onto the ward, we see his power by over throwing Harding “well, you tell bull goose loony Harding that R. P McMurphy is waitin’ to see him and this nut-house aint big enough for the two of us”. McMurphy looks to control the patients and have them all look up to him; however the only person that the patients are influenced by is Nurse Ratchet.

    This immediately causes a divide between the two characters as we see their personalities will determine a clash. Throughout the play McMurphy’s character grows in understanding of the how wrong the institutions are, and he eventually uses his ‘power’ repeatedly to overthrow Nurse Ratchet in an attempt to save the other patients on the ward, we even see him pretending to be insane by watching a TV that isn’t even on, just so that he can triumph over Nurse Ratchet. We also see chief Bromden’s silent power, at the end of act 1 of ‘one flew over the cuckoos nest’.

    His power is shown by using dramatic devices such as asides and lighting rather than a spotlight part in the play. A single shaft of light is shone onto the seemingly meaningless character of Chief Bromden, while all the other characters fade out. In the play McMurphy symbolises the audiences’ feelings and hopefully how they would react against the cruelty of the patients lives an institutionalised miserable routine. One of the most impacting themes of this play is institutionalisation. The patients that live in the mental institute have all their rights taken away from them and any chance to have independence.

    Nurse Ratchet takes away their independence completely destroys their chance of going back into society. She appears to think that because the patients have a mental illness they can’t do anything for themselves. “Warren, you might start by getting poor Mr. Bromden shaved” as head nurse, Nurse Ratchet should interact with patients and do everything in her power that they’re in a mental institution, but she looks down on the patients, undermining and breaking them down every chance she gets.

    McMurphy notices this, and in his first therapy circle and tries to say something to Harding about it, “say buddy, is this the way these leetle meeting usually go? Bunch of chickens at a pecking party? ” he sees how Nurse Ratchet picks at the patients opening wounds for the others to dive in and take advantage of, but he cant understand why patients like Harding stand being bullied. Harding definitely stands by Nurse Ratchet and he argues with McMurphy until the saddening realisation becomes reality and he breaks down. “Out miss Ratchet is the kindest, sweetest the most benevolent women I have… that I have… ever…

    Oh the bitch, bitch”. This display of emotions shows the effect of institutionalisation on even the boldest and strongest of characters, their own morals and principles are taken away and replaced by a routine. The height of institutionalisation is shocking as we see the silliest rules being put into place, such as they are not allowed to brush their teeth when they want to ‘we don’t open that cabinet [containing toothpaste] till six forty-five. ‘ The influence Nurse Ratchet and this routine have on them is unbelievable, they no longer think for themselves and the second Nurse Ratchet calls them, they are at her feet, like trained dogs.

    We see this symbolised when they are playing a game of cards. ‘Nurse Ratchet calls over the loud speaker that there is a group meeting and like programmed robots in the middle of the game of cards, they get up and move the tables aside, they carry their chairs across the room while McMurphy sits angry and confused. ‘ In this part of the play, the play makes us identify with McMurphy through an emotional bond that slowly develops between the audience and McMurphy.

    The audience sympathises in this instant and can feel his anger at the treatment that these patients are given, and how blind they are to it. The play uses dramatic devices such as the electric box to symbolise freedom and how McMurphy strives for it. As he fails to pick up the box and free the patients his pain can be felt in the words, ‘at least I tried goddamit, at least I tried’ as we see that McMurphy is truly trying to help these patients and give them a reason to fight against the cruelty they are suffering. Another theme repeatedly raised in this play is rebellion.

    Using rebellion McMurphy was laying down his life on the line for these other patients, though he did not know it, and the patients began to look at him in awe. McMurphy’s death is used as a dramatic device because the audience sees his will to rebel through betting and fighting followed by his attempt to conform when he believes he might lose something himself. But in the end his heart overrides his selfishness and he gives all he can to save the ward, even his life. Seeing this show of compassion makes the audience identify with McMurphy because his decision to give his life wasn’t as we would expect.

    This decision seems to give McMurphy a whole different level; he is the wards saviour, and to the audience evens maybe a hero. Throughout this play we see McMurphy symbolising Jesus. We also see McMurphy refer to himself as Jesus ‘now I see why you are looking at me like Jesus Q Christ’. One of the times he used Jesus was when we saw that Ruckly, he lives his life crucified after his lobotomy ‘he won’t move until you pull out the nails’, perhaps this forewarning McMurphy’s almost predictable future. He again represents Jesus before having shock treatment ‘… do I get a crown of thorns’.

    He even represents Jesus in death, as he is dead inside after his lobotomy treatment, which reflects Jesus being crucified and dying, therefore overthrowing Nurse Ratchet so he doesn’t have to live under her power, which reflects Jesus rising from the dead and rescuing man kind from their sins. Each time McMurphy rebels, something that should be treated as treatment according to the institute, Nurse Ratchet treats as punishment and punishes him. This also brings up the theme of treatment vs. punishment, whether the patients are being treated or punished for the illnesses they have.

    There is a fine line that can be drawn between treatment and punishment but are the institutes going over this thin line in forms of treatments to punishments? Another one of the themes that is raised in this play is human rights. The mental institute is a place where all the human rights and equalities are stripped, all the nurses are women, all the helpers are black and the mentally ill are imprisoned from society and punished instead of treated. ‘I have observed a definite deterioration of discipline since he arrived. Perhaps… another form of therapy…

    Again we see Nurse Ratchet attempting to punish rather than treat. We also see how Nurse Ratchet takes their freedom of speech ‘if you wish to speak you must first be recognised’ and Nurse Ratchet bullies them into saying things and the audience can identify with Nurse Ratchet because people have come across bullying once or twice in their lifetime. By rebelling against Nurse Ratchet, McMurphy is the person who stands up to the bully (Nurse Ratchet), and the audience can identify with McMurphy because they might look up to him as if they were a child in a school play ground.

    This play made me identify with McMurphy because I could see everything from the point of view from a person that is inside a mental institution. I could see these patients from a same level of perspective as McMurphy; because he is sane, and that means I can relate to the patients therefore allowing me to see the world through their eyes. This play put the scale of institutionalisation in to perspective for me and maybe the rest of the audience, because it put you inside the play using McMurphy.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Another form of therapy Essay (1583 words). (2017, Nov 11). Retrieved from

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